A River Flows Through Our Lives

Standard

We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

My father often spoke of Henry David Thoreau and his book Walden; or Life in the Woods. As we celebrate Easter today and Earth Day tomorrow, I am reminded that nature conspires to bestow a peaceful grace upon humanity and all who share our world

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

Psalm 96:11-12

I find great joy in the memories of conversations with my father. I share his profound belief in our need to be fully engaged within nature. Like Thoreau, he recognized that heaven was “under our feet as well as over our heads”

A River Flows Through Our Lives from Rebecca Budd aka Clanmother on Vimeo.

On the Banks of the River Mbashe

Image

Autumn Rose

 

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 
 Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

The Mbashe flows in a south-eastern direction from its source, Drakensberg, NE of Elliot, Eastern Cape of South Africa through an estuary by the lighthouse at Bashee, to its mouth, the Indian Ocean.   With a basin area of 6,030 km², its tributaries are the Xuka, Mgwali, Dutywa and the Mnyolo rivers.  On the banks of the Mbashe, the small village of Mvezo recorded the birth of a boy on July 18, 1918.  He was named Rolihlahla Mandela.    In the Xhosa language, Rolihlahla means “pulling the branch of a tree,” or “troublemaker.” Whether or not this was a foreshadowing of what his destiny would be, Nelson Mandela changed the way the world fought against social injustice. Facing insurmountable odds, he walked the long and difficult road to freedom – not only for his people, but for all who yearn for peaceful and fair-minded solutions.

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires” 
 Nelson Mandela

Today, twenty-two kilometres away from his birthplace, Nelson Mandela came home to Qunu, the place he grew up and remembered as his happiest moments.  Nelson Mandela once said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” 

Nelson Mandela has been laid to rest.  Even so, his voice, like the River Mbashe, continues to flow and nourish. We will carry on with his work, inspired by his life and vision.

Tread softly,
Brathe peacefully,
Laugh hysterically.”

Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013)

Rome & The River Taff

Gallery

“And can you, then, who have got such possessions and so many of them, covet our poor tents?

Caratacus, On seeing the City of Rome

River Taff

Rivers have been a witness to human history, long before the events were recorded in written form.    So it was with the River Taff (Afon Taf in Welsh), which rises from two rivers, Taf Fechan (Little Taff) and Taf Fawr (Big Taff), in the Brecon Beacons of Wales.

Archaeological evidence suggests that in the time of Emperor Nero (CE 54-68), a Roman fort was constructed on the River Taff at the point where it comes near the Bristol Channel.  They came as conquerors.  A few years before, in 51 CE, Rome defeated the Silures, a powerful and warlike tribe of ancient Britain and dispatched their courageous leader, Caratacus, to Rome in chains to face Emperor Claudius.

Rome was elated with the capture of Caratacus.  This was no ordinary leader.  Brilliant and tenacious, Caratacus had defied the Roman war machine since CE 43, which marked the launch of the Roman invasion under Claudius.  Following a two-day battle at a river crossing near Rochester on the River Medway, Caratacus escaped capture and fled to the eastern part of Wales where he resisted Rome’s advances for another eight years. Caratacus knew his fate would be death, after a final humiliation in a triumphal parade.  Yet, destiny was to give him another outcome.

Caratacus was permitted a last word before the Roman senate.  He faced his captors with dignity and persuasive eloquence that stunned the audience.  He argued that his stubborn resistance and glorious defeat gave greater honour to Rome.  Moved by Caratacus’ speech, Claudius pardoned him and granted him the right to live in peace within the city Rome.

“If the degree of my nobility and fortune had been matched by moderation in success, I would have come to this City as a friend rather than a captive, nor would you have disdained to receive with a treaty of peace one sprung from brilliant ancestors and commanding a great many nations. But my present lot, disfiguring as it is for me, is magnificent for you. I had horses, men, arms, and wealth: what wonder if I was unwilling to lose them? If you wish to command everyone, does it really follow that everyone should accept your slavery? If I were now being handed over as one who had surrendered immediately, neither my fortune nor your glory would have achieved brilliance. It is also true that in my case any reprisal will be followed by oblivion. On the other hand, if you preserve me safe and sound, I shall be an eternal example of your clemency.”

Tacitus, The Annals, translated by A. J. Woodman, Indianapolis and Cambridge, Hackett, 2004

Finding the Ocean

Gallery

Water seeks its own level. Look at them. The Tigris, the Euphrates, the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Yangtze. The world’s great rivers. And every one of them finds its way to the ocean.” 
Alison McGhee, All Rivers Flow To The Sea

  South Wales

I found my way to the ocean, just as Vikings did many centuries ago.  Swansea, a coastal city and county in Wales, was once a thriving Viking trading post.  It is positioned on the sandy South West Wales coast. Some believe that Swansea’s name came from the Old Norse, Sveinsey, signifying a bank at the mouth of the river Tawe.

