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The River Diaries

Tuesday, July 11, 2000

Here I am and Perry, too, fresh from the river. He is back from his sojourn in the country, from the fields and forests I know he finds more interesting than our river-bound walk, but he still did manage a few rolls in the grass, his legs waving in the air like a furry pony. His joy becomes mine as he scratches his back on the yellowed stalks.

A bright warm day, the sun strong, but the wind keeps us all moving. All is visible on the Hudson: the bridge to the north with its swoop of cable, the moored yachts at the Marina to the south, the buildings peeping out at the turn of the river. Gone is the huge red-and-white smokestack of a cruise ship that had been at berth all weekend. A pleasure ship filled with vacationers and food and drink, lavish and contained, a concentration of pleasure in this so hungry world.

I have been reading Dicken’s Dombey and Son, and rivers are the gentle pathways of death, where souls too innocent for the 1840s pride of city building and corporate money-making are rocked in their waves until they find the larger sea. Young Paul, who is dying, lies in his room watching the river’s dance of light. “When the sunbeams struck into his room through the rustling blinds, and quivered on the opposite wall like golden water, he knew the evening was coming on, and that the sky was red and beautiful. ...His fancy had a strange tendency to wander to the river, which he knew was flowing, through the great city; and now he thought how black it was and how deep it would look, reflecting the hosts of stars—and more than all, how steadily it rolled to meet the sea.”

But this glorious morning, the river is filled with motion and sound, with rippled bands of blue. A barge, old and battered, pulls a large red sign, moored on a smaller craft; the words in large yellow print read DIRTPILE.COM. All the contradictions of these times I can see on the river and its world. A barge and the Internet, like the 1930s film Tugboat Annie, with that wonderful barge-like actor Marie Dressler, and The Matrix all on the same screen.

I see no loons or their cousins on the river today, no ducks or geese, young or old, but just as I am taking leave of the river and Perry is having his last roll, I look straight down on the rocks that jut out from under the walkway and see four small crabs, a kind I have never seen before, scurrying back and forth on their piece of solid ground.


© 2000 Joan Nestle

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