Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fear of Falling...Water, That is

Kent Falls, mid-October
One summer long ago, my parents and I--accompanied by my aunt and a cousin--took a trip to Pipestone National Monument in far western Minnesota. I have many fond memories of the places we visited en route which included Walnut Grove and Sleepyeye, towns that are immediately recognizable to any little girl who was a fan of the Little House on the Prairie books and television series. We saw the place where the Ingalls family had lived in a sod home--a kind of childhood mecca for readers who had grown up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and her stories. 

After I'd lived out my Little House fantasy, it was on to Pipestone. Excited to be at our main destination we took a tour of some sort that wound through the park and would lead visitors to where the reddish stone was mined. It wasn't a long walk and it was enjoyable until I heard the sound of rushing water. I'm not sure that I'd ever realized before that point that I did NOT like waterfalls, but at the moment we began to walk across the bottom of Winnewissa Falls it became perfectly clear. While I admit to having a flair for the dramatic, in my recollection I had an absolute category 5 meltdown as we prepared to cross the stream below the falls. I was not happy and even though I vividly remember standing there and looking up at the waterfall while crying and (most likely) screaming, I don't recall how--or indeed IF--my parents cajoled me into continuing the hike. As a side note--this information page from the NPS on Pipestone shows a photo of the fearsome waterfall... 

Needless to say, for most of my youth (and beyond) I had a deep-seated fear when it came to waterfalls of any size/force. And not just waterfalls, but dams as well. In fact, I think I disliked dams even more. My aunt, who has always been a little "woo-woo," always said that in a previous life (**cough cough**) something frightening or bad must've happened to me near to or involving a waterfall of some kind.

Whatever the case, I avoided both waterfalls and dams whenever possible. I was less bothered when I could see the falls or dam (meaning they weren't under a bridge and that I could attempt to avoid them) but even then, when they were in the open, I would start to get chills and gooseflesh even hearing the sound of water rushing through a gorge. Walking on a bridge that was over a dam? No way. Never happen. And yet, I am at heart a water girl. I'm a Pisces who is always centered and calmed by the sea, a river vista, or the lapping of lake water in the summertime. I am naturally drawn to the water.

Somewhere along the line I decided I had to get beyond this fear or at least learn to manage it better. After all, there was no basis for it, it was just there. I managed to do quite my late teens I was happily aboard the Maid of the Mist sailing right into Niagara Falls and loving every minute of it. Confident that I was conquering the fear, I began to really enjoy the sound of the moving water and trying to capture it with my camera. 

And over the year I'd thought I was doing pretty well...until this weekend. For the record, I still do not really like dams. There's just something about them that makes me queasy and uncomfortable. I wish it weren't so, but there we are...the muddled dichotomy that is me: drawn to water, fearful when gravity brings it crashing down. 

So this past Monday as I drove the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts, I found myself in Shelburne Falls. A gorgeous little town with bookstores, cafes and, not surprisingly, FALLS. I parked on the main street and could already hear the roar of moving water. Cautiously I walked over to a small scenic overlook, the whole time attempting to hide the fact that my knees were becoming increasingly rubbery. As I peered around the foliage I could see a dam in the middle of my line of vision and large rapids below it. What to do...there were two bridges I could cross and that sense of childhood dread once again filled my mind. Surely there weren't more rapids above the dam? 

Well, reader, there were not more rapids. And I'm happy to report that I was able to wander Shelburne Falls and enjoy the Bridge of Flowers without a care as to the dam that roared down stream a few hundred yards. But as curious as I was about the glacial potholes (natural wonder!) that are near the dam and rapids, I wasn't able to make myself go closer. If you take a moment and enter Shelburne Falls Glacial Potholes in your favorite search engine you'll see wonderful photographs of the many who are much braver than I am. Here's as close as I dared go...
Looking toward Salmon Falls, Sherburne Falls, MA
(I will say, however, that I highly recommend the Mohawk Trail--Route 2--that goes through northwestern Massachusetts. It's a beautiful drive and I'll definitely be back to explore further. Parts of Rt 2 were severely damaged by post-Irene floods, so they'll be glad to have visitors back as soon as they can.) 

Farther down the road and later in the day, I found myself quite close to home in Connecticut and just as the sun was setting. Since there was still a little light, I stopped at a spot I enjoy greatly--and coincidentally, a waterfall--Kent Falls State Park.  

I think part of the reason I'm drawn to waterfalls is a desire to overcome my ridiculous fear, so I push myself to get as close as my nerves will allow. I'll admit, albeit a little sheepishly, that I was surprised at how much dread I felt upon seeing/hearing the dam and rapids at Shelburne Falls. Maybe some days we're better equipped to slay our dragons than others, or maybe we never really get fully beyond the things we fear as children. 


Donna Seger said...

I just discovered your blog and am very impressed---great writing and images.

The Paper Tyger said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Much appreciate your reading as well :)

Anonymous said...

I have the same fear and I can relate :) I start getting chills whenever I'm near flowing water