The Language of the Falls

Minnehaha

I hear the sound as soon as my foot hits the trail. Rushing water. I breathe deeply. Inhaling with intention. Exhaling tension and stress. Closing my eyes. Inhaling fresh air, peace soaks into me through the sounds of the water. Opening my eyes again, I begin my hike beside the river which is swollen from the recent rains. The water playfully calls me to come closer.

My favorite time to waterfall hike is just after, sometimes even during, the rain. These two loves of mine, rain and waterfalls, make an intoxicating combination. The sounds draw me individually, but when they are joined together I am transported to another place, far from the stresses of life. It’s like an entirely different world. My own Narnia, only I arrive by way of the enchanted forest, ushered in by the sound of moving water. The living creatures in this world have their own language. It is foreign to me, yet familiar. I do not speak this language fluently, but it speaks to my spirit. Beyond words, it is the sound of life.

It starts with each drop of rain. Pattering and hissing over baby leaves. Thunking on trunks of trees. The liquid falls quietly, creating a mist that hovers in the valley. Drops join together and create rivulets which weave through the rocks and roots at my feet. Each step into a puddle or a muddy mess adds to the composition. My footfalls seem extraneous in this land of rhythm and flow, but they are all I have to offer.

The deeper in I go, the more water joins the song of the forest until there is a roar. As always it throws itself down, over rocks and around downed trees. It rushes to the lowest place as if it is in a race with itself. It bubbles and crashes. It swirls and hurries. The surface is never still. Continually moving towards and away at the same time. The laughter of the water never ceases to call to me. Drawing me to the hidden secrets of its power, sacrifice, humility, joy, seeking the lowest place, all wrapped up in the simple flow of the river. The further I go, the louder the singing gets.

The birds join in the song. The animals know it, too. Even I am a part of this world, for as long as my hike lasts. The water nourishes the trees as they use their roots to lap it up. Their straws draw it from the soil around the river and it flows up so the new leaves can have their fill. The buds break open and unfurl into a spectrum of greens. Every color, every hue and shade of green is peeking out of the stark brown branches. The water brings them to life from above as it rains down and from below as it flows past.

When the joy is so profound that the river feels as if it will burst from its laughter, it rushes with full abandonment to throw itself into the air. It soars over the rocks and into the air. It gives itself up to the plunge. Plummeting downward, it allows gravity to pull it at full force. Falling, falling to the bottom pool with a thunderous celebration. The sight of it is magnificent. The sound of it reverberates into the ground and speaks to the whole of the valley through the vibrations. My own feet feel joined to the language through the pulsations, which rise up through my body to connect me into the chorus. More than just seeing, I am a part.  

Helton Creek

I sit. I watch. I listen. I soak. I banish thought. I welcome feeling. If I come often enough I hope I will learn the language, more than the few syllables I know now. Full immersion is the only way to become fluent. The life force that created the water flows within me. The reality of that fact escapes my consciousness most of the time. Except when I come to the falls, then I am caught up in the very vibrations that speak to my core without words. This river, these falls…deep calls to deep. I know this voice. This creator of all things. This life flow. It stirs in me whenever I go to the falls.

Returning from the other world, I try to hold onto the feelings I found there. I carry them up out of the valley. But, just like Narina, I wonder if they are real once I am back into my daily routine. I long for a chance to go back to the place where creatures and plants speak the language of rhythm and flow. Where the water imparts life and connects all things. Where the creator and the created are in sync. Together. Speaking the language of the spirit to one another. Where the roar of joyous sacrifice drowns out all other voices, until it is the only one that matters.  

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