There is an unexpected benefit to having to cross over a magical medieval bridge once or twice a day. One has to slow down, acknowledge other bridge walkers and share a friendly word or two. The bridge is long and narrow having been built at a time when even horse traffic was probably scant and laden carts would likely have been pulled by goats or humans. The bridge’s no-escape narrowness is amplified by it’s short sidewalls. They confine you to narrow and then confound you with curved tops that won’t allow you a quick perch out of harm’s way. And, of course, it spans a river. So if you have to cross the river to go to the other side of town, be prepared for the Bridge Culture experience.
Each passing across the bridge involves some sort of interaction, usually brief and really just for the sake of friendliness and a pleasant way to touch base about little happenings in our small village life. Here are a few examples of the charm of these polite pauses and personal connections with our village neighbors.
On a recent rainy day everyone I bumped into on the bridge was sharing the same concern- there are no baby ducks on the river this year. Usually there are 5 or 6 sets of duckling broods. Was it the late cold snap that got to the eggs or was it the high water that we had the whole month of April? We are all missing the joy of watching the tiny puffballs skim along behind their mothers. This year there are no motherly quacks to keep all the ducklings in a row or frantic peeping from the ducklings as they struggle to keep up with mother as the current carries them along.
Sometimes we gather in groups at the edge of the bridge and watch the trout in the river. We compete to see who can spy the largest. If we’re lucky there is a fly fisherman in the river at the same time and we can mock him as we watch the wily trout slither around his gaiters, nibbling the smelly rubber, but never trying the carefully selected bait.
As in real life sometimes the exchanges are sad. One older lady has recently lost her adult daughter and she greatly appreciates it if one will stop and visit with her for a few minutes as we go to and from our errands on opposite sides of the river. It is lovely to hear about her grand-daughter and the time she is sharing with her. Her brief smile shows her gratitude for a moment shared.
One cold winter day Tom walked across the bridge with a woman out for her daily walk. Her doctor told her she has to walk, so walk she does at 9 and 4 every day. She is of that generation where one was taught to never go out of the house in pants -a skirt is to be worn no matter what. It was a bitter cold, windy day and Tom told her it was time to break with etiquette. She giggled and told him that there was actually another reason she always wore a skirt. If she ever needs to take a tinkle she just stops on the side of the road and lets loose. Tom always gets to hear the doozies.
This ancient bridge has heard so many of these snippets of life. It’s impossible to be in a hurry and if one were to really count the time ‘lost’ on the bridge it would actually add up to a lot of simple, yet precious, life lessons. We are fortunate to have our turn crossing this ancient bridge and time to slow down, listen and share in the small things of the village.