Loving my river (a Philadelphia Inquirer story)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I have loved the Schuylkill River ever since I was a student at Penn with a bad case of wanderlust—walking the campus, walking beyond it, leaving and returning.  Several years ago I wrote one of my favorite books, Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River (Temple University Press), as both a prayer and a poem.  I wrote it to honor the countless many who have come together in recent years to make the river more whole. 

Among the river-loving friends I have made along the way is Karen Young. The story that appears in this weekend's Philadelphia Inquirer celebrates her achievements at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center (FWWIC) and the future of Philadelphia, a city finally going green.

I'll post the link tomorrow (today is now tomorrow; here is the link).  I share the first two paragraphs below.  Great thanks to Avery Rome, the Inquirer Features editor who invited me and others (Karen Rile, Elizabeth Mosier, Lise Funderburg, Kelly McQuain) to think out loud in the Inquirer Currents section a few months ago.  We have loved every second of working with Avery and cheer her forward as she now moves on to new realms and dreams.

Of the two rivers that carry Philadelphia’s dreams toward the sea, it is the Schuylkill that has always snagged a good chunk of my heart.  It feels personal to me—the Schuylkill’s roving through time, her baptisms and floods, her primeval sheen, her helpless submission to toxins and sludge, her muddy regrets and redemption.  The river rises and falls.  She floats us on her back and steeps.  She comes at us from the hills and carries on beyond us.  We know her, and we need her, and she is a mystery.
            When we ruin the Schuylkill we ruin ourselves.  We become, as we once were, a city with a stench, a city that festers.  We forfeit all three faces of time—the past, the present, the future.


KFP said...

Everything you love and describe becomes shining, unique, poetic, and we are able to see it with new eyes. I am so grateful for that.

Good to see you last night at Chester County Book & Music Company, though I'm sorry we did not get to talk more. Thanks so much for being there. I know you love that bookstore.

Best wishes to Avery Rome, it's been a long great run at the Inky. I will miss you being there. Thanks for publishing my first essay in the Inky, back in the early 80's, in the long gone but beloved and not forgotten Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday magazine. It was so great under your editorship.

Time flows and changes, like the river, though it makes me sigh.

nic coviello said...

Thanks for helping to make the Schuylkill Water Works projects more public.
As an Art in the Open participant I was invited to the post charrette celebration.
It was wonderful seeing and discussing some of the day's proposed project designs with a couple of the designers.
There was a lot of energy expressed in the graphic postings.
I am loving and looking forward to the continuing transformation of the whole River Walk / Water Works area.
Nic Coviello

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