Margaret and Carol, River of Words

“Would you like to send a message to the river?” On the sultry Saturday of RiverFest, Margaret Babbott and Carol Berner, Regional Coordinators of River of Words, invited visitors to create RiverGrams. People of all ages – families, volunteers, artists, celebrities – accepted the invitation and composed short messages for the river.

Now the RiverGrams hang from the pedestrian walkway of the Anna Marsh Hunt bridge, where you can see them fluttering over the water waiting for the river to respond with wind, sun and rain. 

five rivergrams

Brilliant blues of cyanotype paper and fabric, donated by artists from the community art project Ask the River, attracted people to write and sketch short messages in white or black ink. Adapting the calligraphy poetry form of Weathergrams, instructions were simple: in ten words or less describe a feeling or capture an image inspired by this moment and place. 

2 people

Rich Holschuh and artist Nancy Meagher

Gratitude and connection are themes that surface in the RiverGrams. Messages to the river echo the festival’s opening remarks, given by Rich Holschuh of the Atowi Project, on the interconnectedness of people and the river in this place over time. In his words:  “The enduring relationships of the Original Peoples, before and since Brattleboro and Hinsdale have existed, affirm the significance of water and land as centering all of us in this place and in our shared future.” 

RiverGrams give thanks to the river, addressing the river directly as a friend or family member. Messages highlight the movement of the river connecting past, present and a shared sense of future:

  • Thank you for the many treasures you give us
  • Thank you for your beautiful presence always here
  • Thank you for water
  • Thank you for your consistency in all the ways you change
  • Rivering / Flowing / Before-ing / After-ing.
  • Dear River, I’m sorry about the 6-12’ deep SLUDGE. We will work on that.” 
  • “Hi, We were so sorry to hear you were ill, but glad you are recovering. Here’s to another 13,000 years!
  • Keep Flowing Strong!

Miss Vermont’s cameo appearance at the RiverGrams art table was the celebrity highlight of the morning. Her message and radiant smile illustrate the joyful sense of connection and commitment to the river embodied in the RiverFest celebration. “Dear River, I promise to protect, advocate and cherish you and your beauty.” 

RiverGrams on bridgeThank you to all the creators of RiverGrams for sending messages; to the artists of Ask the River for sharing their cyanotypes; and to the River itself for bringing our community together.  Go see for yourself how the RiverGrams are changing as they flap and sway above the water, and take a moment to think about how you connect with the river. 

Written by Carol Berner on behalf of River of Words Along the Connecticut River

Photographs by Margaret Babbott, Carol Berner and Nancy Meagher

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