Waterfalls. They are so hypnotic. So powerful, yet so peaceful. No wonder that just about everyone loves them. When they’re not so crowded that is.
In Israel, Banyas is a stunning site, drawing tourists and Israelis alike. Beautiful and, unfortunately always too crowded to savor.
The same is true of the awesome Niagara on the US Canada border. Its pounding power is so remarkable that one only wishes it would be less crowded and far less tawdry. We all are captivated by the waterfalls so perhaps it’s not so surprising that so many actually travel to experience its beauty.
A few years ago we went to one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls. Iguazu sits between Argentina and Brazil. The falls are nothing short of incredible, high, wide and powerful. An entire tourist industry has been developed just to accommodate all of the visitors. There you’ll meet citizens of the world, all there to see Igauzu, in the middle of the South American jungle. It doesn’t disappoint! But the hordes do detract.
The falls I love are never crowded. And there’s no admission fee. They are the reason I first fell in love with waterfalls. The peace. The beauty. The symphony of the water crashing into the enormous rocks below. My falls flow, unabated unheralded, in a hamlet in the so-called borscht belt of New York State, in a place known as Parksville.
I spent at least 40 summers in Parksville, from my earliest childhood. I loved the town and enjoyed the complete familiarity. I knew the people, all of them Jews. And I knew the hidden byways. I knew where my father would take us to pick succulent huckleberries in August. He loved the thrill of getting food in the wild without the effort of planting or nurturing. It was always there. I’m sure, come August, the huckleberries will return, but no one will pick them. The town has become a veritable ghost town.
Our place sat on seven acres, and seven hills. On the first hill was where we played and slid down our roughshod slide called lookout below. The second hill had the piano rock; not just any piano but a true grand piano. What wonders nature had wrought. The third hill was where my beloved Uncle Dave took us to roast potatoes, the ambrosia of the gods. Only once did I ever go beyond the third hill. There was no need. Everything we needed was in the first three.
In my wonderful childhood the byways of Parksville were cluttered with hotels and bungalow colonies. People, mostly hardworking Jewish New Yorkers, would cherish a vacation in our town with its cool summer days, and nippy summer nights, a true escape from the unairconditioned sweltering New York City summer heat.
So the hotels flourished from July 4 through Labor Day and then they would be shuttered for another season. Names like the Paramount, Tanzville, Ideal, Sunnyland, Youngs Gap, Kleins Hillside, Breezy Hill and so on and so on and so on. Each had its own regulars, returning every year for a week or two or whatever the family budget could afford. Our place was known as The Bauman House. It was old fashioned and always needed repairs. Its enormous porches were windows on the world. It was beloved!
But none of the hotel guests knew what I knew. That if they took the left fork in the road known as Fifth Avenue, right after the tiny Parksville school, and continued for less than a hundred feet, they would come to a hill. At the bottom of the hill was a bridge and from there they could see the falls. The bottom, with its enormous boulders shaped by the eternal flow of the water from above, was easily accessible from the bridge. The water was frigid, sparkling and pure enough to drink. And from that perch one could determine if there had been a lot of snow during the winter. Was the falls powerful? Yes to snow. Was it a bit weak? Less snow/
A walk up the hilly road would lead to a hidden path which went down to the top of the falls. That was my favorite spot. In the world. There was peace and tranquility amongst the thundering, racing water. The water had a destination and it always hurried to get there. It knew it needed to get to the bottom so it raced along, majestically, forming foam and currents that were endlessly fascinating to watch.
And so it was that some years ago I received a bad, life threatening diagnosis. And when the doctoring was over and the waiting was beginning I knew where I needed to go. The waiting never ends, like the falls, but I had to sit amongst its familiarity and see the ongoing swirl of life. I knew that the falls had been there for millennia and would be there forever. Somehow I needed to be amongst eternal life. Where better than the falls!.
I would have traveled endlessly but the actual ride was less than three hours. My husband joined me and we climbed down the overgrown path that I knew so well and reached my seat etched into the earth, and just sat in the place I had always loved. We sat and sat and sat until it was time to leave. We had found peace in watching that all of life is rushing to water’s edge. And it shall continue always. I gained new perspective and calm. And so we went home, hoping to return.