It was the start of our journey organized by our son, which we named our “Industrial Revolution” tour that covered Wales and the Midlands of England. For seventeen days, we were on the go from morning to night without respite.  One day, we clocked six hours of walking.  We visited cotton mills, travelled on steam trains, plumbed the depths of a coal mine and saw the Newcomen engine at work.

The Industrial Revolution was an extraordinary time of growth and prosperity.  It was a pivotal point in history; the dramatic shift from hand production and cottage industry to machines and manufacturing efficiency. It will come as no surprise that rivers played a fundamental role during this time. Progress was enormous, but it came at a cost.

Have you ever noticed that when you go away and then come back, you are never in the same position as you were when you first started out?  New thoughts, experiences, ideas challenge our closely held values.  So we really can’t go back to where we were…at the beginning.

Somehow that gives me great comfort.

Kites

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.” 

 Charles Dickens

Crossing the Delaware

Gallery

“Washington’s task was to transform the improbable into the inevitable.” 
Joseph J. Ellis, His Excellency: George Washington

Washington

George Washington once said, “The turning points of lives are not the great moments. The real crises are often concealed in occurrences so trivial in appearance that they pass unobserved.” 

Christmas 1776, while others gathered around the hearth to celebrate an uneasy yuletide, George Washington led a column of Continental Army troops across the frigid Delaware River the night of December 25 – 26. It was a decisive act that carried danger, risk and the uncertainty of outcome. The situation was bleak.  To that point, The Continental Army had lost most of the battles. Spirits were down, and many had deserted, their initial passion for independence replaced with hopeless resignation.   5,000 men remained, yet half of these were ill and unfit for duty.  Wrapped in rags, many did not have the shoes to protect them against the cold winter.

Crossing the Delaware was the single event, the catalyst that transformed the momentum of the Revolution. Wet, cold, and three hours behind, the Continental Army surprised the Hessians, professional mercenaries sent by King George III to wipe out the seemingly innocuous American rebellion.    With the victory, strength and courage returned.  In the immortal words of George Washington, – “The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph!”  The moment was captured in an 1851 oil-on-canvas painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, by German American Artist Emanuel Leutze.

The Delaware River, from its primary and secondary source in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, flows 674 kilometres into Delaware Bay where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. Its watershed drains an area of 36,568 square kilometres.  Millions of people depend upon the waters of the Delaware River for drinking water.  The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a protected area of 70,000 acres that is situated in the middle section of the Delaware River in New Jersey, came into being out of environmental opposition to a controversial plan to build a dam.

Every voice makes a difference.

“Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.” 
George Washington

To the River Charles

Gallery

Shoreline

Today, I came across a poem by one of my favourite poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, that spoke of his feelings for the Charles River, which is located in the state of Massachusetts. From its source in Hopkinton, it flows 129 kilometres through cities and towns in the eastern part of the state until reaching the Atlantic Ocean in Boston.  Despite its diminutive length, the Charles River has a relatively large drainage area; its watershed contains over 8,000 acres of protected wetlands.  Considering that Brandeis University, Harvard University, Boston University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sprung up along its shores, perhaps there is something in the water that invigorates the mind.

To the River Charles

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

River! that in silence windest
Through the meadows, bright and free,
Till at length thy rest thou findest
In the bosom of the sea!
Four long years of mingled feeling,
Half in rest, and half in strife,
I have seen thy waters stealing
Onward, like the stream of life.
Thou hast taught me, Silent River!
Many a lesson, deep and long;
Thou hast been a generous giver;
I can give thee but a song.
Oft in sadness and in illness,
I have watched thy current glide,
Till the beauty of its stillness
Overflowed me, like a tide.
And in better hours and brighter,
When I saw thy waters gleam,
I have felt my heart beat lighter,
And leap onward with thy stream.
Not for this alone I love thee,
Nor because thy waves of blue
From celestial seas above thee
Take their own celestial hue.
Where yon shadowy woodlands hide thee,
And thy waters disappear,
Friends I love have dwelt beside thee,
And have made thy margin dear.
More than this;–thy name reminds me
Of three friends, all true and tried;
And that name, like magic, binds me
Closer, closer to thy side.
Friends my soul with joy remembers!
How like quivering flames they start,
When I fan the living embers
On the hearth-stone of my heart!
‘T is for this, thou Silent River!
That my spirit leans to thee;
Thou hast been a generous giver,
Take this idle song from me.