"THE FALLS OF WHARTON CREEK"
by Jessica Kuzmier
There are times in which the chatter of my head seems to be too much for me to listen to, an undercurrent that I can't really swim against no matter how much I try to escape its undertow. The feelings feel like a river to me that is there just to swallow me. No matter how much I try to align the words in my head with the storms underneath, there seemed to be no map for me to follow to help me along the way.
But every time this happens, once I step out of my world and undertake a different journey with my feet than the one that keeps me pinned into a routine of ego, things in my own world make more sense. By stepping into another journey, I transform my mind into another fashion. The body moves, and the soul soon comes, at least some of the time.
Here, this January day, the weather itself provided a sense of stepping out of boundaries and of journeys. In the mind of those in central New York, January was usually the beginning of a cold, Northern Hemisphere winter. Snowdrifts would be just beginning to build up, reminding those that the cold days were still in their infancy, and there was nearly three months to go. But this wasn't any kind of typical January. This was a January wearing sunglasses and spring shirts, the kind ready to go out in short sleeves and have a picnic in the grass. Sixty degrees Fahrenheit, and it seemed as though January was taking place somewhere else far away. Taking advantage of this weather with a drive to escape plans sounded like a great idea. So I went and let my mind wander to wherever the destination took me.
Drives that don't have any real destination are best in this mind frame. Planning some kind of trip when trying to escape the whole cause and effect logical side of the brain is counterintuitive. Finding myself in the larger context of the world seemed to work better if I got out of my own way and allowed the trip to reveal itself to me. I suppose it is a way of reminding me that life has its own way of unfolding and doesn't need me so much to direct its flow.
Sometimes it requires a long trip to do this, but I haven't found that it always has to be so. Sometimes, driving along the roads extending from a concentric circle from home, this meeting with the flow of life can happen within an hour or two. Maybe it is really some kind of short-term meditation so as to meet the needs of civilization. A place will introduce itself to me and help me know myself, and in turn, the world around me.
So this is the mindset that I took with me, and the dry landscape of a snowless January afternoon sped by me in the form of farms, houses, and other landmarks caught in the limbo between winter and spring. Leaving state highways took a turn down county highways, and commercial enterprises disappeared from view. Creeks and waterways paralleled the drive much of the time. In the warmer temperatures, they ran high like it was early spring and no more snow would quell their run. It was possible to hear the water's shout whenever we slowed down the car at any point. We followed the water's sound like it was a guide. And through its lead, we found a pull over spot by a place called Wharton Creek.
This place was a common creek that intersected its way through our region, one of those minor waterways that had signs pointing it out here and there on state highways before the speed of the road made the driver forget it even existed. Not something that people paid much attention to unless one was an angler or used the creek as a waterhole in their back yard. But here, the biggest surprise as we saw the parking area was a view of a waterfall, a fairly large one. A surprise, because there was nothing on our maps, electronic or otherwise, to indicate this thing even existed.
The waterfall ran hard, like it was on its own whitewater rafting journey to the other side of the creek. Here, on a tributary road, it was nothing more than a tributary to another creek, but the waterfall acted like it knew better than to belittle itself. In its cascading over rocks and drops, it was like an unknown artist who knew that it was good at what it did no matter what any market dictated. I got out of my car with my husband to see what it was all about, and accordingly, the waterfall's volume drowned out anything I was thinking and made itself dominant.
To get near the waterfall, there were rocks and boulders that comprised a makeshift wall that were piled along the creek like a giant created a big sandbox for his child, or a quarry dumped a bunch of stone rejects along the way before going back to their work stations. To me, they were a kind of obstacle course that held a challenge for me; climb them, and I could see the waterfall up close. Be cautious, and life would be held at a distance from me. I chose to accept the challenge, climbing hand over foot on the rocks that pitched at various angles and required all of my concentration to get to the next level.
That kind of concentration that was needed to get from one place to another was a place that I enjoyed going to within myself. This kind of focus was a single-minded place, a place where the only thing that mattered was right in front of me, in the present moment. It helped me stay in a place where I was present, a part of what was around me, but it was not up to my ego to survive. It was more a place where I needed to work with my surroundings to get to the next place, but at the same time, the place where I was remained the most important place I could be.
From one vantage point to another, inching from one level to the next, I found myself at the end of the rock pile. There was the waterfall below, and there was an old bridge that had long been in retirement at the top. A kind of summit in a minor fashion, but it was the reward for the persistence that I subscribed to when I allowed the location to invite me to its domain.
The water ran and I sat with it for some time. To see it different ways, I climbed amongst different rocks and scrambled from here to there. Somewhere along the line, the water ran to someplace else, its own journey seeking a destination. For now, I had found my own destination right here. The wide angle of the waterway hidden on a street that was hidden from the larger highways was a reminder of how many contours life took regardless of what my tunnel vision seemed to insist upon.
Getting down required concentration in a different way. I curtailed the natural tendency to look at the bottom and reminded myself of the lesson of staying focused in the moment that I had just learned and got down with no incident. Today had been another reminder to stay in the moment, to remember that my strongest power remained by remaining focused there. A future-focused culture that wanted me to analyze the past so as not to repeat it required a lot of reminders of this ultimate constant. Stay in the moment, and life could speak to me. Forget this, and it was like the silence of the water when I kept the windows closed and drove too fast to my next destination, eyes too far ahead to even see where I was.
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