Reflecting The Waters Of My Life

As a child I lived in a house on a hill that overlooked this dam. My sister and I often sat up in the window of the barn to get a clear view of the wall of water cascading downward and crashing against the rocks. From our perch, I inhaled the earth of the river, the moist mustiness penetrated my bones. I listened to the roar of it’s movement and the splash as it bounced back up from the rocks and lapped against the side wall of the dam. I could almost feel the mist splash across my face as the droplets bounced back into the air. Mesmerized by the river’s shift of emotions I watched from my position of safety. The water calmly flowed toward the dam. Then it violently thrust over the wall, and rippled and waved until it settled as it continued traveling away from me. For as long as I can remember I have both loved the river with every ounce of my being and have been shaken to my core in awe of it’s energy.

Once I was placed on the bridge in a car, I imagined the bridge collapsing beneath us and splattering our bodies against the sharp rocks. I don’t think I felt this way before Hurricane Camille. It was then that I became aware of the power of water. I began to fear the river, but only from the bridge. I could sit on the banks below the dam and bridge and be perfectly content with sliding off the muddy bank into knee deep water. I’d even venture waist high and savor the singing of the water trickling around the rocks.

Many a night, my sister and I roasted wienies on a bonfire while my brothers and dad fished. We ran barefoot through the damp sand crunching sand between our toes and listening to the serenade of the bullfrogs and cicadas. Our hair matted to our heads as we stretched across the sand to watch the stars dance across the sky as the moon lit up the river. There was something sacred about touching our ears to ground. This simple act allowed us to not only hear but touch through vibration the very life that surrounded us. We listened to cars spin gravel at the curve before the bridge and then listened to the tires screech across…when the cars reached the safety of road after exiting the bridge it was if our ears were pulled forward when the echo over the water deepened into the solidity of ground.

All of these tiny droplets of water combine to create a body of water that constitutes the river. The residents of this town connect to form a community. It is the community of the past, present, and even the future combined that create the history of Schuyler.

From this point you can see where the powerhouse was literally ripped from the dam.

A good forty years have passed since I last stood upon that bridge. I was a young girl, and it was a fairly new bridge at the time as Camille had washed the old steel bridge away. This past weekend I stood upon that bridge and contemplated the strength and the beauty I’ve drawn from that river. I’d watched many a dream crash upon those rocks or drift out to sea. I’d been that tangled mess of roots that cling to the muddy banks, but most importantly the water nourished and sustained those roots…we’ve all endured. Like the river, I’ve rerouted and formed new paths in life that have resulted in a most unexpected journey of blessings.

The sheer power of the water is overwhelming when you hear it roaring and lapping against the rocks. During Hurricane Camille the river leveled to the height of the dam. I remember, at age six, the terror of seeing life as we knew ripped from us. My town was torn apart…damages physically and emotionally crippled us. That very same river that had sustained us and threatened to take our lives restored us.

Like life differs from every perspective, so does the river from the angle of the dam, the bridge, or the bank. And we all know perspective is everything. It is how we approach life, what we experience, and how we remember. Life to each of us is what we take from it…we can take the fish, rocks, tree limbs, bad or good memories, beauty, energy, or sustenance from the river. The choice is ours.

If you stand in a certain position on the bridge and the sun is shining just so, you can see all the colors of the rainbow at one moment or another develop and linger over the mist that forms as the water crashes and splashes on the rocks after it passes over the dam. As I watched the colors form and disappear, my memories did the same. I realized I’ve lived a life of color and beauty, anything of less color or beauty has been painted over by something much greater.

When I was a little girl, this rock was massive and smooth. Over time, wind and water has delicately carved it into a unique piece of art, much like my life experiences have shaped me into the person I am today.

The back side of this dam looks entirely different from the front side. The water is placid and reflective where there is no gentleness about the water plunging over the concrete wall. I suppose people’s appearances can be quite distinct from their innermost thoughts and feelings.

This soapstone slab smokestack survived the big flood of 1969. The powerhouse and bridge washed downstream. These are remnants of a time gone by, just as we are remnants of a once bustling town. We are connected on some level whether we acknowledge it or not. Each of us is marking our place in this town’s history, all equally important to the flow of time.

I am not an engineer or a scientist, so I can’t rightly claim to know exactly how a turbine extracts energy from the flow of water. Simple human that I am, I am energized and renewed by the water’s flow. Both the touch and sound renews me. I respect the river’s power to give or take life. It’s danger humbles me, and it’s beauty blesses me.

Steam no longer escapes from the chimney stack. It serves as a reminder that we were here, and we thrived. Some day, the rocks might crumble thus causing the smokestack to fall, just as we eventually make our way to the other side. It doesn’t negate what this river or town brought into our lives or what we brought to it. The most important of things live on in hearts and memory.

Once upon a time, I used to run through the river…now, the river runs through me.

