A letter to the riverbank

My choice to visit you was one of bravery. Although I did not realise this until I had passed the grazing cows and your expanse lay before me. The courage it takes for a lone woman to go for a walk, more fearful of footsteps than your eddying edges.

In a matter of thoughts, you became my safety. I knew I would rather rush, headlong and fully clothed, into you than scream for help. I knew I would rather swim and drown once my limbs grew tired than know I would die or suffer in someone else's hands.

And isn't this frightening? The deals I make with myself and with your currents in order to have a choice. I will always choose my own hands as weapons over anything else.

But this is not why I am writing - although I am grateful for your protection - I wanted to tell you about the peace I found; that I found your secrets and I promise to keep them.

I wonder if you begrudge the human need for the ocean, even an estuary, a poor imitation of tide and endless horizon. Do you begrudge how swiftly we leave your stillness or thunderous roar for sea curled waves? I would if I were you because I have learned of your gentleness. I have learned I am not afraid of you. While I remain terrified of the sea and how one day it'll take me before I even set foot in its cold.

You offer a clarity which does not threaten; a soft call of wind atop water, busying yourself amongst the shrubbery and pebbled shore. You are not a siren enticing me to step and then forget, a silt-faced husk at the bottom of the bank. You offer a seat on one of your many 'beaches' - sand pushed in from the river mouth, pebbles and the odd shell - to think or to not think at all.

On the day I visited you I followed you along an unknown path. Squeezed myself between thorn and bush, ducked low-hanging branches, tunnels of tree, and felt the springy release of nourished earth. I followed you with a trust I rarely place anywhere - knew that if I kept you to my right, everything would be alright. And what a surprise you had for me.

A secret ending, a small beach, the remnants of an old bridge corroding at the end and the boat house, falling apart. The clouds had rolled in but fear had utterly flown from me. This was my place, bequeathed to me by you. I could sit hidden by the shape of land and listen as you rolled in and onwards.

And instead of wondering how many you have shown this place to before, like a jealous lover, I thanked you. Those two words heavy in my vocabulary when it comes to nature and the way Gaia dances, pregnant, always, with possibilities. I arrived with courage, and you showed me peace. Thank you.


a lone traveller.