Discovered recently that among some of the citizens of this city, our river has developed a bad rap. A co-worker recently referred to it as a ” stinking cesspool “.
And I asked her so you’ve spent time by the Thames recently?
Ah, no, was her reply.
“The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired, at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
While the many are busy debating how best to spend our loonies on lipstick and mascara, perhaps educating the many citizens cocooned within their suburban concrete deserts that our river is NOT a farking cesspool, if they would but take the time to go look for themselves.
I guess what probably shocked me most was how out of touch I was with how other people perceive our natural world. As a pedestrian, I suppose I spend more time outdoors than most. For the difference of 5 minutes, I often choose the bus where I can get off and walk the 25 minutes thru this lovely park near work.
Rivers inspire songs and stories. We sit by them to dream, to create, to mediate. We take long walks along their banks to sooth our chaotic lives. Holed up so long this last winter, I long for sunny days again myself. I can’t imagine not having the river nearby.
“Oh, Eeyore, you are wet!” said Piglet, feeling him.
Eeyore shook himself, and asked somebody to explain to Piglet what happened when you had been inside a river for quite a long time.”
― A.A. Milne
Overlooking that same river on Sunday, as it flows past the Homestead, I said to Lex…“do you know how lucky you are to live here? To walk out here and have that as your view?“ She had just been telling me of a friend she and the girls had visited over March Break with this 5.5 million dollar view of Downtown Toronto. This from one of the most rural route chicks I know.
I remember you talking about Grandma swimming in that river when she was young. But by the time you were young it had LITERALLY become a dumping ground for our modern wastes for so long that it was a fraction of its former self.
Today thankfully mindsets have changed, and we now understand the significance a healthy river plays to our entire ecosystem; not just as something we can tart up to attract the suburbanites to the downtown. Acting like a giant lung, it courses through our landscape and heals all life that it touches.
My childhood would have been completely different without it running through our little village. Watching Great Blue Herons fly overhead, and running screaming into the house that I’d seen a TERADACDYL. I guess my favourite memories you know, take place on or near that river. I remember those winters it would freeze, and we’d all make our way down for an afternoon of skating. If nothing else, it was worth it to see that southern boy Father of mine floundering around on ice skates.
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
No, it is not a cesspool. It is the languid background for picnics or playing hooky from work to fish its waters, or to merely spend an afternoon hiking along its banks.
It’s not just “another dirty river” (another of my co-workers comments). It’s OUR river, and we should cherish it.
Speaking of which, the sun just poked out and me thinks the lass and I may take a stroll today along its banks.