Soon, after almost three years, we’ll be less Thames-side on a daily basis, replacing its ever-evolving majesty with the scaled-down realities of the Rivers Lambourn and Kennet in West Berkshire. Aided by the contemplations of the pandemic and lockdown, I’ll go back to two rivers with more hopeful, Thames-based revelations than I would have expected, insights that supplemented a prior personal and professional life very much oriented towards Seattle’s Lake Washington and Puget Sound.

Owing partly to the long history of disruptive human settlement, locks bridges, channels, canals, and towpaths, swans, geese, mallards, coots, and seals all became as notable as the histories of royals and watermen. Every day, they tell stories of place as simple as the mother and child depicted above.

What is the most pressing question that emerges?

For me, it is about ducklings, and why is there only one?

Particularly during the pandemic, I’ve been watching the Thames for lessons from these stories of history and nature, and how bridges replaced ferries, or why herons stand tall. Many, including the World Health Organization, have commented on the roles of nature and biodiversity in maintaining mental health during the pandemic. Not to mention, post-pandemic recalibration to minimize disease transmittal between animals and humans.

A Walden Pond of Sorts

Back to basics, first principles, and balances, a new transcendentalism, perhaps, searching for essential needs in a time of change? Or, a river-based Walden Pond?

Thoreau (also an abolitionist) considered most of this many years ago. Like the Thames, he taught us how a balance of nature and humanity was key.

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