My first thought upon finishing The Comfort of Water – A River Pilgrimage was “Thank you.”
Thank you Maya Ward for writing such a beautiful book. Thank you for walking the length of the Yarra River, Birrarung. Thank you for creating a model for reconciliation that gets right to the heart of lived experience. Thank you for expressing the words of my heart. Thank you for alleviating a little of the burden I feel (being a compassionate person in this world and this country) by speaking the truth, the hard truth of our times, with love. Thank you for having the courage to look the truth in the eye and hold yourself in the grief of it while you continued to search for the source. I can’t imagine what that took and I am in awe.
The Comfort of Water is full of truth, full of heart felt expression of relationship to country. I found myself feeling jealous of Maya’s relationship to the river. I wish I could have lived at Collingwood Children’s Farm. I wish I could have been in the lantern parade. I wish I had been invited to search for food with Ian Hunter. I wish, I wish, I wish.
It awoke such an ache in my heart, right down to my soul. An ache for what could be, if only we all lived closer to the country that nurtures us. I long for that depth of connection with this land. It was that longing that drove me to write my Master’s thesis. It is deep, voracious and painful and it is still to be satisfied.
As I read further the jealousy gave way to an appreciation of my connection to country. I wouldn’t feel the longing if I didn’t care so very deeply about the Earth. Just as Maya’s reflections on her childhood were interwoven with time spent in wilderness so I can easily recall any number of places that shaped me and now form the basis of the longing that drives me. They can’t be neatly strung along a river but they are no less meaningful.
I am inspired to do a pilgrimage of my own. There’s a creek near my house that has largely been covered over, most of it is parkland. It wouldn’t be difficult to walk from its mouth at Gardiner’s Creek to the source somewhere in Box Hill and I feel it would be deeply satisfying. To honour what was and what is, beneath the soil and concrete, not many people would even know it is there. All the more reason to walk its path, to sing its song, to acknowledge its existence. I haven’t set a date yet, but when I do, I’d be honoured if you’d join me.