walking slowly downhill
Ninety-second Day, December 13, Goolwa, the Murray mouth
This morning I wake and instead of driving home away from Milang, Goolwa and the mouth of the river I decide to walk to it again, perhaps for the last time.
As I wake I feel a great need to see the wide flat sand at low tide, the rolling breakers crashing in and the misty haze in the distance, to feel the fresh wind in my face once more.
Perhaps, I think, this second walk will secure the fitness required to be present at the mouth as I walk over the last sandy rise.
But I could walk it a thousand times (I’m now laughing aloud at my own vanity to think that twice would do it; or, then thinking kindly of myself, I consider that perhaps it’s just the inexperience of a beginner that causes such vast miscalculations to take place) and still not be able to describe it in even a remotely adequate language.
I drive to the end of the narrow road that winds along the strip of land separating the ocean from the lake.
I cross the dunes again, over the same path and descend onto the beach.
Eventually I walk past the same fisherman I saw yesterday, sitting in the same spot with the same expression on his face.
Two rods are sunk into the sand on either side of his beach chair, exactly where they were yesterday.
And the mouth is exactly where it was yesterday, with seemingly the very same breakers rolling deep into the river’s throat and then dissolving into Lake Alexandrina.
It was necessary, I now realize, that upon reaching the end of the journey I had to retrace my steps once more.
Because the best description I could offer you of the mouth is to tell you that today it is exactly where it was yesterday; and in order to offer you this description I had to walk to the mouth once more, in order to verify that, yes, indeed, the mouth is still exactly in the same place today.
And because time is the grandest of illusions yesterday might mean ten thousand years ago as much as it might allude to that moment twenty-four hours ago, when I stood in exactly the same spot that I’m standing in right now.
For reasons I will not explicate at this moment because they’re alien to the spirit of this journal I have to also tell you that today my walk has come to an unexpected ending, and it’s fitting that it has done so exactly as I have reached the sea.
Each day, from the new moon of September 13 when I began to descend the snowy slopes of Kosciuszko, until this moment as I stand at the river’s mouth, has brought revelation to me of one kind or another, both minor and major.
I have many to thank for this; firstly all of the elders that have graciously permitted me to walk upon country; Helen Vivien, who as Palimpsest curator initially invited me to present this project; Mark Minchinton, who was to walk alongside me until he suffered a serious leg injury, but who still computed the basic structure of this walk; Steven Rhall, who accompanied me through most of it and who has provided precious insights and generous support of all kinds; my family, who have accepted my long absences with grace and understanding; my mother, who even if she did not fully understand the nature of this project, has accompanied me throughout it, and finally all of you, who have commented on both mine and Steven’s posts with generous responses to such a tenuous undertaking.
I look forward to resuming the journey at some point soon, hopefully whilst I can still walk as efficiently as I have so far.
I thank you all so much for your interest and support.
And perhaps next time I can tell you what I thought of last night, because, well, yes, it does indeed matter.