Humber River, ON - Larissa Diakiw
Looking out from under the bridge that crosses the mouth of the Humber, you can see where the river meets the lake. Everything above is possible because of everything below. The caissons that support the structure of the Humber Bay Arch Bridge - built 1994 using a 140-tonne crawler crane and a barge - were dug 35 feet underground and installed in shale bedrock leftover from when this was a primordial sea.
It is 7 a.m. and it is hot. I am barely awake, so the shadows in the placeless place are a reprieve from the world above. Already the sun has split the footpath open like a surgeon might open a torso, and the relentless drive of fitness culture has taken over. I am not ready for that yet. So, instead I watch from below, standing at the shore. Swallows have made nests in concrete hollows all along the spine of the bridge. They dart back and forth, winged engineers, with bits of straw. On one side of me is a highway, on the other is Lake Ontario. Above me I imagine the same shirtless 70-year-old man I saw earlier is still running back and forth, his skin pinker and pinker with each lap, and the same three women still stretching in the centre of the path. One had paused to read an inscription, “D.H. + C.H. 2018,” on a tiny padlock hanging from a metal cable that spans the length of the bridge. There are at least 30 lovelocks and many more have been removed by the city for fear they would diminish the bridge’s structural integrity. Can that be true? Can a tiny piece of metal bring down a bridge?
These placeless places are special to me. I like to imagine they are somehow unbound by social and physical laws. I see the charcoal remains of someone’s fire next to concrete pillar, an empty Tim Hortons cup, spent casings from a Roman candle, banana peels, broken bottles, fabric arranged along the rocks. Tin placards list the species of fish that have lived in the river: yellow perch, northern pike, common carp and Atlantic salmon, long gone. The Humber was formed by glacial action, it says.
There’s a reason why folklore depicts the magical underside of bridges, the upside-down, trolls who tax travellers. Just as I make a note the fish, a priest appears from under a stand of weeping willows. He walks toward me, a time traveller from a recent but forgotten past. We exchange nothing, not a look, not a nod, no acknowledgement. I can’t even say if he is real or if I’ve imagined him. I turn to the river and watch a cormorant paddle toward a swan in the open water, and he is gone up the path.
-- This Watermark was taken from the article "The Footbridge" in the June/July 2018 Issue of West End Phoenix