A River Running Through

A year into our marriage we moved to a very old, dilapidated house out in the countryside
because my husband wanted the fields that went with it. Wet August and I was in despair. I
could see no redeeming features anywhere. On the first good day I wrapped up my two
months old baby and walked down the lane at the side of the house. There I discovered
foxgloves, dog daisies and flowering brambles with beautiful scents. As I rounded a corner of
the lane, there it was quietly humming along and glinting in the sun, the little river that runs
through our land. My heart lifted and I decided right away I could live here after all. I have
always loved rivers and walks along river banks.
My husband’s parents and many more of his relations were amused and delighted that we
had come home to roost here as that little lane and riverbank had been their “Lover’s Lane”
long before, when they were all young. Cattle and horses were driven in at a gap in the river
bank to drink and bathe their feet. Blackberries were gathered to make jam. Fishermen could
catch trout and hook the occasional salmon. One bad winter, when our water froze, our
bigger boys and their dad, carried up barrels of water from the river, to fill the tank in the attic
so that a fire could be lit for heat and hot water.
We spent many happy days having picnics, paddling and catching minnows when the
children were young. Worry started when they were teenagers. They and their friends had
nights camping out, making rafts that never floated too long and swimming. We had to hope
for the best. Truth be told many of the camping nights ended up on our living room floor!
There is an abundance of wildlife along its banks, maybe more than I have ever seen. Hares,
rabbits and foxes scamper about. There are also otters and weasels. Ducks hatch out their
young and then proudly sail up and down showing them off. From my kitchen window I can
see a heron standing majestically on one leg.
I have watched this river through the seasons in all its moods. In winter dark and brooding, as
if trying to catch someone unawares, in summer sailing placidly along. It seemed to enjoy
itself as it carried the little ducks and bits of debris downstream. It had just one nasty habit.
After prolonged heavy rain it would flood its banks right into the bottom field. It destroyed two
acres of potatoes in our first year.
This wee river, named the Deale, goes on to join the Finn and the Mourne at Strabane to
make up the mighty Foyle. The Deale must surely get a shock when it is catapulted out into
the pounding ocean. Many of the family wedding photos were taken down this “Lover’s
Lane”. An example of the circle of life I suppose.
I have often sat on a grassy bank watching it flow and wishing it could tell me stories of
where it has been and what it has seen. As for me, after 55 years and having lived a life with
as many twists and turns that the little river takes on its journey, I am still here.