When the Waal is in sight, the imagination flows


Sitting on the Waalkade between two bridges, I let my thoughts flow with the river. Sometimes swirling and sloshing against the wall, then quietly and resignedly rippling in the sun. I let the sun shine on my face through the dark rain clouds. It’s all contrasts. Nature on the other side, the city at my back. The hustle and bustle on the road during rush hour, the conviviality in my head. It’s only the end of May, and in my ears I can hear the rough guitar music of The Answer’s Last Days of Summer. How much contrast can you experience in one moment? It’s all possible on the river. 

All my life I have lived along or near a river. In my early childhood, the Rhine flowed through our backyard. Later it was the IJssel in which I swam in the summers and now, for about seven years it is the Waal that acts as a kind of silent witness of my life. Although this water has always been in my vicinity for 26 years, it was only recently that I realized that all three of these rivers are still the same one kilometer from where I am now. They are the same water, coming from the Swiss Alps. And although they flow fast and are therefore constantly ‘new’, it feels like they keep all my memories for me. All I have to do is sit on the bank and those memories come flooding back. Sometimes one by one, as if the ships were bringing them with them, sometimes they follow each other endlessly, like a freight train thundering over the bridge, one memory evokes another and then another. I willingly let myself be carried away in that film and look at it with different eyes. 

How different it is when I walk along this water. Then the wind blows through my hair and I listen to the rhythmic steps of my feet and the sound of my stick touching the ground every two steps. At that point, there will be no memories. At that moment I make them and entrust them to the water to get them back later, sitting somewhere on the bank. I have become attached to this water, my faithful companion during many journeys and hikes. It cooled my feet when I couldn’t anymore and took in my tears as it spoke to me pleasantly. 

On the building behind me I read the poem: ”When the Waal is out of sight, the imagination flows”. ‘No’, I think involuntarily. ‘When the Waal is in sight, the imagination flows.’ 


The saying “When the Waal is out of sight, the imagination flows” can be seen when you cross the last bridge of the Walk of Wisdom . It’s on the left side of a flat.