Peer Review by Shanti (New Zealand)

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Te Awa O Whanganui (The River of Whanganui)

By: cyara101

You were here; created in the perfect image, before people came and found you- it's no wonder they admired you. Look at your peace, your stillness, your subdued manner. Look at how you mirror the vast, blue sky, or the pallets of greens and browns from the cliffs and shrubbery that shape your path, or nowadays, at night, the golden glow of streetlights while you long for sunlight.  Once we found you, your journey took flight.  

In 1840 the English settlers found you. They wanted you. What was once treasured to the eye became a battleground, a road, and a trading route. Popularity found you, but for your services rather than your beauty. You carried people, and boats, and goods, all while being contaminated and destroyed. You were fed sewage, chemicals and pollutants without a thought towards your health. All the fish disappeared, and you didn't complain once for 60 years. You were being used and slaughtered, and what more could you do but cry and cry and cry. The tears streamed down you at the speed of a glare, and your water lifted over the banks and into the streets of Whanganui, first in 1904, then in 1965. 

In 2008 we finally heard your cry and a wastewater treatment plant cleansed you. By 2011, the fish wandered through your waters again, and birds flew over you once more. We swam in you, and because we stayed healthy, we knew you would too. You once again became the navy blue, serene place you had been so many years ago, and you were so overjoyed you cried tears of pure, entire triumph. In 2015, these tears washed away the pain, but also freshly submerged the small town of Whanganui. Everyone wondered what had made the globe tilt on its hinges to make the water gush with so much strength that it just flowed and flowed until only our rooves could be seen, but I knew- not straight away, but after I had understood your emotions, I realised, and I knew.

As the years followed me, from child to young adult, I watched you and I thought I knew you- look at how wrong I was. By merely admiring your beauty from afar, I might as well have just read the title of a book and thought I known it. The first time I opened the book was a heartfelt afternoon, with a smokey sky falling on the horizon. As the warn-down black oar flew through your waters, I felt you. I felt your delicacy and your power. The water brushed over the oar, but the small stroke sent the boat and me into the pale distance. 
It didn't take too long to learn how dangerous you could also be. Your anger boiled, sending tall white peaks towards me, collapsing harshly within the boat, numbing my toes and legs. On this day, when smoke drew up out of the waters, you weren't in the mood for carrying me, and you took away my balance. I felt the boat sway dramatically under my feet, the tilt screaming this was the point of no return. And even though you did this to me, you were still there to catch me as I descended into a treacherous sandstorm of water, and send me over to the shore. 

You became more than a river to us in Whanganui- you became a familiarity, our sense of worth, and you became part of our family. In 2017, you were the first river to be granted the legal rights of a person, and now it was our job to look after you and your wellbeing, just like any other member of our community. You are more than a natural resource; you have lived a long life, from birth through to suffering, from hardship to health, from a river to our family. You have shown us your emotions all the way through the small town of 'Whanganui'- 'Big Habour'. You are more than a river, you are Te Awa O Whanganui.


Peer Review

I like how clearly structured it is. Each paragrph has a definitive idea, and they flow together very well.

I like that this is centred around a river, and that you use a lot of historical context to sho how the river has changed--but more than that, how the world around the river has changed.

I think you lean a little too heavily on metaphors at times--for example, you never say that the river floods, just that it cries. It's okay to be explicit sometimes! That said, your choice of imagery gives texture to the piece and helps us to understand where you're coming from as you write. Just be careful with your images--if you use fewer of them, they will be more powerful.

You have such a strong connection to this place, and that's so wonderful to read. Just keep exploring in specifics and it should be good :)

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