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  • Writer's pictureRiver Riders

River Meanders and Gives Life

Reflections by Serap...

The river is giving life to its surroundings on its way to the ocean

I want to question what efficiency means when it comes to nature. We mostly expect to do things in the least amount of time, with the least amount of effort. This does not work when you follow a river on a bicycle. Nature has its own rhythm. We have followed the river in its meandering form going through fields full of life as well as in concrete canals going through towns straight and efficient. How about trying to understand the intelligence of a river's pattern and respecting the form of a river rather than changing it to an "efficient flow"?

A river has its own path in the rhythm of nature. We follow the Seine River flowing west, where the ocean is. So we bicycle for about 20 kms until the Seine almost makes a U-turn, and starts going backwards towards the east! So we follow, and go another 20 kms until we find ourselves at a location maybe 5 kms away from our original point of departure for the day! And realizing that we have done about 40 kms already!

Why does the river meander? If one looks at it within the efficiency paradigm, the river is going backwards, not towards the ocean, and it takes more time, more distance to flow to the ocean. It may not look efficient. So why does it do that?? Nature has its own intelligence beyond what we see. Some questions come to mind... How about the soil that the river carries kilometers away and gets deposited on the banks of the river-- that contributes to an amazing and fertile land? How about all the nutrition that is carried along by the river from one place to another and maybe forming an island in the middle of a meandering field, that holds space for life to many? How about, if the meandering is about giving life, just like our bloodstream reaching at the furthest parts in our body, carrying nutrition? River meanders for giving life.

Seine has been highly meandering on its way to the ocean. Even though we are puzzled with its route, I am happy to follow it. It almost feels like it is playing with us in a joyful way, teasing with the River Riders, and checking our will and strength for flowing with it. I feel life as I meander on the way to the ocean, it is always a surprise what comes next around the corner.

In contrary, it makes me sad when I see the river “efficiently” going through a city “in a canal”. This means that the river’s meandering path has been “cancelled” by humans.

The river was forced into a canal in many cities, such as in Troyes and in Paris, and the fertile land disappeared, got developed, cities were built on it. That means that the rocks and soil, minerals and nutrition, that had been carried along by the river for thousands of years are now all buried down under a city. The canal is covered with concrete that stops the river interacting with soil. I almost can't breathe when I think "what it is to be like river who can't reach to the soil, who can't breath along its banks?". I look at the concrete sides of the canal. The river, which is the foundation of the community that provides life to the city, is constrained by the canal. Was it built for efficiency? Somehow, it hurts my heart to see the river “tamed”, to observe that the river is forced to “go through the city”. Just like the river is trapped in a canal, I feel like we have to follow the bicycle path, straight on a line, feeling the coldness of the concrete in our hearts.

As the river leaves the city lands, escapes the concrete canal and starts meandering again, we also follow the river with joy! I feel like a child who is out to play in wonderland! I see the river turning to the west, we follow, and then go north, and finally turn back to the east. This may not be efficient, but nature has its own way of sustaining its beauty, sustaining life. I am so happy to go back and forth. Thanks to the river for showing me that it is OK to meander in life because meandering is part of being alive.

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