We’re heading north for this edition of Where In The World Wednesday — to Canada, in fact! Yes, friends, it’s time for us to wade into the fog aboard the Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls. The Canadian side, no less, which is much prettier than the American side. Just sayin’.
I visited Niagara with my family in July 2004 — like our trademark blue rain slickers? — and was totally blown away by how big and scary it was. Seeing it in photos does nothing to demonstrate just how massive this waterfall is — so huge and kicking up so much mist that it’s often partially obscured. Like so many visitors before us, we took the tiny boat out and stood beneath the falls, looking up at the rushing water pouring toward us. I put up my hood and slung an arm around my sister. It was her sixteenth birthday.
The above photo doesn’t even begin to do justice to just how tiny and fragile you feel standing by something like the Niagara — something that’s been there so long, it’s hard to process what changes it has seen. Through what it has existed. The subject of countless books and novels, the falls is a thing of fear and majesty. And while reading Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Day The Falls Stood Still? I couldn’t help but remember the moment I stood by the falls with my family, taken aback by the sheer force of it.
When my mom and dad planned our trip to Buffalo, New York and Toronto, Ontario, Niagara Falls was — to me — just a stop on our way back to the U.S. I didn’t imagine we would have much to do there, just staring at a giant waterfall. How interesting could that be? Especially in the heat? But we stayed overnight in the small town and had a wonderful time. I was delighted by the fact that in Canada, nineteen — an age I’d just turned days before — allowed me to both gamble and drink. I didn’t really indulge in either, but the very fact that I could was intoxicating. I was growing up.
That was an important summer for me — the summer after I met M., fell in love for the first time and then visited his hometown. But without him. Back then, Buffalo was just the place M. grew up . . . it hadn’t yet become my arch-nemesis, the place that would eventually lure him away. That was before I learned not even I was strong enough to battle Buffalo — and I’m glad I didn’t know. I have these memories — crystal, perfect — before I knew more about myself. And more about heartbreak. Looking at these photos now, that’s what strikes me: what I had yet to know.
And I’m glad I read The Day The Falls Stood Still with an on-pitch perception of what those falls can mean — for me and the countless other people who visit each year. And like riverman Tom Cole, one of Buchanan’s principle characters, I’ll never doubt the power of the river.