A blessing for our rivers

November 30, 2011

A Murdoch University dolphin researcher is encouraging the public to come up with blessings for the city's rivers in time for ceremonies at the Canning River on December 10.

Dr Hugh Finn from the School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology has written a blessing for the dolphins inhabiting the Swan and Canning rivers which he studies as part of the Coastal and Estuarine Dolphin Project based at Murdoch.

Two Blessing of River services are taking place on December 10. The City of Canning’s event starts at 6am at Kent Street Weir, next to the Canning River Eco Education Centre in Wilson. And the Armadale Rivercare Group are encouraging the community to join them on either side of Roley Pool in Roleystone, also at 6am, for a more low key blessing service.

Dr Finn encouraged the public to prepare their own blessings in the form of drawings, photographs, paintings, photos or prayers in order to celebrate the river systems and all they provide for the communities which line them.

“Too often we forget what blessings our rivers are and how they define our city,” said Dr Finn.

“This is our chance to offer the rivers our own blessings in return and to recognise what a gift they will be for our children.

“Taking a moment to think about and show our appreciation will help us all to improve our caring behaviours around the rivers because they are part of what makes Perth so special. We should be doing what we can to improve their health.”

Dr Finn said he wrote his blessing for the bottlenose dolphins he studies because they “bless the river each day as they go about their lives”.

The piece is written from a point of view of a swimming dolphin making its way through the river and brings alive their experience of the river’s geography and fauna.

The City of Canning’s Blessing of the River event will consist of a traditional Welcome to Country ceremony, performance art work with live music, a moment of silence for reflection about the state of the river, and a community breakfast.

For more details, contact the City of Canning.

A Blessing, by Hugh Finn

I begin in the sea, in the place where the river ends and the ocean begins, in the land which is also one-half my home.

I feel the tide turn upon itself and I move across these ocean fields, across grass and sand and stone, and towards those beds of rock and steel which guard this river’s mouth.

I enter the harbour, and sense the vastness of its architecture. It hums like a sleeping creature, and amongst its dreams there are fish here and there hidden in its old and wooden limbs.

The tide pulls a little stronger now, and I pass beneath one bridge, then two, and reach the river’s narrower confines.

There are calls of other creatures now, choruses and croaks and cries. They sound beside me, and I sense them like some fabric of being for, around them, within them, there echo the fresh and inner hearts of this river.

The river colours and becomes akin to the earth; it tastes like a skin for the land, like a brown and humic blood for the plain around it. And if, within this skin, do I see the less, so also do I sense some other sphere of sound and scent.

Little beds of silt and grass occur round the river edge and then, between them, small casts of sand and stone. These casements crumble like relics, like ghosts of long ago, and sometimes I will dwell amongst for a while, only knowing what shades of being they now contain, and every now and then giving chase to what creatures their current schemes now behold.

There are histories amongst all these things, stories in the shadows and the sounds and the structures all around me, and sometimes I will stop and I will listen to them, and sometimes they are like lines threading past through future as if all this belonged to one single womb of time.

And then, within them, there are silences too, sounds of things which once occurred, but now are no longer heard to be.

I am never still, and yet often I am close upon the beds of the river and joining my skin to theirs, so that skin becomes silt and sand becomes sound, and we are all one form for the river’s residuum.

For me, the river is like a skeleton for the earth. It is the land of my birth, and thus am I one story for how it comes to be. I am its fingers and its hands; I am its torso and its tongue. I am its trace of being; I am its unions and its divides. I am all things by which it seeks to be.

I pass a little further, and the skin of the river becomes other and different. It grows stranger creatures, things which could live only here, in this vague realm between earth and sea. And I am happy to number among these things; to be one other frame for the joy by which the river is, for the travelling and the becoming of this river of being.

Then the river deepens and widens, and offers one cool dark sphere beneath. There are creatures that look like ribbons and, among them, the crusts and casts of other things, shells which linger and shells which move; earths that are not still and silent, but yet filtering and consonant of being.

And, at last, out around the edges of the plain, the river thins and gains the legs and limbs of some more awkward beast; of creatures that come and go, and enter and leave, and do so according to some indecipherable prescription of their own will; and yet also in accord to the fall and to the abeyance of the rain, like the river were something that always was, and yet had to be returned to again and again.

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Comments (One response)

Murray December 5, 2011

Contragulations Dr Finn on your great work. I managed to see a dolphin near the Canning Bridge the other day.
It was a moment of sheer delight.

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