Rock

Thank you to Radio National and its Life Matters program for broadcasting this story on Tuesday morning 14 June. Thanks also to my friend Stephen Andrew for making the initial recording of the story.

You can listen to it here.

And you can read it here:

The rock is a little larger than my hand. It is pear-shaped, has several layers, and colours, from ochre to brown to tan.

It has been worn into such a shape that you can see – and touch – its core, its heart.

My eldest brother did not care much for material things and I do not recall his belongings –  few as they were – being shared out in any formal way.

His books and records eventually filtered through the fingers of the family.

His rock was first found on a beach by the Great Ocean Road by a mate of my brother, and left behind in my parent’s beach house.

Somehow it made its way to my home, many years ago.

It has been on my desk, on a bookshelf, in the shed, in a living room corner of stones and driftwood.

It has survived being moved from uni share houses to a growing family’s homes.  

During the last shift, 20 years ago, my father was helping clean out the shed. I looked up from the other end of the yard and saw the rock in my father’s hand. He stood with his back to me, poised to throw, to discard.

“Dad!” I called. I took the rock from my father’s grip.

It can only be speculation, but what if I hadn’t seen my dad at that moment?

The small irony is that we only moved around the corner. A stone’s throw, so to speak. The rock would never have been too far away.

Our house has a feature corner in the living room, by a large window, near the front door.

The corner is one and a half metres square and set 25 centimetres below the line of the carpet. The previous owners had not removed the clean white stones and the driftwood. Is the space a sculpture? An art installation? A folly?

This is where my brother’s rock now resides. It can be moved about within that corner, but that’s where it lies, amongst the sticks and stones and shells that I’ve added. The rock has a place of its own.

Hanging on a wall nearby is a photo of my brother standing on a rock. He is at the end of a narrow ledge, high up in the Grampians, in Victoria.

Long-haired and bare-chested he is striking a relaxed pose in a perilous setting.

His hands are on his hips, his eyes are squinting into the sun.

The vast sky and the timeless mountains are behind him.

I live near a small suburban beach, where a retaining wall of black rocks stops the waves dragging the sand away. Perhaps my brother’s rock has been saving me in a similar way these past 48 years.

The best known rock in this land is a natural wonder in the desert. It has become a symbol, an icon, often described as being the heart of this country. The core of it. My brother’s rock is just as large.

Long-time readers may recognise this story from quite some years ago. (First published in The Age in April 2000. The Radio National version version is much, much shorter.)

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