Olga Tokarczuk once wrote, that everyone has his own river (in her book „Moment niedźwiedzia”, namely, in the story titled „Oder”). There’s some merit to it, at least in my opinion. Perhaps you’re not aware of it yet, but I’m certain, that upon reading Olga Tokarczuk’s narrative on her personal relation with the Oder river, many memories will spring to your mind. To get your imagination working, I’m putting this link to a fragment of her short story.
River as a symbol
The author tells as stories from her life, but also refers to the river’s symbolism, accentuating its dual nature. Rivers are life givers, the birthplaces of life. However, many times they turned into deathbringers, their currents consuming everything they met. They can be attributed with god-like powers, reminding of a song by Anita Lipnicka. It carries us, changing its flow. Rivers can also symbolize rebirth, when after a cataclysm everything is born anew.
Enough of mysticism, let’s talk about rivers in their physical sense. I’m sure many of us have their special rivers. Different in each stage of our lives. They can be near or distant, but still are always somewhere close by. Vistula is my first special river. As a child I used to go to mass at Wawel Cathedral each Christmas. Then we went to the riverside with my parents, to feed the swans. I prepared for my SAT on the promenades by Vistula, and it is there that I celebrated my graduation with firends. I’ve braved miles while rollerblading or taking a walk on the banks of this river. It’s a place, where I like to go all year ’round.
My „river heart” also belongs to Białucha, a river, that’s best to contemplate beside. I went there, whenever I needed to deal with some issues and still often go there. My „summer love” is the river Raba. That’s where I learned to swim and where I built magnificant dams out of sand. That’s where I learned, what some people can do to kittens… My firend tried to save them.
All these rivers are far away from where I live now, so I decided to befriend the river Avon. It is famous for the Clifton Suspension Bridge – a symbol of Bristol. But I wanted to see its other side – free from tourists, crowds of people going to work and the hustle of local pubs and restaurants.
A walk by the Avon
Since it was sunny, I decided to embark on a walk to Bath, which is situated about 9 miles from Bath. Ignoring Googlemaps and it’s recommended route, I decided to follow the riverbank. The initial part of the route was well known to me, as I pass it often. It’s a great place to spend your free time. There’s a nice bicycle path you can ride through without all those cars passing by. Canoeists brave the waters – either for pure recreation or preparing for the races. They’re constantly accompanied by the coaches yell, heard through a megaphone. There’s lots of parents with their kids, people walking their canines and flocks of ducks waddling around.
At the city’s outskirts, the route turns into something more like a forest path. The infrastructure is still perfect though – there are benches for those wishing to rest, and for all those in need of civilization, there are many signs, telling people where to turn to reach a certain city district or a village center. These aren’t the only signs by the route. Many give you curious details about the local wildlife and plants, the region’s history, and – most importantly – the ubiquitous „You are here” marks.
Although the destination was important – the way to get there was equally so. After a while, the canoeists vanished. Boats started appearing. Some were like floating discos, other were more like houses on the water, and all of them were full of smiling people, enjoying the nice weather. But my gaze turned to the other side, where the landscape became charmingly pastoral. I met no one on my way. Sometimes I passed a country house, surrounded by an orchard or a grove.
No, it’s not Wonderland, but a mere riverside path. Seldom you can feel, you’re still in the 21st century.
Sometimes, though, it’s good to have civilization. You can sit at a cafe, have a pint, or eat something.
On my way again. The river, the meadows,… English countryside feels like Poland. With one big difference – I can go anywhere. There’s no walls or fences. Except for ones made to prevent animals from roaming freely. When you find a fence, you open the gate and continue on.
Saturday… I should be cleaning, doing laundry, yet here I am, chillin’…
Not unlike most people I met.
Making new acquaintances gets more difficult, as we grow older. Even if you try to befriend a river, rather then another human. I had a great time, but I feel I need more time, to develop a relation with Avon.
Just before entering Bath, my surroundings changed again. Neat grass, bigger houses, a mansion here and there.
After several hours’ walk I’ve finally reached Bath, but that’s another story…