And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

–-- "Late Fragment," Raymond Carver

Waterfalls

Carmen and I hurriedly zip our jackets and hunker down in the cold while I struggle to attach my camera to the tripod and put on the right filter. Horsetail Falls in the Columbia Gorge must be perpetually in winter shade for Carmen notices how some of the mist coming off the falls turns to a kind of snow. I diligently get off a few shots before the rest of that mist blots my lens and makes it impossible to shoot.

Horsetail Falls

Even so, the waterfall captures me with its beauty and power. There is an unbreakable magic in water tumbling from a great height. The sound, by itself, reminds me of everything outside myself, as the sea also can do or the sheer size of a mountain, or the unexpected screech of a bird. In this and other ways, waterfalls have always symbolized for me certain qualities of transformation. I wrote about that years ago in a post called, “Can People Change?”

Still, I think, to come around the corner of a trail, to be surprised by a waterfall is to rediscover some forgotten thread of meaning. There is something of death in the constant flow going over the edge, but also something of release and transfiguration, and also of coalescing and reforming and going on in a new way. Without waterfalls, we could not reinvent ourselves. We’d have no model.

Later, Carmen and I drive past another waterfall, a very tall one a little ways back from the road.
“Should we stop?”
“Well, maybe.”
“Was it as beautiful as the last?”
“More.”
“Okay, just give me a few minutes.”

I walk back across a green, moss-covered bridge over the ravine. The falls stand away from the road but I can still hear them, and the sun had broken through just a little to light up some trees at the top, though most of the cliff is still shadowed. I watch a long while, and take my shots.

Latourell Falls (Vertical)

Time is passing. Carmen is in the car, waiting for me. It’s the end of another year. Lines come to me from Raymond Carver, better known for his short stories than his poems, lines from a poem about looking for work, about facing but still trying to escape uncomfortable realities.

Suddenly, I find a new path
to the waterfall

he writes, yet in the poem he is only dreaming. It’s already noon and his “new shoes” still wait by the door. A New Path to the Waterfall is the title of his last book of poems.

Time is passing, I think. The waterfall is wholly beautiful, and is already lost behind us as we drive on.

Time is passing. Already, it’s a new year.

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8 Comments

  • Hope dances for me in this story and I know we can continue to find a new path to the waterfall – captured here for an eternity in your talent and insight! Thanks Friend! happy New Year – that story topped off the perfect day here! Best, Ellen

  • Hi Ellen~
    Happy New Year right back to you. It’s great to hear your voice! I’m glad you found the message of hope in my post. Many need hope right now, and your words are very kind and inspiring. Thank you and all the best!

    ~Dan

  • An inspiring post to start off the new year!

    I, too, am often mesmerized by waterfalls. Lately, the thoughts that come to me while transfixed by a waterfall seem to be focused on flow – as you highlight here – and impermanence.

    It was delightful to have an opportunity to go back and re-read one of Dan’s Greatest Hits (your post on “Can People Change?”), and the many inspired and inspiring comments that post elicited. This passage, in particular, resonates with me at the moment:

    there are really three pieces: change, transition, and transformation, with transformation being the way a person unfolds and becomes him-or herself over time as a result of going through transitions of all kinds

    2016 was a year of change, transition and transformation for me, offering me unsought opportunities to face uncomfortable realities and become more of my self – or, perhaps, since this is a conversation with you, become more connected to Self – through letting go of external validation and [thereby] moving toward a more realistic perspective on relationships.

    Wishing you all the best in 2017 as you facilitate the facing of uncomfortable realities to promote positive transformations!

  • Hi Joe~

    Thank you so much for sharing in this post, which is indeed about impermanence and how rapidly time seems to be moving, at least for me. I like your post on realistic relationships a great deal, and we ought to share a glass of wine to discuss. I still find the idea of unfolding as a person over time to be very exciting, and that is so true of relationships, too. There is stable ground and there is evolution, and sometimes a tectonic shift, and the pieces can be surprising because in retrospect they seem to fit underlying patterns and archetypes we barely grasp — our revelations found in afterthoughts that suggest the changes were fated, if that is not too strong a word. And that, I suppose, is the arc — the beginning, middle and end — of the waterfall whose first origins and ultimate destiny remain for us in the dark.

    All the best to you, my friend, and to your family, and Happy New Year!

    ~Dan

  • byron murray wrote:

    Dan. This takes me back to my years in Puerto Rico in the 1970’s. To get outside myself and connect with the universe I would go to my favorite beach that had huge waves and dangerous undertow. I would sit and watch. The power of the ocean with each massive wave as it builds and crashes on shore would weave me in and out of my reality into another much larger and more wondrous than my own. I still go there in my mind when necessary. Happy New Year to you my friend. byron

  • Byron~

    That’s a great story, Byron. We all have our places to connect beyond ourselves and it sounds like yours was truly beautiful and powerful. Thank you for taking a moment to comment, and HNY in return!

    All the best
    ~Dan

  • frankie 2 socks wrote:

    Dan, I always enjoy reading your posts. but have been off line and off the grid for a few months…. will be back more often from mid Feb….

    Water falls are always a treat, especially when you get an opportunity to stand under the flow of water and feel the power of the water as it drops over you.

    enjoy and keep well

  • Frank~

    Thanks for stopping by…glad to here you’ll be back! It’s great to share in the joy of waterfalls.

    All the best
    ~Dan

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