Back in my home town as we speak. Back here for a week to look after my Mum's (incredible) garden while she is away on holiday with her partner and some of our family in Tasmania.
It's a rural town in central Victoria that around 30,000 people call home, called Shepparton.
It's funny, you know...I walk the streets, like nothing much has changed. Yet at the same time, they have. Although it's been 11 years since I've called myself a resident, it's kind of nostalgic to be among the houses, streets and bushland I once called home.
I see the houses in my street. Some have new fences, different cars in the driveway and pets barking from backyard. While others remain practically the same. The same overgrown gardens and the same cars remain over a decade on.
I walk past with a slight smile, knowing at one point in time, I played with nearly each of the children that lives along these streets. Mario Kart with the kids from two doors down. Kicking the football with the neighbour across the road. Getting in a fight with another kid from down the street and swimming in the pool next door (once, for 21 days in a row!). Now, as an adult, I cannot help but think each and every one of these houses has a little bit of me in them.
Once you leave though, you hear so many things said about this place. Mostly negative. Now that I'm a little older and (hopefully) a little wiser, I can see, it's not that much different. Sure, on Sunday's the shops open a little later (or not at all) and the coffee takes a little longer to come out, but at 6:45ish-am yesterday, as I was taking my dogs for a walk, I saw at least half a dozen other people (over the age of 40) out and about being active. They were walking their dogs, riding their bikes and running without a shirt on (dude was fit too!).
As I sit here, at 5:38am with a hot coffee and a burning candle (my writing ritual), I feel incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to be raised in this place. A place where you really get to know your neighbours. Where you can drive to the opposite ends of town in 10 minutes (good luck getting out of your suburb in that time in Melbourne). And somewhere I can escape to, to get some quiet writing done in my Mum's magnificent garden under her gazebo (without the bustling sounds of construction Melbourne has to offer) - where I sit now.
While I've been fortunate enough to see a couple of different parts of the world, I feel grateful I've also been fortunate to have been brought up in this little country town. For it has raised me well.
Ok, must be off to walk the dogs now. It get's very hot here during summer (40+ degrees) so I like to get in early.
Shine on, Shepparton. Shine on.