Finding the Ocean

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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

Going on an Adventure

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“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone. I should think so – in these parts!  We are plain, quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!  Make you late for dinner.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Adventure

There are many more rivers to explore and many miles to wander in this beautiful world.  We have not finished our river journeys. There is Julius Caesar’s Rubicon, the Mekong River, one of the great rivers of SE Asia, and the legendary Amazon River that carries more water than any other river in the world.

For now, I am taking a couple of weeks to share an adventure with my husband and son.   I am uncertain whether I will be able to access the internet on a regular basis, even though I am equipped with a new iPhone that I know very little about.  I confess that I have not attained the level of proficiency to access WordPress.  I am going to use this time to stretch my knowledge of technology.

We are all on a remarkable adventure, we call life.  Over the past months, I have come to realize that we may be on opposite sides of the world, yet we are travelling the same path.

Safe travels….and remember….

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


Crossing the Delaware

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“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

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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.