Sofia  |  She/Her

When She Moved, The Water Moved

Essex, UK  |  Sweden
Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests
Boreal Forests/Taiga

Session 5: February 2, 2023

I have come here to tell you a story of a river called the Colne.

But the story starts somewhere else. It starts maybe in a lake called Uddebosjön, or maybe in Kinda Kanal. We don’t quite know where it starts. What we do know is that it starts with a young girl who absolutely loves swimming outdoors: in a lake, a river, a canal, it doesn’t matter. She happily spends hours in the water.

The girl grows older. And the older she gets, the more aware she becomes of the world around her. This makes her feel heavy, not light like she feels in the water. But the more time goes on, the more time she spends not in the water—and the heavier things become. It isn’t just that she feels heavy—she feels like she is separate from her body, and she stops doing the things she enjoys.

But even so, life carries on: some bad things happen to her, and some good things happen to her. And at some point, the girl, now a woman, found herself living next to a river called the Colne. It wasn’t like any other river she’d met. It was tidal, constantly changing, ebbing and flowing. The tide would come in, bringing the water from the ocean, and the tide would go out, revealing glistening mud flats. She started visiting the river more and more often. She felt drawn to it. Like it was a friend.

And she swam in it, as well. She swam for the first time in a long time. The water was cold and constantly moving, and she felt the sense of lightness again, like… Not like everything she worried about was just gone, in a big flood. More like everything, including the dread, the anxiety, and grief, all of them were still there, but they were lighter, and they had space to float around. Like she didn’t have to keep them in place.

And the contact between her skin and the cold water, those exact points where her body ended and the rest of the world began also made it so clear to her that her body was part of her. It was never separate. And she was never separate from the world, either. When she moved, the water moved. It was that simple.

One day, a man told her “Phah! you’re brave swimming here! I wouldn’t put my head under water if I were you.” And he told her about a sewage outlet a couple of miles upriver. “If the wind is in the right direction, you can smell it,” he said.

She hadn’t noticed that smell before, but now she did, and getting in the water didn’t feel quite so appealing. And at some point—I can’t say exactly when—she stopped swimming altogether. She would just sit, watching the tide come and go.

One day, however, when the tide is high, she takes off her shoes, and her socks, and rolls up her trousers and puts her feet in the water. And then she feels it. That contact with everything else. But it isn’t just contact with the water—it’s contact with the sun on the back of her neck, with the gulls laughing around her.

She thinks about the people and the places she loves, and the feeling is almost too much. And for what feels like no real reason at all, she thinks, “Maybe we’ll be OK.” She looks out at the river again, thanks it and walks home.

Sofia is a director, dramaturg, and facilitator from Sweden, working in the UK. She creates work about living in the climate crisis, including the new play Decommissioned, premiering in London in April 2023. She is from a devising background and trained as a performer in London and New York.