The line where the water, the river, disappears is like the very edge of the world. Now, at this moment in time, I absolutely understand the fear felt by sailors from earlier ages, I know there is an “edge” to the world. It is possible to drop off into oblivion, and spend all eternity falling, falling.
I have to approach this edge. I have to control this fear – it’s not my fear, not mine. I don’t want to accept that I am afraid here. It’s too beautiful for me to be afraid. But I am. All I am capable of feeling at this moment is fear; all I am aware of is the presence of danger.
Deep breath. Still thoughts. Calm heart… Wishful thinking.
I envy the birds right now. They can dive into the vortex and dwell there for a moment or an eternity without losing themselves. I would love to fling myself from this cliff, fly into the mist off of the falls and hover, unimpressed by the danger.
There is a walkway that travels alongside the bank of the river. I have made it to the water’s edge. Here there is a casual handrail, a nominal barrier protecting me from a careless move or a rash decision. I am only a stone’s throw from the water sliding by. Standing maybe sixty or seventy feet from the edge of the falls I am mesmerized by the flow of water in front of me. A stick thrown in here would go over the edge in probably less than two minutes. A rock would, perhaps, pass over half a million years from now. I don’t know; I’m not certain of the geology. However I am quite certain that standing right here, right now, I would rather be the rock.
The wind is kicking up spray from the falls. Standing here, those sixty or seventy feet from the edge I can feel the occasional sprinkle like a promise of rain to come.
It’s time to move. Not looking at the water at my side, I travel towards the edge of the falls, determined to remain unaffected by the precipice.
It’s too hard, and I cannot do it. I pause after crossing half the distance towards the edge to catch my breath, slow my heart and calm my shaking hands enough to write in my journal.
Breathing deeply and slowly I notice that the smell is amazing – like every spring rainstorm ever experienced, like the early morning fishing trips of my childhood, like the old lake at the moment of impact after releasing the rope at the height of the swing out over the water.
In a search for calm I turn my back to the edge and look up river. I study the rolling white water stretching as far as I can see – a kayaker’s paradise, a kayaker’s hell. Looking up river I catch a glimpse of something I cannot define – the desperate turmoil of water crashing and rolling the water becomes a collective consciousness in my mind. The white, rough, wild water seems to fight against itself, denying the possibility of change, striving to stay in one place and not move forward. Yet, it slowly becomes less frenzied, eventually passing, smooth and tranquil, by my feet with waves and ripples only a few inches tall – the natural jostling of many individuals progressing along the same path. Accepting, no longer fighting the inevitable. Transcendent, perhaps, recognizing the value of the journey and open to the journey’s potential.
Am I ready to go to the edge? Do I still wish I was a rock that could watch the moment of “otherwhereness” from afar, watching others glide by, viscerally feeling their joy, their fear, their transcendence – willing or not – from one state of being to another, from one sense of where and when to another?
Can I even understand the edge? Can I go to it, feel it, absorb it, and pass beyond it? Or will I forever be trapped by my fear?
Again I half the distance to the edge of the world – the water here moves much, much faster. The waves have grown large again, creating a number of pools of white water turbulence. You can see these disturbances here and there across the edge, not all the water is content to pass over. It seeks to spend just a moment more in the known world. The water crashes back on itself in one last attempt to escape its fate, spending energy it should save for the moment of transformation. I feel something akin to compassion – compassion and a fearful understanding. How many times have I stood at the edge an impending event – events of my own making and events thrust upon me by others and their needs – stood there, like a stone, resisting, denying, seeking an escape? Stood there crying out “Not now! Not me!” How many times have I turned away from the possibility of change and accepted the limits of my existence, content to be fettered and chained by uncertainty?
“Never again!” I promise myself in that moment that I will not take the easy path simply to avoid awareness of pain and travail.
Waiting for the will to go closer, I watch the turbulence before me. I begin to understand that in some places the waves are not turned up river, not seeking to rejoin the hectic turmoil they came from. This water is full of energy and turbulence, expending extra effort, not vainly struggling to get back up river, but instead leaping joyously over the edge.
Keeping my eye on the joyous water, I cross the space between my last stopping place and the edge.
The edge is transformation… change… transcendence.
All the water has become a white curtain of energy – churning, tumbling, discovering power and strength, significance and focus as each moment passes. As I watch it fall I realize that although it appears to my eye as white, it actually has become all the colors water can possibly be.
Most of the water seems content to stay in this great flow, this shared existence, in communion with itself. The energy once spent in the random chaos of journeying across the surface is now combined in an exploration of the depths, a plunge over the edge and into a realm of all possibilities, returning to the river at another plane of awareness, eventually calm and serene.
Most of the water, but not all.
A small part of the water leaves the collective and, altering its state of being, mingles instead with the air, traveling on the winds, becoming the mist which soaks my paper, soaks my clothes, soaks me, and perhaps soaks into me, riding my breath, becoming part of me.
A small part of the mist changes state of being yet again and experiencing another transcendence, becomes manifest as pure light, a rainbow spectrum stretching across the expanse of river in band after band of color – barely perceptible to my eye, to my awareness.
I am somehow both temporary and timeless standing in this moment of unending change.