A river flows — somewhere. It overflows its banks in summer and goes quiet and still in winter, ice ornamenting it like a garland. When people first come, one house appears, followed by a second — soon a village. Over eight generations, it becomes a large city. The pattern of the homes and farmlands follows what the river has given. She — for here, rivers are Goddesses — is showered with gifts. Because of her, the farmland is fertile. Due to her deep channels and the ships that come, people can prosper and connect with places far beyond. She is their mother.
It is only after many years that the lock and dam system is built. The floodplain’s routines give way to even more complicated city structure. People learn new things from generation to generation. They change, and their town changes with them.
Eventually, the urban planners discover that a part of the city is unstable. It is sinking. The ground that once seemed so solid cannot accept modern things like underground transit lines, either. Worse — the houses in a large part of the city will soon be unsafe to live in. A geologist soon publishes a study saying that an earthquake is due, and the ground will be like jelly beneath much of it, especially the new buildings in what was once her floodplain.
An earthquake has plans, procedures, and regulations to build for. Relocation, however, is divisive. Nobody wants to move. The new housing project has a different view of the river. It does not have the spirit of those old houses, among the oldest still standing. The urban planners grumble about the river. It is the river and the attachment people have to her that made this relocation project go sour. Why did she make this happen? Perhaps it was not so good to have a city by a river after all.
One day, after heavy rains all summer, the dam overflows. It creates devastation, captured forever in photographs. Many go missing. Others are injured or found dead.
The river is no longer their mother. She is an evil that has come to visit sorrows upon people who did not deserve it. They are her victims. They blame her.
Is she to blame?
In truth, it is people who built their homes around her long before they knew that it would hurt them later to build there. They did not know that the decision would lead here when they planned the city. Even once the floodwaters retreat and the city comes into better harmony with her, though, it will still bear the symbols, tokens, and signs of the route the river first took down from the high mountains. The ghosts of this city’s history will remain in its collective psyche.
The river flows, and she gives, with abundance; she overflows with goods that people take up to use as they will. She would give her gifts wherever there is room for her to expand.
She would still flow if no person had broken ground on her banks.
This is an image that I thought up earlier tonight after sharing a quotation from Proclus to Twitter. While still rough around the edges and a bit simplistic, I wanted to capture it somewhere, as it’s a bit too long to tweet. Enjoy, and remember: Every God is good.
2 thoughts on “A River Flows”
I love this. I work in environmental design and this piece echoes how I feel about the living systems that we live within.
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Thank you! I’m happy it resonated. Have a good day/evening/night!