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THE RIVER SPEAKS IN SWIRLS, AND I BOW TO THEM

2023

The River speaks in swirls, and I bow to them, in the movement of listening. As its student, I pay attention and learn. These are forms of relating. Underneath, there’s an emotional tone and a relational approach. It can be curiosity, fed with a playful gentleness or an analytical stance that is anything but neutral; there is always a goal.

 

Well-known, recent human practices have been for our species' benefit, which is incredibly shortsighted. Observing the River's morphological changes, sediments, animal movement, currents: to fish, learn physics, or plan the next dam is the definition of a one-sided relationship. And that is a big constraint. Another common analytic stance has been to observe the River as something that serves us aesthetically, with its beauty — a mere scenery. The River is beautiful and awe is wonderful: pleasant emotions are nice. But they are also fleeting, and sometimes, superficial - like what we like to call the River itself. Even though it isn’t.

 

I prefer to go to the River, and observe. Yes, to learn from its currents, movements and what is unknown, with the main goal of building rapport. So when I see the River, I don’t present my ideas of what to do, as that would be very ridiculous, considering our size difference, age, and accumulation of knowledge. I’m even new to this land. Instead, I study the River to understand and respect: my eye movement is a gesture of care, and it’s anything but passive. It is true that sometimes I am too much into my own head and I don’t really see the River, but my own meddling thoughts, beliefs, emotions and moods. Yet I go back to it, over and over, to sort it all out - not myself (although that helps) - 

 

But our kinship. 

 

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A winter day: in which rays of sun mistakenly indicate warmth. It is not, but cold, windy and dark with clouds. The river took its dance with the light, as he, or she, or they practised through steps and murmurs of water coloured as lead, yet thoroughly transparent and clear. Silver fish turned around to the surface, with the sheer rhythm of their scales. On land, through the garden, tree leaves blow in the similar sound of water itself flowing, and magpies, blackbirds, sparrows, chirped, tweeted, whistled, sang. I find more wisdom here than in highways: beyond the obvious beauty and awe, there’s the possibility of observing nature’s intelligence, the flawless interconnection between living beings and their environment, the intricate similarity and delicate composition of differences and opposites that human disciplines, such as maths and biology, observe and study. The substance of things, within the tides and how these relate to the winds and to the curly waves they form; and to the rain that, soon after, fell. And with that, I ran with it, leaving geometry, the human conceptualisation of river, estuary and all its multiple language forms of beauty and water behind.

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