I used to live in a city by the ocean, and my sense of time and experience in that place was very much oceanic: vast, somewhat overwhelming, great loops of time and energy that seemed to have no beginning or end. To this day, I can’t remember anything quite linearly from my time there; my memories refracted, shards of colors, temperatures, smell, the weight of something on your skin.
But I grew up in a small town with a river, and perhaps, as beautiful as the ocean is, it is with rivers my allegiance and destiny ultimately lies. A river goes places, it connects and separates, it pulls you in and then gently moves you along and out. Some rivers are epic and vast in their own way as the ocean: I imagine the Nile to be such a river like this, or the Amazon, and I know the Chao Phraya river felt like this to me, a conduit to great swaths of my ancestry. My first true sense of having ancestors came from crossing the Chao Phraya in a narrow, rickety boat, gliding past the ancient temples and the glittering royal palaces. I had that feeling that my ancestors probably crossed the Chao Phraya before; they had seen these temples and palaces, too. To be tracing their past paths, however obliquely, made me understand how far back in the past my kinfolk extends.
These days I walk next to a much more humble, smaller river. I’m told you can’t eat the fish you catch in it because the levels of toxins are too high. Canadian geese have made their home next to it, and the pedestrian paths alongside the river are strewn with their shit. But I like walking next to the river anyway, talking amiably, conversation meandering — just two voices murmuring like water as the sun fades and the buildings and trees turn into shadows in the dusk.
This entry is part of the August Break, organized by the lovely Susannah Conway. A pic a day, words optional. Just life and pictures in the final gasp of summer before fall’s purposefulness sets in. To see all the August Break entries so far, click here.