The Comfort of Water

A River Pilgrimage

Maya Ward


Selected by the State Library as one of six books to represent Victoria for the National Year of Reading 2012.


‘In these darkening times, we can sense the stories we most need: stories of our country and the power that it holds. Very few books deal with such things. This is one.’
Nicolas Rothwell

‘The Yarra has found in Maya Ward the ideal witness … She has written not just an account of a river walk, but a sacred geography of a river.’
Mark Tredinnick

‘A story of historical , cultural and environmental significance, told in shimmering prose.’
David Tacey


This is the joyful yet heartbreaking true story of four friends who walk a 21- day pilgrimage from the sea to the source of Melbourne’s Yarra River. There is no path for most of the way, but offers of campsites and boats, and free access to private lands, illustrates the generosity shown to pilgrims even in modern times. Maya Ward’s lyrical exploration of her river as it winds through the city and the wild is a revelation, a testament to the fact that the greatest of worlds are often at our doorstep. Its author understands the power of the natural world to transform lives, and writes about the connection between a river and the self with humility, humour, and a clear-headed wisdom.

The telling of her own journey and that of her fellow walkers is seamlessly woven together with ecological and cultural history, the revelation of the pilgrim’s path and the unknowable depth of Aboriginal myth. Through trekking this Wurundjeri Songline, this ancient, ever-renewing river, she discovers rich possibilities of belonging, and shares how a river can nourish the passion and resilience required to transform our world.

Bibliography 2015

A number of people have asked me to post on what I’m reading for my PhD in Creative Writing that is getting me so excited. I’ve discovered so much, and I think a selection of favourites would differ according to mood. Some of these books I’ve been reading for years, but they are continually revealing new layers of meaning; I’m very grateful to all these brave and tenacious authors. Today, I highly recommend any of the following:

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  • Bringhurst, Robert. The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009
  • Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Ensouling Language: On the Art of Nonfiction and the Writer’s Life. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2010
  • Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Into the Dreaming of the Earth. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2014
  • Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches Of Outer Space: metaphor as myth and as religion. New York : Harper & Row, 1986.
  • Davis, Wade. The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. House of Anansi Press, 2009
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  • Lorca, Federico Garcia. In Search of Duende. New Directions Publishing, 1998
  • Macy, Joanna and Seed, John. Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards A Council of All Beings. New Catalyst Books 2007
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  • McLaren, Karla. The Language of Emotions: What your Feelings are Trying to Tell You. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2010
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  • Plotkin, Bill. Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche. Novato: New World Library, 2013
  • Prechtel, Martin. Long Life, Honey in the Heart. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2004
  • Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Translated by Stephen Mitchell. New york: Vintage Books, 1986
  • Rose, Deborah Bird. Nourishing Terrains: Australian Aboriginal Views of Landscape and Wilderness. Australian Heritage Commission, 1996
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  • Shepard, Paul. Nature and Madness. University of Georgia Press, 1998.
  • Snyder, Gary. The Practice of the Wild. North Point Press, 1990
  • Some, Malidoma. Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. Penguin, 1995
  • Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that have Shaped our World View. London: Random House 1991

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