a june reminiscence

“Mildura?  That’s where I want to go!” Thus was the decision made by Sharon Jewell to ride to Mildura, and more specifically to the Museum of Innocence, one of the most recent additions to Mildura’s thriving arts landscape.

Thus the bikes were acquired, accoutrements assembled, and along with her cycling partner for the adventure, Lawrence Fisher,  Sharon set out from Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula, on a chilly winter morning in June, to pedal northwest the 630 kilometres to the semi-desert oasis that is our town.

The impressions and reminiscences of cycling up the Sunraysia Highway for 8 days and 7 nights was the theme of Saturday evening’s ‘in conversation’ at the Museum of Innocence (aka MIM), which now occupies the Deakin Avenue building most locals would recall as the former ADFA building.

Sharon, petite and vivacious, and an avid cyclist, enthusiastically shared the experience of the journey.  One particular vignette that one could not help but come away with, was the way in which at the end of each day’s travel, she would set about ‘making her roadside kitchen.’  This consisted of setting up an appropriate space to use the lightweight portable cook pot, powered by methylated spirit, used to prepare meals along the way.  In fact, this was also the first thing she built when she got to MIM. Those of us who came along for the chat were greeted by the marvellous aroma of the food she had prepared for us to sample on the night.  And it was delicious, “couscous with Persian herbs,” she proudly informed us as she passed plates around!

As the conversation flowed, chaired by MIM director, Domenico de Clario, Lawrence, a quietly spoken sculptor and landscape artist, also shared his impressions of this close up experience of the landscape through which they travelled.   Conversation guests shared similar anecdotes of cycling, walking, and canoeing; agreeing that passing through the land in these ways allows one to experience it on a much deeper level.

Sitting in that old building on a chilly Mallee night, a building which can be bitterly cold in the winter, stiflingly hot in the summer; I reflected on how cosy and inviting it was that at that moment.  The twigs of Sharon’s ‘oven shrine’ which twined up to the ceiling, held in place by tape, broke up the museum’s expanse of space in a pleasing way.  The lights of the multi-coloured neon tubes were reflected in the floor, the windows and the faces of the occasional curious passer-by who peered in, no doubt wondering what on earth was going on inside!  “Come in!”  I felt like saying to them, “you don’t know what you’re missing!” Sharon’s trusty and beloved bike was there for us to see, and definitely exuded a silent, but significant presence.  Quite rightly so of course!

Visit Sharon’s website to view her work https://www.sharonjewell.net/


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