It could not be said that I turned my back on the Shannon in the way that the city of Limerick was
said to have done. It was a flowing presence not far from the end of our city garden.
I recall pools of water on the saturated lawn
After a spell of torrential rainfall and that’s when it dawned on me that a river could seep into my
world. Soakage, drainage, river dredging and floodplains were words I had not yet heard.
My father took us on a walk on the bank to survey the scene, swollen river with it’s bank breached.
We jumped over a gap . The force of the gushing water was new to me.
Even on a calm day I could feel the river breeze as I walked over the bridge into the City. Stronger
gusts blew between the spaces of the balustraded parapet. The fear of being sucked in ,drawn
downwards to the whipped up waters only left later on in life’s timeline. By then ,I could look
through the gap ,my breath taken away but my eyes taking in the expanse of water , bank to bank,
especially when the river was full. The river body trapped that deadened light on a grey day.
The first sighting of the river overflowing onto the strand remains with me. That a river, drop by
drop, could spill out over the edges finding new boundaries alarmed me. I would have to find
another route home.
Low tide afforded a view of the cementlike grey mud of the exposed bed with that still familiar smell
of river vegetation wafting upwards.
My roots were not in this place so as a child I could only forge a false connection with the
washerwomen in the picture which was hung somewhere at home. These women, true river folk,
pounded their clothes clean in a place where the stoneflags met the water’s edge. And yet, we have
the river space in common , a turning to it’s flow but with a different gaze.
From an upstairs window at home you could not see the river too clearly but the sounds of the
activity on the docks were carried across . These background noises became part of the river
soundscape changing over time. A busy port to an underused dockside. Less the whim of the river
more , the changing tides.
From an upstairs window in a friend’s house the river presented itself differently. Climbing a wall
out the back of another garden up the road, followed by a short drop down led us into Westfield’s
wetlands – magical escape. Our parents did not know where we were exactly.
We knew: we called it the swamp.
Here is where waterbody and land blended, the edges blurred. We bestowed upon ourselves the
freedom of this watery world. Nesting birds in the rushes ignored our trespass. We trudged, we
tramped .Our huts ,our haunt and always that river breeze.
Wild , wonderful and utterly reckless the launching of a makeshift raft on a wetlands lake . A motley
crew of Westfield’s river children and not a swimmer on board.
I shiver now as I hear the swish of reeds in the wind, the slap of the unsafe oar cutting into the deep
The time came to leave the swamp and lake behind.
I did return once more as a diligent pupil when asked to do project on river plants.
Rooting for samples pulled me in again.
Such variety, such plenty. Horsetail -so common , so beautiful.
Living Suirside now. I smiled that sunny day I saw the pure joy on the faces of two lads floating
freely down the river Suir on a homemade raft.
At one with the Riverworld.