I miss the river.
Currently, I’m confined to walking within a reasonable distance from my home, for daily exercise, maintaining a sense of space and light, distance and possibility and perspective, usually by walking in the nearby park.
But I miss the river.
It’s not such a big thing, after all, once you get used to it, to stay at home all day. We’ve all probably done it without thinking about it too seriously. but being out and about has suddenly taken on a new value.
One of the gifts of change is the ability it gives us to see our habitual, ordinary existence, our usual patterns, ways and means in a new light. We see them as suddenly mutable, as ‘not necessarily so’, as available to change.
So now everyone is looking at and thinking about their apartment, a walk in the park, or a trip to the supermarket in a new way. And I suspect this will only be for the good in the long run. It’s always good when human beings think, and look, and see and learn.
If I were to walk to the river it would be justifiable as a piece of daily exercise, and it would probably take as long as it takes me to walk to the park and around the park a couple of times and home again.
So maybe I WILL walk to the river. Because I miss the river.
I don’t like commuting and have spent years experimenting with the best way for me to get to work in the North of the city from where I live in the South of the city. I can’t bear the crowded underground trains, where I feel too fearful in the mornings. And even the overground trains can be like that – though you can at lease see daylight and a ‘way-out’ perhaps in the case of an emergency.
Using buses often leaves me frustrated, rushing, late, and they too can be awfully crowded. So lately, I came up with a best-yet solution. I cycle to the river – about half way to work – and then get a later, emptier train, for the second part of the journey where the train quickly empties out at the City stops.
Fortunately, the station where I join the train is cleverly built upon a bridge over the river. This means that, when you are waiting for your train, whether the weather is good or bad, and whether you are going or coming, tired or not, you always have a great view of the river while you are waiting for your train. It’s often glorious and always lifts my heart and something aspirational inside me, just to see the river and the incredible complexity of the city gathered around it.
The river always reminds me that there would be no city here at all if not for the river, and that the river was here long before the city and will be here long after the city disappears. In this way, just seeing the river gives my activity – getting to work- and my life as a whole, a new perspective and a new meaning.
It ‘puts things in proportion’.
So, soon I am hoping to walk, not to the park, but to the river, abiding by the rules of the ‘lock down’ of course and (sadly) avoiding human contact etc. But I just want and need to see the river again, and to feel that ancient perspective on the times I am living through.
The river will reassure me that all this will soon pass, soon in the big picture and in the long view of things.
Once I’d written my blog I heard this lovely old song and thought it was kind of relevant.