esacpe to the river


I am not really a city girl. Outside of my infancy in San Diego, the only other time I’ve lived in a city proper before this year was the summer I spent in Paris after my sophomore year.


under the tower


I haven’t accrued a lot of hard-earned urban wisdom. But the lesson that I’ve learned here in Milwaukee and I learned that summer in Paris is this: one of the best places to walk in a city is next to a river.


river and path 2


Cities often grow up around rivers because for centuries ships were the most efficient way to move people and goods. Milwaukee actually means the “Gathering Place by the Water” because it is where the Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers meet and flow into Lake Michigan. (Paris was named after the Celtic tribe Parisii , but right through the heart of Paris runs the Seine.)


running path day


But even the largest cities only invest in a handful of bridges for cars and pedestrians to cross from one side to the other. (Paris has 37 bridges, or ponts.) Not too many bridges means if you walk alongside the river you don’t have to stop and cross many streets (or bridges).




Rivers can be one of the places in the city where you could walk anywhere from a few blocks to maybe a mile of uninterrupted stretches. They can be some of the most peaceful places to reflect and stretch your legs.


path with grass


Just like that summer I spent in Paris, I have found myself once again escaping to the river. The Menomonee River is a lot more rustic than the Seine (and I would imagine considerably cleaner.) The path here is dirt, and the river teams with ducks and herons and hawks.


path and river


Squirrels and occasionally deer rustle in the grass making noise disproportion to their sizes: the huge deer are almost silent and the tiny squirrels make rackets, scurrying frantically up trees when I approach.


The Seine and Eiffel


The Seine was alive with people: tourists stopping and photographing bridges and locals going about daily life (and quite a few pigeons if I remember correctly). I went to the Seine for the relief of being able to be silent.


eiffle tower from our street


I could simply run (albeit slowly) through the city and not burden anyone with my haltering French. It’s the time I felt most at home that summer so very far from home.


our apartment


I had a route from our tiny apartment near the Eiffel Tower and would run all the way to the Louvre and D’Orsay. (My favorite museum in Paris. Also, my favorite place to eat (pre-paleo) was a crêperie. So, there you have the sum-total of my Paris advice: walk the Seine, go to the D’Orsay, and have a hard cider at a crêperie.)


river and path and tree


My nearly daily walks along the Menomonee are blessedly less full of people than Paris had been. (As I tell Evan in my best cranky old-lady voice, “I do not like people in my nature.”) Instead, my walks there have been where I’ve taken my four and half month old niece when she’s on a nap-strike.


river and path and sun


We enjoy the leaves that are now starting to change and blow away. Sometimes I go by myself, listening to an audio book (Book club in October And the Mountains Echoed, or non-Newbery children’s book Swallows and Amazons.) Or most often I just go by myself and am quiet as I walk alone along its quiet shores.


river and tree


It’s been a full Fall already, and the river has been a place of solace and solitude. It’s been a place to go think, to pray, to feel sad, or to daydream. It feels like God’s provision in this season. And I know that the dirt path is only a month or two away from being hidden in snow and ice, so I’m trying soak it in now.


white flower by the river


It’s a mile away from the house, so it’s a commitment to get there, but it is always worth it. Peaceful moments–the rush of water, the flight of a heron, the crunch of leaves—they are all there if we take the time to find them.


river and over hanging tree


Rivers can remind us of our baptism. Rivers can be living icons: the image of the River Jordan and Holy Spirit as a Dove inviting us into the life of the Beloved in Christ.


river and reflection of leaves


Where are you finding images of beauty and peace these days?


river with stones and leaves


2 Responses to Escape to the River: Milwaukee & Paris

  1. Anne Hays says:

    I am so glad I rescued your blogs from my Spam file. I don’t know how they got there, but I am very glad they are back in my inbox!
    This blog reads like a walk along the river and I like it very much. The comparison between Milwaukee and Paris is interesting.
    I am glad you are enjoying Swallows and Amazons. It, and the books that followed, were among my all-time favorites. I wonder what ultra-protected children these days think about the kids being allowed to camp out by themselves all summer. Envy perhaps?

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Hi Grandma Anne! I just finished Swallows and Amazons. I loved it. Especially compared to what was going on with the Newbery winners in 1930 when Swallows and Amazons came out, it is truly such a great book. The parents definitely check in with the kids, but they are allowed so much freedom. I was allowed to play out in our yard a lot, but I can’t imagine that my parents would have let us camp by ourselves. (Although as a family we went into Canada, and that was pretty rustic and perhaps risky.) I loved Titty so much. Evan said that he remembers watching a version of Swallows & Amazons at your house and really loving it. I definitely want to read the others in the series. I hope my library has them on audio book. I’ve been listening to them while I take my river walks…it’s been like a little vacation in the Lake Country! Miss you!

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