Figuring It Out At Niagara Falls
We stopped by Niagara Falls the other day on our way to visit relatives in Rochester, N.Y. We’d seen them before, the Falls, that is, because they’re not far off the route across Canada from Michigan we’ve taken for over 30 years. Yeah, we’ve seen the in-laws plenty but they don’t have a gift shop.
In the past, we’d stop on the Canadian side because the long-held opinion is the view from there is better.
But this time I wanted to see for myself, so we pulled into Niagara Falls State Park on the U.S. side and walked and drove around for some close-up views.
No, we didn’t do the tourist stuff by taking a cruise on the Maid of the Mist or take an elevator to the top of the observation tower. Just walked around along the fence then where you’re close enough to get kissed by the falls’ mist . See the photos and video.
Here’s the bottom line. No matter what side you’re on, it’s a lot of water plunging over the rocks with a crash, stirring up clouds of mist and your face gets wet.
But since I’m getting to that point if life where wonders seem more matter of fact and my biggest wonder is wondering about the symbolism of millions of gallons of water spilling over a cliff.
So my gaze turned upriver from the falls as we worked our way around, then off, Goat Island toward the bridge to Grand Island. Within a few miles you see the dramatic change. The Niagara River appears placid and innocent, apparantly without a clue it’s headed for a fall.
Suddenly the current quickens and accelerates into what’s known as the American Rapids. The water turns turbulent and confusing. White caps and waves, danger and demise just ahead.
Indeed, the river then splits over three towering precipices forming the triumverate of famous Falls—The Bridal Veil, Horseshoe and American. The once lazy Niagara River unwittingly violently dumped overboard about 170 feet into the Niagara Gorge then just as abruptly shakes its head, clears its mind and wanders willingly into Lake Ontario wondering what the hell just happened.
So now in my seventh decade with so many years of alternating personal turbulence, acceleration, stagnation, surprise, disappointment, agony, elation, success and failure behind me, I can’t help but both look back to the upriver portion of my life and then ahead to where I will meet my precipice.
How much longer will the relative peace and yes, occasional boredom, of retirement continue flowing like the lazy Niagara River that oozes from Lake Erie then heads north and west and north again where it empties into Lake Ontario.
At what point will I be rudely rousted into the American Rapids of my life—that final, irrevocable sprint to a point you only see once it’s too late and your personal river has run its course.
But just like the wondrous Niagara Falls—not before providing for yourself and others you pass along the way some thrills, love, memories, kindness…and a refreshing mist to remind them you were there.
You always provide a new and interesting perspective, Ed. Thanks for this thoughtful analogy.
Thanks so much, Laura…I really appreciate that!
These thoughtful reflections work very well, Ed. Creative framing and metaphor for life’s flow, its chop and its smoother stretches.
I particularly admire the cleverness of imaging the river “just as abruptly shakes its head, clears its mind and wanders willingly into Lake Ontario wondering what the hell just happened.”
Relatable navel-gazing for this retiree. Cool essay.
Thank you so much, Alan! I appreciate your kind words so much.