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  • I've always lived close to rivers.

    Be they small, like the River Wey and the Tilling Bourne just across the A281 from the house where I spent most of my childhood. The Wey a little longer - from my very earliest days in that endlessly traffic-noise plagued flat on Woodbridge Road.

    Or large. The Thames in London, that strange tidal river squeezed into the metropolis.

    Or larger still. The Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers near St. Louis. Vast and expansive, and very much more in control of their boundaries than the tamed Thames.

    I've known floods from all these rivers, but only the Great Rivers of the Midwest really seem truly indifferent to man's efforts to control them. Nothing in England matches the size and volume of these waterways, at least as far as fresh water goes. Add the sea to the mix and a different story emerges, but that is really a salt water tale.

    No, the wonder for me, when I first laid eyes on the Mississippi, was how such a vast river could be found so far inland, hundreds of miles away from any estuary.

    I still feel that way today. The spell of the Mississippi - and Missouri and Illinois too - is strong. Drive out along an unpaved county road and you can find yourself on a riverbank looking out over forest or fields, not a building in sight. Somewhat illusory alas - return to the highway, take the next bend, and those stretches of green will be replaced by a power station or refinery, but I will take the unspoiled stretches were I can find them.

    And find them I do. I spend much of my free time on the floodplain, walking, photographing, looking, feeling. I feel a strong affinity for earth that is washed, infrequently but often enough, with the same waters that remain usually confined to their well-defined channels. Is this a sense of cleansing and renewal that I relish?

    Perhaps. I feel much the same way on a beach by the ocean. I like impermanency. I will relish a moment, but once it has passed, it can drift away. My attitude to my own life, really. I have always felt like a small (but not insignificant) part of something much bigger, and the more I embrace that sense of perspective, the happier I feel.
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