A river to cross.
The outward journey a manageable task, the goal a long stretch of beach opening onto a perfect bay. A favourite of fishermen, but no fish today. A reliance on tides and currents and knowing where the fish might be. Such days are filled with maintenance tasks, nets to mend boats to paint or repair, a time to catch up with friends, drink a beer have a smoke. A regret that families may be hungry tonight but a hope that tomorrow will be better. A hand to mouth type existence with often just enough to keep body and soul together. But happy sounds of laughter drift up the beach and dogs bark and growl as they chase each other into the surf. One wonders how people maintain a belief in a ‘higher power’ especially when their lives are so hard but I suppose with this faith there is a hope that things will get better and with death a reward. I envy such faith but find it difficult to comprehend.
Back to the river.
As all rivers must this ends in the sea and at many times a gentle crossing, with the aid of a stick stuck into the soft sand, with water reaching barely to knee level, it can be easily accomplished. River crossed, a rest, a picnic and the wonderful feeling of being surrounded by unadulterated nature. Pelicans soar, glide and dive, rising once again into the sky with their capture. The sea washing onto the shore leaving a filigree of lacy foam behind. Palm trees wave in the ever present, cooling wind and fishermen wonder past giving a friendly greeting.
Back to the river.
No worries, our travellers had had a safe outward journey and had few qualms about the return. Belongings packed, hats donned to protect from the sun and a slow amble back to the river. Our intrepid travellers, not having much knowledge of tides and times, reached their goal and found a ‘raging torrent’, please excuse the exaggeration. What they found was a river which had increased in volume, intensity and flow. Crossing it without being bowled over or consumed by the water was a problem. The alternative was a long wearisome journey, which would spoil their enjoyment of the day and also increase their fatigue. A dilemma. An elderly man approached, his age difficult to fathom. Sun, sea and a hard life had etched his life’s experiences on his face. Dressed as the locals, well patched and battered jeans, a t-shirt much faded after multiple washes, and sandals. ‘I will help.’
Our travellers unsure of what this meant but only too pleased to accept the offer, smiled their thanks expecting him to produce a plank to span the channel. But he had other plans. Maybe his bible teaching had given him the idea, or was he there just to help travellers in distress, who knows?
First the man he hoisted onto his shoulders, picking him up as though he weighed very little, carrying him across with ease. He returned for his lady passenger, the task completed with little effort. Coins were exchanged as a thank you, and accepted with grace. Our travellers continued their journey home, their rescuer continued his.
One can’t help but think of the legend of Saint Christopher. A child needed to cross a swift flowing river. Christopher took him on his shoulders and began to cross. The child appeared to become heavier and heavier with each step. When the far shore was reached the child was safely placed upon the ground. His quizzical look was answered with, ‘You have carried the troubles of the world on your shoulders.’ Not quite the equivalent in our case but our travellers troubles were definitely shouldered by a modern day Saint Christopher.