****Post I wrote about Hurricane Camille of 1969 

****Poem I wrote about Hurricane Camille of 1969

41 thoughts on “Reflecting The Waters Of My Life

  1. I’m surprised that the smokestack didn’t topple when the powerhouse was torn from the dam, but I guess there’s another lesson in resilience in there?
    Lovely photos, meaningful message in your post.

    • I’m so glad it survived. I always thought the 40’clock factory whistle blew from there but found out from my father that it came from the smokestack located at the plant in the town…not far away, just not the same one.

  2. What an extraordinary post, both visually and with the poetry of the words. This is stunning, Suzicate. The power of water is awesome and terrifying. You have expressed that so beautifully here.

  3. Wonderful post, Suzi.
    And the last line . . . WOW!

    Once upon a time, I used to run through the river…now, the river runs through me.

    The past shapes who we are today . . . as it is absorbed into our being. We don’t have to chase the droplets downstream . . . we carry them with us.

  4. Pingback: The Past . . . « Spirit Lights The Way

  5. I’m a water girl myself. These pictures just SING to me in their rush of motion.

    Love this post and the poignancy that you always convey so very well.

    What a difference in outlooks from a child to a grown-up.

  6. As I was reading I paused to think, and then your very next section said what I was thinking:

    “Like life differs from every perspective, so does the river from the angle of the dam, the bridge, or the bank. And we all know perspective is everything. It is how we approach life, what we experience, and how we remember.”

    OF COURSE, you said it much better than I could . . . . you said it better than I was thinking it. But I went to that same place.

    Water, like all of the elements are both comforting and terryifying, both a “good” thing and a “bad” thing. This is a great post.

    That rock/boulder is amazing. All the pictures are great, the boulder is just amazing how it changed.

  7. The sheer, awesome power of water is amazing. Water during a hurricane is power run amuck, but when water’s power is harnessed through a dam, the result is both wonderful and impressive. Much like life!

  8. Having never lived around a dam being in Miami I have always wondered about this . Of course you will think I am stupid but I know what kind of things upon which you never step at the beach. What happens to all the fish when they open the dam? To they get ground up like hamburger?

  9. Old Man River, he just keeps rolling along… I love that old song. Rivers are majestic. I enjoyed reading about your life in a town that depended on the river, and yet, could be threatened by it, at the same time. Memories are precious. Blessings to you, Suzi…

    • I’m not familiar with it, but I shall look it up! I suppose there are many things in life if we think about it that we depend on but could turn the tables on us at any time. Blessings.

  10. Water can be calming, exhilarating, and terrifying to me. I’m in total awe of the power of Niagara Falls…awe in the sense of wonder and terror. I definitely have my issues with water. I’m afraid of going under, yet I’ll “swim” at the beach. I watch the waves roll in and freak out but it doesn’t keep me from wading out to deeper water. All the talk about the recent tsunami conjures up images and makes me nervous. After I had my son, I started experiencing “what if” scenarios whenever I drove over bridges. And I definitely wince when I drive by the Coastal Evacuation signs on the parkway near my home. Living on Long Island, there’d be too much traffic to evacuate everyone quickly if we needed to. I wonder what makes one person fixate on things like this and another person not even think about it. Okay, I’ve had my portion of paranoia for the night. Thanks, Suzi. 😉

    • I understand where you are coming from. Motherhood definitely put all of the what if scenerios in my head…it has been a long time letting them go…even now I still hang onto them at times. guess it’s a work in progress.

  11. Suzi, I always enjoy how you take us on a journey, using photos as analogy to life.

    Gorgeous photos, btw! I could actually HEAR the sound of the river!

    The same paragraph jumped out at me, as did Terrepruitt….

    “Like life differs from every perspective, so does the river from the angle of the dam, the bridge, or the bank. And we all know perspective is everything. It is how we approach life, what we experience, and how we remember.”

    You’re right….it’s all in our perspective.

    “For as long as I can remember I have both loved the river with every ounce of my being and have been shaken to my core in awe of it’s energy.”

    Yes, me too. I also feel that way whenever I look at the ocean.

    Thanks for sharing, Suzi! Enjoyed!


  12. The power of water has always amazed me, too. And these photos remind my why, though I must say the photo of the rock is very interesting and beautiful.

    Whenever I think about water, lately, I find myself thinking about it in spiritual terms as well. And it’s interesting…how it nourishes…how powerful it is…how it can change things, etc.

    Thanks for the post. Suzicate. I enjoyed it, not just for the beauty of it, but for making me think.

  13. The photos of the rushing water are simply amazing. Water does frighten me because it is so much more powerful, but I admire from a distance.

    Your last line gave me a chill. So beautiful 🙂

  14. I agree the power of water and of nature’s natural forces are something that we are powerless to control. I felt the power of the water and wind during Hurricane Ike where the wind was so potent it made it look as if the trees were during yoga.

    Love the imagery and the message behind the photos.

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