#4: The River
The Thames is liquid history. – John Burns
How can I describe the relationship I’ve developed with the river that cuts through London? I mentioned before that London owes its modern existence to the presence of the river, like so many other cities around the world. The reality is that the Thames still serves as the main artery, pumping life into the city. It ferries goods into the city and farther upstream, and carries waste out of the city. It serves as courier for tourists making their way between Greenwich, Tower Pier, and Westminster, showing them the sights from a different perspective, and quite succinctly—most of the main attractions, in terms of architecture, are naturally on the river.
When I moved to London, I let the Thames serve as my guide of where to live. I said, if I have to run in this city to keep in shape, I’m going to run along the river. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be within a few minutes of water, since I spent too long in parts of the US that lacked powerful bodies of water. The Thames is available to me in London, and I love having access to it. I’ve run hundreds of miles along its shores, treading Embankment, the Southbank, and Bankside. I’ve taken countless pictures, at least one on every run, of something I saw while along the paths I tread. I’ve watched sunrises and sunsets, and been blinded by the glare of the water. Not a few times, I’ve had my pictures ruined by its reflected light.
I even had the immense pleasure to spend one leisurely afternoon along the beaches of the Thames at low tide. I found stones and bones and pieces of porcelain and arranged them into my own art. I watched boats and waves and dug into a freshwater spring bubbling farther up the scree. I put my feet and my hands in the Thames, and appreciated its icy water and the fact that it’s not actually dirty, but filled with salt and small particles of dirt which give it its untoward brown appearance. Of course, there’s no doubt that the river holds a great many more secrets, if the number of bones I found along its shore are any indication. The river is full of the history of the city, from the Roman times and pre-industrial era, through the pollution and abuse of the natural resources in the city, to now, where those looking see it for the treasure it is.