29 Feb Reflecting on Rivers

I live on a small inconsequential Suffolk river, the Dove. I like the fact that it moves quietly and unobserved through the landscape, a channel hiding among field boundaries. It was not always so.

Rivers brought people from the North Sea, exploring, looking for food and clean water. Their map of the countryside spread out, like a tree, feeling a way into places, branching and sub-dividing.

Today our maps are focussed on a network of roads. We cross and re-cross rivers, ignorant of the paths they weave through the landscape. We have turned our back on rivers until they burst out of their banks and reassert themselves in our lives.

But the language of rivers permeates our vocabulary, reflecting a time when rivers were a source of water, food, travel and religion.

Writing in the 1940s, Eyre and Hadfield urge the reader to forsake books and explore the river:
If you really want to learn anything about a river, you must go and look at it, follow its course by walking along its banks.…Rivers are living things and to know them intimately you must live with them, go with them on their voyaging and see the places they visit.
My own reflection on the river shows we can relate to it in two ways. As a physical presence; a place for journeying, being close to nature or contemplation. Or as a metaphorical presence; for what rivers teach us about flow and opportunity in life.