Together We Flow

Peddling fast, fearful that I was going to be late, my ticking watch reminded me that arrival a
moment past 6:30am was frowned upon. A body of water that shaped a certain element of my
existence, the Liffey, awaited. Undoubtedly, a body of water that was not recognised for its beauty,
but rather its filth. As Iris Murdoch so aptly wrote: ‘No man who has faced the Liffey can be appalled
by the dirt of another river’. For me and those that surrounded in this moment, the Liffey amounted
to so much more than its grime. It brought us together, forming a mutual love for a body of water
that gave us a clear 1.8-kilometre stretch. A spot where we spent most of our mornings, clocking
miles tirelessly, trying to envisage and re-enact the perfect stroke.
On this particular morning, I realised that it was about so much more than the body of water that we
were presented with. As eight rowers emerged from the boathouse, shivering, weighed down
carrying the ‘Jane Williams’ on our shoulders, the coxswain instructed our tired heads to direct the
boat towards the rippling water’s edge. We were surrounded by darkness and the gripping bite of
Winter’s chill, aware of the relaxed flow of the river and little else. Dipping my hand into the freezing
water, I knew that we existed as a unit, performing the same movement in perfect synchrony with a
unified goal. Looking at the girls around me I was blissfully aware of our solidarity, and the steady,
dependable movement of the flow beneath us. Taking our seats, adjusting our footplates and
securing our oars, the river awaited.
There is something miraculous about simplicity, and that’s exactly how all of this seemed, in that
moment: simple. The art of rowing is a simple one in theory, and yet so many factors lay as obstacles
in determining boat speed. Boat speed is a sum of its parts, and this river was arguably the most
important component of that equation. But this river was also the only constant between us,
between members of the other boat clubs that joined us below Island Bridge as the sun rose over
the murky waters.
As much as it pains me to admit, maybe we are unable to truly appreciate something until it’s gone.
Recalling that morning; darkness turning to dawn as it normally did, water rushing, caressing the
grassy banks, I seek assurance in the fact that the brown, swollen water continues to flow swift and
strong. Nostalgic for the lost monotony of the things I took for granted, the River Liffey remains, a
steady heartbeat keeping its waters alive as athletes gradually return to their old stomping ground.