Remember the mouth of the river, where we children played at the estuary? Every child should grow up alongside the rise and fall of “aestus” — tide — soothed by its coming and going, its marking of eras of childhood, mingling waters fresh and salt.

The river uploads and downloads the sea, nature never-ending. Remember how she drew ocean into her wide smiling mouth and then let it out again half a day later? Every day. You can count on a tidal river, its rhythm never lets you down. That’s what the estuary-child learns, playing along the banks.

Remember bright green reeds in the shallows, standing in pools of pink light that reflected the setting sun? And the reedy legs of heron as they stood silently waiting for fish? Statuesque saints of patience they were. No wonder in the East they call heron the birds of heaven. Not every river is heavenly though, too many being a hell of pollution spewing streams of waste. Too many draw an oceanic poisoned cupful into their mouths. Only clean seas, melting snow and rain showers make a healthy riverine meal — not the wastes of industry, not the ghouls and monsters of old tires and rusting trash.

Healthy rivers once dealt in fish-teeming, insect-hopping, petal-floating waters of life: Mother Ganges, mighty Mississippi, salmon-seething Fraser, whal-welcoming St. Lawrence. Even our small river was paradise for us children playing at her estuary. It brimmed with a timeless geo-past, thrummed with animal spirits, ghost birds, Eros and Thanatos, the extinct and the extant … but we only noticed the thrumming subliminally. To us it was simply the soft sound-track of life. Our life. How blessed we were.

In the fullness of river-time the Wiccan priestess blessed my marriage there beside the estuary, that bright summer’s day — remember? You as bridesmaid were pre-Raphaelite, the perfect fairy-tale woodland princess, and my new husband the perfect knight. Remember how we stood with our feet bare on the sandy bank? Flower-strewn we were, just as we had been as children launching toy water-craft on the current and racing floating twigs. Do children the world over do that, who grow up along rivers? Do we ever grow up, we who played at a river mouth? We copy its voraciousness throughout later lives, with life-long child-like greed.

The sand of the bank we stood upon was the same as the sand which shifted beneath the tower of Ozymandias, and my marriage crumbled like that king’s throne – but we did not despair. Even our divorce was peacefully commemorated beside the river, where things flow in and things flow out, time passes and things change. The river draws oceans into her mouth: look on her works, ye mighty, but don’t despair, for hers is the appetite of balance. Her mouth is wide and hungry but she consumes only what she needs and then circulates it back, mixing fresh and salt. Be comforted then by the time and tide which waits for no one, but which also doesn’t fail.

And here we still stand, you and I, two elderly children, our gnarled old bare feet still half-sunk in the sandy banks. Still we walk the river’s edge but now it’s the rushing river of time that seizes our attention, for doesn’t it seem to have sped up?


S. B. Julian writes plays, fiction and nonfiction and takes pictures, from the west coast of Canada.