Everything flows, nothing remains
I am dangling my legs in the waters of Lake Cullulleraine, admiring a glass bowl that my Dad has pulled out of its murky depths and placed in my hands. I must be about eight years old. I allow myself to become mesmerised by the sunlight sparkling off its faceted edges, and then, after a little while, I slowly let it slip through my fingers … and sink to the bottom. “What did you do that for?!” he says. I feel pretty foolish now, but somehow a part of me thought it belonged to the lake and I was returning it. Decades later, I wonder if my bowl again saw the light of day during the extreme droughts that exposed the trash and treasure at the parched base of many of the Murray’s catchments and tributaries. I hear stories of vessels showing up in a variety of forms telling something of the River’s history: milk bottles harking back to the days of the River as the ‘Queen’s Highway’, moving milk, mail and stock; soft drink cans speaking of weekend recreation; and old jars that once held bait for fishing trips. I think of our everyday relationships with water, this most precious resource that we have ‘on tap’. Water sustains us, cleans us, is us—our bodies are a veritable vessel of the stuff. The livelihood of First Peoples was sustained by this River for tens of thousands of years and, whilst my own lifetime has occupied a tiny droplet by comparison, I shudder to think of the changes that have occurred. In times of drought the River Murray now makes up to ninety percent of Adelaide’s water supply—the less she has the more we take. The less we think about it, the faster it slips down the drain. These are life giving waters, a Ngarrindjeri Elder recently told me … quietly … simply.