People have many different ways to find peace
When living is just becoming too hard to bear,
For some it is in sleep, some have a special place,
Others seek the company of lighthearted friends,
Some settle down with a book, others meditate,
And many spoil themselves with a favourite food.
I have a special place where I like to escape
For a few days whenever it is possible,
Where there is such quietness and tranquility
That my mind is emptied of negative feelings
And I rediscover the lightness of being
That I had forgotten in the bustle of life.
I know I should really keep it a secret
For fear others might invade my sanctuary,
But that would be selfish and there is room for more.
The place itself is not at all remarkable,
Just a small island in France on the river Seine,
Twenty miles upstream of the city of Rouen
Where the river is broad, bordered by high chalk cliffs
Rising to a plateau of fields and small hamlets.
Another larger wooded island lies beyond
Screening the noise of the barges plying their trade,
Carrying all manner of cargoes between the
Inland factories and the great port of Le Havre.
I particularly like to sit in the grass
Beside the river in peaceful relaxation,
Sometimes doing nothing, letting my mind go blank,
Released from the grip of negative memories.
At others I meditate on the meaning of life,
Finding peace in solitary contemplation;
The only sound the gurgling of running water,
The song of birds in the trees and hum of insects,
And in the spring the croaking of the many frogs
Sitting on the lily pads at the river’s edge.
This is where I wish my last resting place to be,
My ashes scattered in this place of tranquillity.
One day while I was lost in such a reverie,
A new idea impressed itself on my mind,
An epiphany that the river could be seen
As an appropriate metaphor for my life.
It begins its life in quiet obscurity
In the quiet darkness of a small mountain tarn,
Or bursting from the rocks in merry abandon.
There is little indication in its early life
Of the majestic river that it will become
As it flows through alpine meadows decked with flowers,
Or rushes headlong through rocky gorges to plunge
Over precipices into deep crystal pools.
It is already home to many forms of life,
The only human witnesses to its childhood
Hill walkers and young children fishing for minnows
Or happily playing their games of innocence.
When it reaches the lowlands its strength increases,
As it gathers other streams to swell its waters.
Here it meanders between fields of green and gold,
Source of life and vitality to growing crops,
And refreshment to cattle grazing on its banks.
Still unpolluted by human activity,
It learns of ancient ways, unchanged over aeons,
The abundant knowledge of many centuries.
With early adulthood the scenery changes,
And fields give way to towns and the bustle of men.
In places the river runs between banks of stone,
Its life and vigour channeled to suit human need,
Roads run along its banks clamorous with the noise
Of lorries bringing the first of many cargoes
For the great barges moored alongside the long wharves
That will soon proliferate and then dominate
Its life, blotting out the sweet memories of youth.
Then come the factories spewing their toxic waste
To pollute and corrupt the former purity
Of the river, coating its clear waters with foam.
Middle age approaches fast and the world moves on
As the first suburbs of the great city appear
The river ignored by busy people intent
Upon their own concerns, their faces turned away,
Minds filled only with thoughts of family and trade.
But then a new song begins to float in the air,
The happy sound of carousers on pleasure boats,
Plying the river at the heart of the city,
And young swains trying to impress their lady loves
With their skill as boatsmen, and scullers and yachtsman
Practising for the many summer’s regattas
That will grace the river with gaiety and joy.
By the time it reaches me the river is old,
Running steadily towards its destination.
It is broad now, dotted with islands large and small,
The main channel still busy, but in the backwaters,
Home to ducks and many other small water fowl,
Ruled by the swans floating in all their majesty
On its limpid surface, quiet and peace has returned.
The river is still gaining wisdom, listening
To the whispered voices of the trees on its banks.
Soon now it will sense premonitions of its end,
As the taste of salt brings the message of its end,
And stories of wider shores and a greater life.