Diary: Seven Rivers

Sea Library lives on a peninsula between the river and sea. After seven days by the sea, I’ve gathered talismans now from the riverside: a swan mussel, a small rock, a piece of wood with two holes, a cuckoo flower, a water aven, a broadleaf plantain, a buttercup flower. It is Lielupe River, second largest in Latvia, and one of the slowest. I’ve grown to love this river, one hundred steps from our wooden house and the library.

DAY_1: May 20, 2021, 6:52 am, air +9°C, water +15°C

I arrive at the riverside to find one of my cats hiding in the long grass. Is that where you spend your nights, I ask? Riverside isn’t a quiet place. Birds sing in so many voices. I don’t even start to decipher them. I’m not that good at birds. Two swans glide in the distance. Sky is blanketed in blue and grey clouds. Sun is shining through them like a white disk. A velvet light pours down. Everything else is green. Dandelions are still asleep, their eyes closed, and the yellow galaxy spreading all over like rash, remains hidden before seven am. My sneakers become wet in the morning dew. Water surface is rippled as if more water would be flowing in from the west. The colour is dark blue and light blue at the same time. Swans swim closer. My cat patiently waits so we could go home together.

Talisman: a swan mussel.

DAY_2: May 23, 2021, 12:16 pm, air +15°C, water +15°C

Sunday afternoon by the river. It drizzles when Niklāvs and I come here under an umbrella. Soon the sun finds its way through the clouds and the rain stops for a short while. Niklāvs starts to cover his blue rubber boots in river mud while I walk around and look at the water. On some days the river looks more wet than on other days. Water is beautiful. Sun starts to warm. Ladies mantle hold pearls of water on their green palms. River reflects gold laces on Niklāvs’ face while he plays. A silvery fish leaps, crossing the thin layer between water and air. As I do, too, and swim. You can read everything around here as a book. Squat in the wet grass and look. Name each plant, each insect. Name the unnamable that holds it all together. In English there is a saying to read between the lines. In Latvian we say: to talk through flowers.

Talisman: a rock.

DAY_3: May 24, 2021, 07:04 am, air +8°C, water +14°C

Sunny but cool morning. I film water skippers in the river when a pair of swans land on the water like planes arriving. A white heron flies over us. Swans glide into green sprouting reeds to have some breakfast. Cumulus clouds drift in the blue. It looks like it will be a beautiful day. Water is clear. Gold laces are running on the tea-brown riverbed. A lone boat with an angler in the distance. Someone has been here at night and tried to burn an old phone book in the bonfire. I feel like a detective, balancing my notebook on one knee, documenting it all when ten swans fly right over my head from north to south. The couple in the river stops eating for a moment then look at each other and continue their morning routine.

Talisman: a piece of wood with two holes.

DAY_4: May 25, 2021, 07:51 am, air +11°C, water +14°C

Marble clouds are covering the sky above the river. Water looks like coming in from the east, but it is only the surface. Water level a lot lower than yesterday. Part of an underwater world has become an exposed land. River seems lacquered. I wander a patch of old reed carpet, crunching my every step and dozens of black spiders dance around the ground disturbed. A duo of nightingales joins the crowd of songbirds and a cuckoo calls from the distance. I couldn’t be happier right here and right now. What is that bird singing in the reeds? Chirping. I wish I knew. Cuckoo starts to call closer from a nearby tree. All these invisible singers. It’s nearly 8 am, I have to return home to wake up my boys so we could start our day. But I still linger in this riverside pocket, a slice of paradise, and keep myself from biting apples to prolong the leave. I’ll be back again sooner than you think and with a dried towel.

Talisman: a cuckoo flower.

DAY_5: May 26, 2021, 14:16 pm, air +12°C, water +14°C

We go to the riverside despite the rain. Niklāvs and I, rubber boots, broken umbrellas. Mud streams like coffee are pouring down the street where construction workers have dug up the ground. The riverside path feels and sounds like a sponge. Ground has soaked up so much rain. Wind starts to blow harder when we arrive by the river. It is very fun to try to handle an umbrella. Mine turns inside out, Niklāvs laughs like mad. “Let’s never go home! Storm is so fun!” he shouts and runs around. Clouds above the river are castles upon mountains in white, grey and dark blue. River is fuller. Waves glitter in occasional sun rays. Everything happens fast in a weather like this. Clouds run, light changes, water surface shape-shifts. Then suddenly the rain stops, sun starts to shine, wet grass glistens, birds keep quiet. “Why are earthworms so yuky? Why couldn’t they have lovely nice faces?” Niklāvs digs into the riverside mud while I undress and slip into the cold water. I can rely on the river. Sort of.

Talisman: a water aven.

DAY_6: May 27, 2021, 21:46 pm, air +11°C, water +14°C

A few minutes before sunset Niklāvs and I walk to check if the sky above river is as threatening dark blue as it is above the forest = above the sea. Turns out it is not. But something cooler that clouds awaits us by the river. We spot it from the beginning of our path. A white heron. So huge, so elusive. Always far away. I’ve never been close enough to believe that he does exist. We come closer, it has stepped into the river, then flies away on angel’s wings when spots us from the distance. I find his footprints on the riverbed. Four long fingers. Niklāvs takes a stick, draws a super large copy of a heron’s footprint and says to me: “Look, what I found! This must be an even bigger bird!” River is a polished mirror. A big and heavy fish jumps up, then again. An angler’s nightmare to not to be here now. A calm evening with mosquitos. Some dandelions have turned into fluffy balls of seeds. A galaxy of departures.

Talisman: a broadleaf plantain.

DAY_7: May 29, 2021, 15:13 pm, air +13°C, water +14°C

It’s cold in the shadows, but sky is blue and sun makes us smile. Lilac blooms with a sweet scent. Bots boys and I walk to the riverside. Niklāvs plucks a giant dandelion, still yellow, and gives it to me. We explore the riverside, the fluffy clouds, the boat in the distance with two anglers. First leaves of waterlilies appear on water surface one by one and shaped like hearts. Later Emīls comes with arms full of ice creams. It’s Saturday, the school is over for the whole summer. We feel like birds just out of the cage. Dazed. Careless. Together.

Talisman: a buttercup flower.

Talismans from seven rivers. Photo: Beach Books.

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