Words of wisdom from the river

by KATRINA BENNETT
7th December 2020

LOCKDOWN had taken its toll.
Starved of words and stories but definitely not starved of calories, I found my letter tank empty.
A Scrabble board with no tiles.
Although it appeared my jar of clichés was overflowing.
Vacantly staring at my laptop, I am hoping a half page story would miraculously appear across my screen.
The only things less likely on my laptop were getting a virus, catching fire or getting smashed by massive hailstones from hell.
Oh, wait up.
Yeah, nah, it is 2020, that is probably going to happen.
Instead of wallowing in my own wordless stew, I wander out the back gate for a restorative stroll along the Yarra.
It starts with no more than a very low gentle whisper.
“I could help you.”
I glance around to see where the voice came from.
“Over here,” comes a gentle gurgle.
Perplexed I turn to the river.
“Yes, that is right.
“I have got some stories to tell you,” burbles the water flowing over a rapid.
Glancing around, I check for people in white coats waiting to haul me away.
“Why would I believe you?
“The EPA says you’re full of sh&%,” I reply.
And while that may be so, who am I to kick a gift horse in the mouth.
In fact, I thought the probability of me being able to kick anything post-COVID without pulling a hammy was statistically insignificant.
Pulling up my favourite rock to sit and ponder, I let river wisdom wash over me.
Literally.
High rainfall coupled with Upper Yarra Dam works has led to said rock being submerged.
So now not only am I conversing with a river, but I am doing so with a very wet bum.
“You know what?” asks the river.
“I love flowing past and people watching.
“Humans can be quite odd.
“Present company most certainly included.”
As one, myself, the Yarra and my soggy pants gaze at the opposite bank bearing witness to:

River Visitor Category 1

These visitors will only be observed during the day, mid-week and in packs of three to four couples.
They BYO picnic tables, chairs, automatically-refilling plastic red wine glasses and have empty shopping bags tied to the table — one for rubbish and one for recycling.
At least two, small, fluffy, white dogs will be observed comfortably snoozing in their owner’s laps, occasionally interrupted by outbursts of laughter and colourful language when the photo of the prized grandchild that they spent 20 minutes locating, magically disappears from the smartphone screen.
Never to be seen again.
Generally found in the perfectly scouted flat but shaded area, because after 70 plus years of the Aussie sun, these wily visitors are sick of spending half their superannuation at the dermatologist.

River Visitor Category 2

Turning up early afternoon on a sunny day post-exam, joyfully shedding school uniforms to run into the river, theses visitors will invariably live to regret their decision three hours later.
Calculating their departure to coincide with when they should have been leaving school, these TikTok Generation students hurriedly attempt to reapply crumpled filthy mud streaked dresses and school shirts over beet-red shoulders.
These “old enough to want independence but too young to realise potential consequences” mid-teens express horror on their sun-fried faces as they wonder how they can possibly explain losing a bra and one sock at school to their parents.

River Visitor Category 3

Arriving anytime from 3pm onwards, the group will swell as members turn up one, two or three at a time.
At no time will the gender ratio be even.
This peculiarity will lead to constant peacock preening and galah screeching behaviour.
Muscles colourfully covered in ink will be strong enough to carry whole slabs of Great Northern, four packs of Spritzers and minimum chips to the river’s edge.
Once the final inflatable flamingo has been popped on a jagged rock our intrepid visitors are so exhausted, they can barely crawl back to their utes.
There is no way they could possibly pick up the empty bottles, shredded cardboard packaging or sad flattened flamingos before they float through the tunnel.

River Visitor Category 4

Abundant anytime during the day, any age, and every gender.
Characterised by active wear, a takeaway coffee in hand, phone in the other and dog lead in the… oh wait… dog somewhere in the general vicinity.
Outrage is genuine.
Shock is real.
WTF!
There they are walking along the river track minding their own and everyone else’s business when a snake has the audacity to cross their path.
Their path.
The path that has been put in smack bang, right in the snake’s territory, somewhere between their snake house and snake food.
Quick, someone call the snake catcher
Not the one that never wears a shirt.
The other one.
Now where has that sod gone?
I did not have time to get an out of focus photo to put on Facebook.

River Visitor Category 5

“These are my favourite river rats,” announces the river suddenly.
“Which ones?” I reply startled
“These three walking into the water now.
“I like to move rocks around and submerge trees to try and trick them into slipping and getting their school bags wet.
“Imagine their parents face when this lot have to pull dripping laptops and phones out.
“There would not be enough rice in the world to fix that mess.”
Quickly retreating towards my back gate, I whisper over my shoulder, “The only reason these three walk home through the river is because I told them I am way too busy and important to pick them up.
“Now raise your water level a little to slow them down.
“I need time to make it look like I am busy and important before they reach the back door.”