“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

I had a wedding to attend late this spring – my final unmarried brother is now happily wedded off to his lovely bride, and I am spared the ordeal of any more weddings until my nieces and nephews are old enough to tie the knot.  I don’t do family gatherings well, and I have threatened all my siblings with certain death if they even so much as THINK of divorcing and remarrying.  I love them all.  Just not all at once, and not in dress clothes.  I want to love them in jeans and T-shirts, one at a time.

While I was in Upstate, we took the opportunity to take my son to Niagara Falls for the second time.  The first time we took him, he was five months old and it was the dead of winter.  The Falls in winter is a truly under-appreciated site.  The mist from the falls transforms everything around it into a sparkling winter wonderland of ice.  It’s truly beautiful.  I think my son was among the ranks of the under-appreciating, since his view was limited by the thirty layers of clothing, culminating in a full body snowsuit, that his new-and-paranoid mother had strapped on his helpless five-month-old Southern body.

In the spring however, Niagara Falls offers up all her traditional treats – both the awe-inspiring and the kitsch.  There was, of course, the obligatory ride on the Maid of the Mists, swaddled in the thin blue trash bags that pass for rain ponchos, handed out by the thousands every summer.  But in my memory, this old stand-by pales in comparison to the Cave of the Winds.

The cave long ago ceased to be a cave when the rotting stairs were replaced with an elevator shaft, but the wooden viewing platforms remain.  Rebuilt yearly from the wooden ruins of the year before, the platforms remain almost quaintly untouched by the hand of modernity.  Gulls still nest amongst the rickety wooden braces, still able to raise their young between the onslaught of both the spray and the pounding feet of tourists, close enough to bring downy feathers within reach, and surprisingly remain unruffled and unmolested.

But the real star of the attraction is the dominating majesty of the Falls itself.  The platforms take you all the way to the very base of the Bridal Veil.  It pounds at your ears, sucks with cold fingers at your feet, and the wind generated by thousands of gallons of flowing water plasters your clothing and whips your hair, pulling you and pushing you simultaneously.  It is nature’s power manifest:

The reaction  from the visitors  is near universal.  The almost irresistable urge is not to bow down in our comparitive insignificance, at the realization of how small we are in the raw, unbridled, might of the world.

It is to scream.

It is to dance.

It is to pull back your hood and throw your head back and your arms out and howl.  It is to affirm both our right to exist as an individual breathing being and our deep recognition that we are at one with the heartbeat of the world, and we are standing on the very brink of it, with our fingers on the pulse of it.  It is to feel life thrum through every fiber of your being and to roar with sheer existence and to shake your fist at mortality.  It is empowering and exhausting and absolutely wonderful all at the same frozen moment in time.

It is simply amazing.

August 14th, 2009 at 11:29 am