For the last year working from home has also meant, for me, working along the river. Beside the Meuse, or Maas, I have walked out articles and taken podcast breaks. I have met with friends and colleagues at the Bonnefanten Museum to meander downstream, immersed in talk about pandemic life or a new project.
For many years I have also described myself as working across the river: I am an anthropologist of medicine, based at FASoS, doing fieldwork and collaborating with colleagues at FHML.
But it wasn’t until the 15th July 2021 that I think I really noticed the river.
It had been swelling for days and from that morning onwards the city bridges became crowded with onlookers, then television reporters. After dinner I took a walk with my family and a broken umbrella, the leather of our inappropriate summer footwear soon sodden and dirty. An upturned fridge went by, then half a tree. The water surged on. A rabbit appeared, clinging to a log, then it was gone too. As the crowds grew, the evacuation alarm shook us out of our damp revery. We went back to our home, a few blocks from the river, and made a sad little sandbag from potting soil and flour to block our vents. Darkness fell. We translated the local news and the river raged on.
And then, all so quickly, for the moment at least, it subsided, leaving tragedy in some parts and nothing but a dirty residue on leaves in others.
Now I walk besides the river, I cross the river, but I also am much more aware of how I live with the river. Not just the water that flows through Maastricht, but also the flood barrier holes in the streets, the rabbits who nibble at its banks and the mountain rivulets that nourish it.
I am here, the river and its vast ecosystem murmurs, please don’t forget me.
Anna Harris, associate professor department of Society Studies; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences