Tuesday, July 3, 2012

RIVERS OF LIFE--THE THAMES, SEINE, HUDSON & CHICAGO


Hudson River, New York City, NY
Chicago River, Chicago, IL
The River Thames, London, England
Seine River, Paris, France


After spending some time with my images of four major cities of the world, it occurred to me that one of the many attributes of these global urban centers was the presence of a key water artery that snaked throughout each one of them. A little research revealed the obvious—these tributaries were the life blood of early settlements that evolved into world trade centers along these watery highways.

The Island of Manhattan is the oldest of the five boroughs of New York City and the most densely populated. The city had its beginnings on the southern end of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River. I took this photograph from the top of the Empire State Building looking out over Manhattan with Liberty and Ellis Islands in the far distance of New York Bay.

The Chicago River is actually a system of rivers and canals that became the link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley waterways. The three major branches of the river can be found symbolized in a Y-shaped symbol on numerous structures throughout Chicago and the two horizontal blue stripes on the municipal flag of the city. We were sitting on the deck of an Architectural Tour Boat when I took this photo close to the entry point of Lake Michigan. The river becomes the center of attention every St. Patrick’s Day when powered vegetable dye is used to turn the river green as part of the city’s celebration.

After flying across the Atlantic to London without much sleep, we soon emerged from the Westminster Underground tube station beside The River Thames and opposite the London Eye across its unceasing flow through the city. My photograph from this perspective was one of the first of hundreds from that trip. We then proceeded to walk by the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben onto the Westminster Bridge to view the river and the city from the fantastic viewpoint of one of the rotating London Eye capsules. William Wordsworth’s sonnet On Westminster Bridge closes with the lines:

Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

The Seine River snakes through Paris surrounding Notre-Dame Cathedral which sits on a small island in the middle, while most of the city’s treasures are located within five blocks of the river’s eternal flow. I took this photo while walking on a bridge and crossing north over the Seine to the Right Bank and the Louvre after viewing the stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapell. Like all timeless urban rivers, the Seine has always been a major player in human activity from its source to its mouth, e.g., Joan of Arc’s ashes were thrown into the Seine after she was burned at the stake in 1431. George Seurat’s pointillist depiction of people relaxing in a park on a “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” is now on display at the Chicago Art Institute, on Michigan Avenue about one kilometer south of the Chicago River. And a focus on the upper left area of the famous painting distinctly shows the river Seine as their focal point.
Sunday by the Seine with George, Chicago, IL

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