And the sky catches fire

There’s magic in Sydney Park. It happens now on these Autumnal days after four thirty and finishes around five. The sun disappears down that straight distant line we call the horizon and with a bit of luck and the cotton clouds overhead, the sky catches fire. On the streets you can’t always tell, you miss the magic. It’s best viewed from the top of the hills. Look west and you’ll see it framed between the old brick chimney stacks, anachronistic now amongst the constant growth of apartment buildings and construction cranes. Look northward and you’ll see that Sydney skyline. The sun sets somewhere between the two and tickles the bellies of the clouds pink and orange, the tops a deep purple grey.

Somehow the collection of buildings that constitute the city centre takes on something else from this distance of a few kilometres. The rise of those artificial structures, like strange mountains or branchless trees, can move you. The lights that dot the buildings grow brighter, the towers and high-rise appear impossibly tall and you begin to wonder how many people are there at this moment and what they’re doing and you try and picture them having dinner in chinatown or coming out of the heat of town hall station or anything you can remember from being there because you can’t see a single person from the top of the hill you’re sitting on. The people are too small to see from here, you have to imagine them. This view, this distance of Sydney from the park that bears its name makes things abstract, transforms the city into a question.

Apart from the sunset and the skyline to the north, Sydney Park has a magic of its own. Parks in all cities hold this magic, the novelty of green amongst concrete, the relief of open space from the claustrophobia of sidewalks. Parks everywhere are a refuge. In Sydney Park children born and growing up in apartments reclaim their childhoods; couples lie on the grassy slopes with picnic blankets; young families push strollers and dogs of all kinds have the time of their lives. The ibises, too well adapted to urban settings, have their native habitat restored amongst this restored marsh, complete with bottle brushes and eucalyptus trees. It is the perfect place to run. The park rewards those who make it around a corner, up a hill, around the lake with colours that change moment to moment and new fires catching in the sky.

The wonder affects us all. From this distance, at the handover of the sun to the moon, everything seems possible and magical and alive.


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