Discovering Niagara Falls…

Editor’s Note: This touching story comes to us from Jurgen Haver, Judith’s husband.

The memorable thing about my travel days is, from time to time, I wander into something unexpected.  I remember driving on I-20 into lazy southern New Mexico. There was a sign pointing off to the right.  It said Ranger Station.  I turned onto that road.

After a few miles I came to a raised platform made from what looked like left over railroad ties.  It was about a short step-ladder high.  I climbed to the top.  Everything was flat and stretched out forever.  As I gazed into the distance, I heard something new.

I heard the non-sound of silence.  The highway was too far away to hear the big tractor trailers rushing along.  I was standing ten feet off the desert floor and all around me there was nothing but hot sunlight emptiness. The next thing I heard was a screeching sound.  Then, cutting close to where I stood, a Hawk flew by and said, in his screechy Hawk voice, “I’m Here…I’m Here.”

As a grown man it is hard to admit this but, I broke down in tears.  Silence plus a single bird sound did me in.  It’s something that remains in my memory and will probably never leave.  It was an experience that punctured my heart.

I asked my self, as a past Philidelphia-Manhatten-Chicago resident what was it that so devastated me.  It became clear.  The difference was that there was no expectation.  No brochures.  No videos.  No travelogue expectations.

I ask myself, “What if you were up in the Buffalo, New York area? What if you’d never heard of Niagara Falls?  Suddenly, you hear an on-going thunder in the distance.  You wonder what it is.  And, you follow the sound.

Then, suddenly, you stumbled on Niagara Falls. You, on your own, have discovered the never-before-known falls.  I know for sure your breathing would be difficult; your senses would be overwhelmed.  And you wouldn’t be comparing it to that really cool CD where you saw the falls from every angle the helicopter pilot could manage.

I believe that’s one of the things to look for in life.  Drive off the beaten trail. Don’t read the guide books.  Just haphazardly come across things.  I recommend it as the only way to travel.  It will leave you with a lot more than a Kodak moment.

So, shun all “destinations” and seek your own epiphanies.  The abandoned ranch with it’s fencing collapsing.  The ghost town you didn’t know was there.  The soda springs you had not read about.  The salt Lake no one pointed you toward.  Avoid the guide books.  Don’t ask locals “What’s here to see?”  Skip the photo opps.

Reach out for the unknown.  Just stumble about.  Come upon things unexpected.  It’s what the explorers did.  It’s what will give you the grandeur you didn’t know about.  You will see the things too small to have been noticed.  You will find things no one knew were there.

You will discover what a friend of mine told me 30 years ago when I took up photography as a hobby.  He said, “If you can’t spend a lifetime taking extraordinary pictures in your own backyard, you do not have an artist’s eye.”  How much more is this true of daily sojourns into nearby and distant territories?

About Judith Costello

A certified art therapist, Judith is the author of numerous articles and books on parenting and child development, including Zen Parenting. She writes from Moriarty, New Mexico.

One thought on “Discovering Niagara Falls…

  1. Many times I’ve told friends I was going on a trip.

    They’d ask, “Where?”

    “West”, I might reply.

    “Where West?”

    “Just West.”

    They would wonder about my sanity, but just heading in a direction and seeing what happens is a joy. I’ve stopped by for fraternal organization pancake breakfasts, church chicken dinners, even a cafe in someone’s home.

    By not driving on Interstate Highways, I’d see things most people will never see, and met some of the nicest people on Earth.

    Treat yourself to a trip without an itinerary, but only if you enjoy less stress, less expense, and more enjoyment.