Talking to Sông Hương, the Heart and Soul of Huế

huong river, song huong, hue city
Hương River is the main water source of the citizens in Huế.

One serene sunny afternoon on Bến Kim Long, I rolled out my blanket and lying down next to Sông Hương, the charming river of Huế City, the water source of its citizens and the second mother of my own. This time I decided to have a real talk with her so I could get to know her better. Here is how our talk went.

Mother Sông Hương ơi, how are you today?
My dear child, don’t you see the storks are peacefully finding food beside the buffalos on the grassy riverside? And look, the clouds are chasing each other while sunlight and wind are playing hide and seek. What else should I feel but happy and tranquil?

Indeed, what a beautiful afternoon, Mother. I feel really good lying by your side like this. Do you know that I always feel grateful to have you in my life?
Of course, I do. (Smiling mysteriously.)

How do you know? (Surprised.)
Well, my child, I’m your mother and I am present in every cell of your body. Don’t you drink the water from me? Don’t you eat rice or vegetables nurtured from parts of me?

Yeah, right… You are so fragrant and beautiful, you know that, Mother? So many people have praised you with their songs, poems, verses, and paintings. Do these make you happy?
Thank you, dear. Any woman likes being praised and I’m no difference but I feel flattered not happy by them.

What makes you happy then, Mother?
Care and respect. I’m happier if people care about my true need and respect who I am.

What is your only need?
I need to stay clean and fresh so that I remain a good water source for Huế humans’ and other creatures’ daily use. I was moved to witness your little friends accompanied by the adults walking along the riverbanks picking up the trash with the hope that their small deed would encourage others to take care of me as well.

And who you truly are?
I am wild and fragile, and I have feelings.

Hah, no wonder you look contented when running through the grassy banks. How do you feel when I swim in you, Mother Sông Hương?
You tickled me when you first swam in me. (Laughing heartily.) You was so clumsy and frightened. But now, I see that you feel more comfortable with me, which fills my heart with joy. I love it when you gently put your arms around me.

huong river, song huong, hue city
For me, lying afloat on Hương River is a way of meditation. (Photo: Huế Mosaic)

Me, too. I feel whole and safe in your arms. I love how you raise me up when I lie afloat on my back. You’re such a strong lady, Mother.
Actually, I’m getting sick and weaker each day, my dear…

I’m sorry, Mother Sông Hương. I know some of my brothers and sisters do not appreciate you as much as they should. They even litter you with dirty things. But Mother, I’m sure they don’t mean to do harm to you. It’s just their bad habit or ignorance…
I know, I know… I don’t feel sad because I’m dying of all of their nylon bags and dirty stuff that I’m bearing in me now. I feel desperate because these same children who use my water every day are polluting their own water source and yours as well.

What should I do now, Mother Sông Hương?
My child, I know you’ve already had the answer. All you need is the courage to turn ideas into action. And remember that we need a large team of dedicated waterkeepers, not just a few individuals. I love what you and your friends have been doing but you need more help from others as well, little girl. Go and look for more comrades, my dear. I know you can do it.

I will do my best, Mother. Before I leave, please tell me which is one thing that Huế humans have but other creatures living in you (such as fish or shrimp) do not and that you don’t like?
Single-use plastics!

I’ve got it! But hang on, Mother… Perhaps, fish and shrimp have microplastics in them by now… I’m sorry…
(Sighing.) You might be right, my dear… If so, you and your friends have more things to do, young things. Be brave, my guardians!

Thank you, Mother Sông Hương. We will. See you tomorrow. I love you!
I love you, too, my child. See you!

huong river, song huong, hue city
The grassy riverbanks add to Hương River’s charm.
huong river, song huong, hue city
Storks and a buffalo enjoy each other’s company on Bến Kim Long.
huong river, song huong, hue city
Children and adults are picking up trash along Hương River.