by Rachel Loughlin, Richmond, VA

 Story prompt: Write your own river story…

When COVID lockdown hit my kids and I were driving a minivan that couldn’t go over 40 MPH so we were limited in our ability to leave town and limited in what we could do in general. The one place we could go that felt free was our favorite swimming spot at the far end of Belle Isle. That became our picnic ground, beach, and oasis from all that seemed out of sorts. The rapids roll gently by and you can sit and let the river rush past and block out the whole world. I wrote a poem about that spot that is soon being published in Paddler Journal.


This year we stay close
Avoid travel by swimming
In the river where it bends
and there are calm pools
Safe from rain-swollen currents
I like to find a spot
Right where water
Strikes large rocks
Lay my head back
And let the water flow
Past and stare at the sky

Gently turning a smooth stone
Between my fingers
The sound blocking out
Every other sensation
I think of this water
Making its way to the bay
Eventually the ocean

I want to go with the water
Travel the whole way
And disappear into the limitless
Expanse of wave and salt and riptide
I want to follow it back to the mountains
find the source
Cup crystal streams in my hands
Drink deep while it is still pure

But I am contained
In this moment
To this bend in the river
Turning in the current
Feeling my edges smooth

Photo by James River Association