Who will ever finish this article? There’s so much to say about rivers….Rivers are: Connections, borders, trade-routes, spenders of life, emanations of gods or individualities, hell or paradise, epiphanies, myths, destroyers, creators….
There are tiny little creeks like Kızıldere, Talent, Venoge, Black Creek, Walnut Creek, Gorgazzo, Wandse, Panke; we have bigger rivers like Neretva, Isonzo, Kızılırmak, Oder (Deutschland Oder Polen?), Aare, Meuse, and we have the majesties like the Mississippi, the Nile, the Amazonas, the Danube, the Hudson, the Delaware, the Congo, the Wolga, the Euphrates and the Tigris,the Yellow River, the Ganga, the Brahmaputra.
“I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.”
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” (Langston Hughes)
There’s a general formula for rivers: In their youth they are noisy, fast, strong- minded, carrying tons of stones, earth and sand down the mountainside. In their adulthood melody prevails, they flow in beautiful bends, but still they’re strong, powering mills, electric plants, factories, but caring about their shores, where you might find promenades, trees, flowers, meadows….At a great age they slow down, show a mighty shape, carry ships and put all their earth and sand down as sediment deposits, raising hereby their own beds and generating estuaries like deltas, hopper-throats or marshes.
On the other side each river has it’s own shape, even it’s biography. Take a Norvegian river: sloping down the mountains very fast, reaching the sea – or the fiord – after just about 100 miles. Contrastingly for example the Wolga. Its source is just some hundred meters above sea-level, but slowly slowly it flows for thousands of miles to the Caspian sea. Find out the specialty, the biography of your river! There is a big difference for example in between Rhine, Danube or Elbe.
Rivers give a quite new key to geographic understanding . Instead of national borders you can imagine the landscape as catchment area (means: which creek, which ditch, which rivulet is spending its water to that or that stream?) Where are the watersheds and continental divides? By using that key you get a living and lively imagination of the landscape! I learned it from Goethe.
Tonight, lying awake, I decided to create a special blog about river literature, river-lyrics and river prose. Here it is.
“What’s the matter with me
I don’t have much to say
Daylight sneakin’ through the window
And I’m still in this all-night cafe
Walkin’ to and fro beneath the moon
Out to where the trucks are rollin’ slow
To sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow…” (Bob Dylan)