On days like this – when there are egrets, herons and ducks at the water’s edge, and cormorants drying their wings on the litter boom, and flocks of woodswallows swooping like confetti – it’s easy to imagine the “drain” as something else: as a creek.
We were renting in Hamilton before we bought in Hamilton North. Hamilton was nothing but sparrows, Indian miners and feral pigeons and so Hamilton North was a revelation. The creek forms two of the boundaries to the suburb and acts as a corridor, mainly for waterbirds, but falcons, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, wrens, cockatiels and silvereyes all appear around here, if you’re prepared to notice.
If Styx Creek as a walking destination comes up in conversation I usually get blank looks, until the person’s eyes light up and they say, “Ah! The drain!” I’m ambivalent about people referring to the creek as a drain; some people revel in Newcastle’s “draininess” and I kind of like this urban reclamation. But the other half of me can’t help but think of author Toni Morrison’s quote, that “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was”. In June 2007, Hamilton North saw what happens when water remembers. How can you take a winding, sinuous creek that’s taken thousands of years to find its way through this floodplain and make it into this?: