After the Crowds

When I am used to being on the river bank by myself even a couple of extra people constitutes a crowd.  Generally that’s not a problem, I don’t have the monopoly on solitude or peace and quiet for that matter and what’s not to like about the sound of people enjoying themselves.  Up to a point.

There are 6 or so late ‘teens’ or early ‘twentysomethings’ on the river bank and a couple of the lads are hurling fist sized stones into the water.  I have inhabited that particular glass house so I’m not saying anything, but on this otherwise perfectly still evening in the warm golden rays of the setting sun it is a major assault on the senses.

From where I stop further up the river bank to change I can here them calling and yelling out of sight through the trees but there is still the occasional sploosh of a falling stone out in the middle of the pool.  There is a ceasefire in their barrage as I swim down and back but behind me again I here another sploosh, that hollow sucking sound of a stone falling into shallow water.

Their intrusion fades as I get changed, the sun has gone behind the trees and so have they, silence falls and the surface of the pool settles back to its natural calm state.

I’m sitting on the bank absently contemplating the ripples on the water.  In a fast flowing current it always surprises me that ripples pushed ahead of me as I swim upstream aren’t carried downstream by the flow of water.  Afterall, like leaves or twigs that is what you would expect isn’t it?  Instead however I have often noted how the ripples move against the flow of water as if the water were in fact completely still.  But more than that, ripples in still water spread out leaving a still centre, whereas ripples in moving water seem to propagate almost indefinitely raising static waves in the flow.  I have been watching these ripples for as long as it has taken me to dry and dress and they are still there trapped in the flow of the water, their undulations marked by flickers of reflection.  They will fade eventually, that must be the case because they were not there when I dove in earlier.

Perpetual motion is a myth, it is contrary to all the laws of thermodynamics including the first law of thermodynamics club which is, don’t talk about thermodynamics.  So the ripples must be drawing energy from somewhere and that can really only be from the flow of the river.  That being the case I speculate on whether there is a relationship between the frequency and/or amplitude of the ripples and the rate of flow of the water.  This must  be the case because the ripples I made swimming and getting out must have been many and chaotic, yet they have now settled into a very uniform pattern.

I’m yanked back to the ‘real world’ when a pale brown autumn leaf tumbles over my towel just within arm’s reach.  Except that there is no breeze and for a leaf to be moving that fast there would have to be a hurricane blowing.  Gently tilting my head down I can peer beneath the overhang of the bank and there not 3 feet away a pair of beady black eyes flank an urgently twitching nose which waggles its whiskers at me.  The mouse and I hold eye contact for a moment and then it flicks away like a randomly bouncing ball ricocheting off stones and tree roots.  It’s not just me that likes it when it’s more solitudinous.

Walking back past the scene of the youthful gathering I pause and collect up the cans and other litter.  Now that really pisses me off and I bet more ended up in the river.

Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall


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