We pause for a quiet moment
beside the weatherboard house
that she lived in as a girl.
She carries a small plastic bag.
We walk beside a narrow path
and descend on steps cut into a steep bank.
Mum used to maintain these, she says.
They were only dirt then.
At the bottom is a stony beach
and the Derwent, hundreds of metres wide.
I built a little safe pool out of rocks for Susan here.
She loved it so much.
She always cried when we left.
Mum could hear us returning.
A brief, complex blend of emotions suddenly rush in,
joy and love, a sense of pride that I know her,
that I have lived my adult life with her,
but loss too, a regretful sense of passing time.
I see her as a girl, slender, dark haired,
carrying her baby sister home
up the steep bank to their waiting mother,
or playing on these rocks, naming them,
laughing with childish delight,
plunging into the cold water.
She points to two of the larger rocks.
That one is Biggie. That’s Flattie.
She takes off her shoes, walks to Flattie,
kneels, undoes the plastic bag
and empties a little into the water.
The wind catches the finer particles.
She pauses then empties the rest.
A cloud appears in the water and briefly spreads.
The waves come in again, slap on the rock and suck back.
The cloud spreads a little more then it is gone.
This great earth, giver and nurturer of life,
absorbs the remains of one
who lived so passionately,
loved so fiercely,
whose beauty was a light,
who was uncompromisingly upright,
who like all who tread the earth
had strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and losses
but who loved and was loved in return.
Earth and wind and water now have her.
She is at one with countless billions
whose life has been given and taken back.
We hug briefly. No need for words.
We climb the earthen steps.
At the top blackberries grow wild.
They carry both flowers and fruit.
Most of the fruit is red but some are black.
We pick a few and taste them.
They’re still a bit bitter, she says,
as we turn and walk slowly away.
First published at Blue Heron Review