You can feel a hat coming, can’t you? So can I.
Ever since I was a little girl and first visited the falls, I was captivated by what I imagined it would have been like to see the falls in the nineteenth century or earlier. I imagined approaching the falls on muddy roads: in a carriage; on horseback. I imagined with fascination the working of the minds that decided to go over the falls in a barrel or a metal tube. Many years ago there was a Victorian museum in Niagara Falls, complete with all of the types of objects that the Victorians thought it appropriate to steal, inclusive of an Egyptian mummy. (Apparently after the museum sold said mummy some years ago, the museum was closed.)
I remember being a small child, standing near the brink of the falls, terrorized and yet hypnotized, standing behind the small protective fence, the weight of the water pulling my thoughts with it.
I don’t know if it is still there, but years ago there was a reception room in the Canadian Embassy in Washington with a large painting along one wall of the top of the falls and its mist. I always thought I would like to paint such a painting, if I could succeed in painting the mystery of the mist and the heaviness of water.
I can marvel like an early settler, even though I am not one. Even in the lurid lights there is something so primally appealing in the scene; it is difficult to pull oneself away.
I imagine myself a painter…
And find myself amongst the tourist hordes!
It occurred to me that for all its lurid tourism, there is something hopeful about Niagara Falls. People come from all over the world to stand at what is, really, nature. It is geology in motion, as the gorge slowly erodes (or quickly, depending where you are). The horsehoe falls are probably nine metres back of where they were when I was a child and so mesmerized by their power.
We still wave at our American neighbours on their boats and standing on the shoreline on the other side. We manage the water with them through the International Joint Commission. Something like 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water is in the Great Lakes system and a great deal of it flows over Niagara. It is awesome to consider: 2.3 million litres per second?
As you can tell, I am engrossed in some Canadiana this week…
I want one of these.