Friday, 12 July 2013

Sitting By The River

Every neighbourhood has its special places; places that the residents gravitate to year-round, drawn by community or scenery or quiet - some particular attribute that is valued on a personal level and that adds value to the quality of life of the neighbourhood as a whole.

In my neighbourhood, one of those places is the park by the river. 

I'm sure it has an official name but in all my years of knowing that park - and I've known it for nearly half a century - I've never learned what that name is.  For me it doesn't matter.  The name of the park is not at all what the essence of the place is about.

The park by the river  has tennis courts, a couple of soccer fields and lots of benches.  It has interpretive signs explaining the watershed and wildlife. It has trails, huge cottonwood trees, lots of wildlife, abundant blackberries that we forage late summer each year, and - of course and best of all - it has the river itself.

The river is broad where it runs through the park, and the water fast-moving.  Brown trout live in its waters and people travel from around the world to fish them. 

In winter and in spring the waters climb high up the banks and the river stretches its green-brown fingers out to touch the hollows in grasslands not sheltered by the dyke. 

In summer the waters drop and change their mood, running clear and chuckling over boulders, resting still and green in shallow pools and back eddies along the river bank.

This is the time when I like the river best. 

On hot, humid days, its shaded banks are call to me.  I pack up my chair, a book, and perhaps some food and drink, and head for our favourite swimming hole.

The water in the swimming hole is always flat calm and clear, cleansed by the flow of the river and stilled by a manmade weir of stones that has been there as long as I can remember.  It is no elaborate structure; just a half circle of river rocks, piled one atop the other to form a barrier that slows the current enough to allow the waters to rest in a natural hollow formed by the river's motion. 

There is still current here, but it is greatly slowed in comparison to the quicker waters just beyond, and the cottonwoods reach out their sheltering branches to shade a small strip of sandy beach.

I love it there.

It's often a busy place.  The swimming hole is visited by children and dogs, by walkers and families, by ducks and gulls and noisy crows whose constant conversations are shouted down at us from the branches above.  And yet, despite all its business, this place speaks calm to me.

So, I set up my chair in the shallow water at the edge of the pool, and open my book.  Sometimes I read.  Sometimes I gaze about me and enjoy the scene.  Often I give thanks for the cooling shade and the simple comfort of dabbling my feet in the water.

The swimming hole at the park beside the river is a gift; a treasure, a blessing.  It's my special neighbourhood place.

Do you have a favourite neighbourhood place too?  I'd love to hear about it.  Please stop by my Facebook page or Twitter feed to share your stories and photos.