By Peter Adams | On the dining room table three stones huddle together. Each of the stones is a beach stone. I know this, not because these stones were found at Roaring Beach (which could be true), but because their smooth, rounded shapes could only have happened by a relentless tumbling of stone upon stone upon sand beneath many hundreds, if not thousands, of years of wave action.
I say “could be true” because I have picked up many such stones from Roaring Beach, but these three stones were found, not at the beach, but half a kilometer away near the house where I live in a place where there is no path or any easy access.
I say “no path”, but this speaks of the situation as it is today. Many years ago where these stones lay, there is every indication that there would have been an aboriginal camp site with at least one path going to it.
The largest stone is the size of an orange and rests in the palm of my hand with an easy weight. If it had been used as a tool to make flints from chirt or for grinding seeds into flour, I can see no markings from such activities. Perhaps it was used as the form upon which bull kelp was wrapped around in order to create “bowls” or similar vessels when the kelp dried and hardened.
The smallest stone looks very much like a modern day plastic guitar pick. Stringed instruments were not used by the aborigines, so I can only guess at the possibly that it was used as a small spoon to scoop the edible flesh out from the insides of sea shells.
The middle sized stone, the one about the size of a walnut, intrigues me the most. Not heavy enough to break anything open, not shaped in any way to use as a scraper, I am left continually pondering its possible story. Perhaps this:
Following her parents around on the sandy beach beneath their campsite (where adults were searching the exposed stones at low tide for suitable tools), the little girl, wanting to help or in imitation of her parents’ searching, picked up a little smooth pebble and clasped it in the palm of her hand. It felt nice. Its shape looked nice. She liked it. She wanted to keep it. Clutching it in her tiny palm, she walked back to the tribe’s campsite nestled among the banksia, blackwood and she-oak trees.
When the tribe decided it was time to move to a different location, was the little girl told not to bring her stone with her, or had she lost it in the dirt of the campsite in the days following her finding it? How long had she carried it with her? Was it just one piece in a game of other stones?
What I wonder about most, though, when I look at these three stones, is the last moment they were held by human hands before they were put down on the ground or elsewhere for safekeeping, say the hollow of a tree, and then, forgotten by time until I picked them up.
Was this 200 years ago or 2000?
When the black hand put the largest stone down, did the fingers tingle with any hint of a sensation that the tribe would be walking off the bluff at Roaring Beach into the fog of oblivion?
When the smaller child’s hand released her stone, was their any sense that her people’s very long history on this land would soon be erased, smudged out by the white hand of British settlers?
We will never know the full story. Ever.
But what we have and what has not disappeared are the stones. Sure, they have been knocked around by wombats and wallabies and the variously coloured armbands of history, but they are still here to work on our hearts. They continually rise to the surface of the ground and of our imagination and make themselves known. They have not disappeared.
As the food gets passed around today’s dining room table, the presence of these three stones is that of three more guests. They tell their story of community, of work and play and of a deep sense of place that is presently called Windgrove at Roaring Beach.