Yesterday started with a waterfall and ended with a campfire. As we sat around the latter, watching the flames jump around, I wondered about our fascination with either. They’re showcases of a couple of nature’s simplest feats, gravity and heat, yet they can enrapture.
We’ve actually seen a number of waterfalls on this trip, but that’s not the reason I had felt compelled to skip Niagara Falls. I’d never been, yet it struck me as potentially being a churning miasma of tourist hell. I just didn’t think the wonder of the nature could overpower the crappiness of the traffic and surroundings. In the end, our route took us that way, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt.
I’m so glad I did. I woefully underestimated — on both counts. The surrounding areas of Niagara Falls are so smothered with tourist money-separation devices that it rivals Las Vegas. In fact, it’s so densely packed that it feels like a supersaturated parody of Vegas. My desire to turn aside and hurl was only abated by my need to keep my eyes on the road.
Then we saw the Falls. We stood and stared. We walked to the edge, leaned over, and stared some more. We spent an hour there, most of it staring, the rest trying, and failing, to capture the beauty on camera. Even the periodic approach of the Maid of the Mist tourist ship didn’t diminish the experience — each approach was a mini-battle of man’s attempt to corral Nature, and it was easy to interpret the roar of the Falls as Nature’s pitying laugh.
Watching Nature do its thing always leaves me with questions. At Niagara, why does the mist cause people’s hair to stand on end? Why is the approaching water so rough, but the water below so calm? How many people have survived drops from the top? We didn’t take the tour, so we never found out. But the wondering is half the fun.
It was a nice bookend to sit around the campfire and wonder some more, first about the water, then about the heat. The day had spanned from the magnificent to the ordinary, but each was wondrous in its own way.