A small pebble.
I crossed the Murray this morning…the Mighty Murray River…on the ferry at Swan Reach and I picked up a stone from the one side, carried it across on the ferry and placed it on the other side. I did it because of a story my mother told me years ago that I just remembered as I drove up to the ferry…
My mother grew up near the river. She worked as a house-maid at both Punyelroo and Portee stations near Swan Reach. Many times she was called to accompany the Lady of the House to cross the river on a flat-topped punt, used for ferrying supplies across the river there at the station. She told me of an old German hand there at Portee who, whenever he had to cross the river, would pick up a small stone, a pebble, carry it across and place it on the other side….my mother asked him why he did it….he was at first reluctant to tell her..but she persisted…
“Well, girlie”…( that’s what they all called young women out there then)….”it is my own little thing…I think of the small stone as my soul,…you see, I cannot swim..and so I take the stone, carry it, and if or when I reach safely the solid ground on the other side, I leave it dzair….when I come back, I do the same”
“What happens if the boat starts to sink?” my mother asked.
“Dzen I will try to throw it with all my might, to the other side….and I think if it reaches there , then I feel I too will reach there…”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“Dzen, I think I vill be lost in the waters of the river…”
This morning I crossed the river and I picked up a stone and carried it across and placed it on the other side…I thought of that old man and I thought of my mother, in hospital now, on palliative care for pulmonary fibrosis…she will never again come to cross the river…so I thought of it as me, her son, her bloodline, carrying HER soul safely across the waters…I don’t know what made me think of it after all these years…but I just did…must be a pagan thing I suppose and since she carried my burgeoning soul for nine months, could I not at least carry her soul for a couple of hundred metres?
We arrived safely…