Tisza river project
an artwork by Susan Silas
     




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© 2013 by Susan Silas
           

sounds




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Mayflies appear at dusk. Earlier in the day we go down to the river and wander along the shoreline peering into the water for signs of activity. We pause at a muddy spot and watch the water lap a small outcropping of rocks. There is no set day. The Tiszavirag, or flowering of the river, as it is called in Hungary, can begin any time toward the end of June and last three to four days. Some years, when the water is exceptionally cold or when there has been a great deal of flooding, only a handful of mayflies will appear. In February of 2000, 3.5 million cubic feet of cyanide spilled into the Tisza from a mining accident in Romania. No mayflies were seen at all that year. (June, 2009)

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People gather at the river to watch in the late afternoon before sunset. It is sometimes difficult to spot the first few mayflies that appear on the water's surface. I am told that the first scouts to appear are males. But the birds know. As soon as they begin to gather above the water it is time. And the fish know too. They begin to jump above the surface. (June, 2009)

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Inclement weather will keep them away. The rain pounding on the surface of the water. How they can know this when they have not even risen yet is hard to understand but they stay below the surface, wrapped in their beautiful white garments. (June, 2010)

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I want to get out on the water shortly before the mayflies emerge, so a neighbor is enlisted by the Arboretum to take me out on a small row boat. Before we set out, the wooden boat needs to be bailed out as it takes on water sitting in the river unattended. We start out. The birds have already arrived. I watch and he rows. (June, 2011)

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Perhaps the most stunning part of being on the river in a small flat-bottomed wooden boat during the height of the Tiszavirag is the sound. There is so much activity on the water; mayflies land on your arms and in your hair and drop into the boat and they dance around you in the water in endless spirals but the sound they generate encapsulates you entirely. It seems to be the sound of all those delicate long and narrow wings beating at once. (June, 2009)

 

 









Nesting birds, 2009