The weather turned towards the end of last week. A few snowflakes fell amidst the rain, but it stayed above freezing, which really wasn’t much of a blessing. There’s a misery particular to the damp coldness that leaks through the seams of your coat and over the top of your boots and doesn’t even leave a picturesque snowscape to show for the discomfort. The mud tugs at your heels, and there isn’t a pair of gloves in existence that are both capable of keeping your hands warm and cheap enough that you don’t mind getting manure on them. I’d been out feeding the pigs and kicking back the clods of dirt they’d flipped over their fences, and the idea of going back to the house for a cup of coffee was powerfully attractive. Instead, I decided to visit the waterfall, which I hadn’t done for at least a month. I could hear it easily from the road, so I knew it would be flowing well for the first time since spring.
The resilience and adaptability of people is amazing. A farm can feel like a different world entirely than a city lying just a couple hours away, and when I think about communities across the world, in every imaginable climate in geography, with an endless variety of cultural practices, I am overawed. The flip side of this incredible adaptability is a tremendous capacity for complacency with even the luckiest of circumstances; I wouldn’t say I’m exactly bored of having a waterfall so close, but I don’t visit it nearly so often as I think I should. This situation is a little frustrating at times. The complacency that leads me to forget the waterfall is precisely what it can alleviate.
I scrambled down the bank, leaves and shale slipping beneath my feet, and when I rounded the outcropping that shelters the fall I stopped for several minutes just to watch. A flowing is always arresting, I think because it can appear at once static and kinetic. The size and basic contour of the water remain the same, but they are made of ceaseless motion, an effect which is heightened in the case of a waterfall. I’m not sure precisely why this so thoroughly quiets random thoughts about what to cook for dinner and concerns about how to market the farm.
Articulating the value in this sort of experience is difficult to do, particularly in something like a blog post. It raises all sorts of question about human experience, meaning, and happiness, and then further questions about the extent to which it’s fair to generalize my beliefs about these things to anyone else, let alone write a prescription for the ills of the world at large. So I’m going to set that aside for the lengthy metaphysical treatise I genuinely hope I am never hubristic enough to write.
This is what I’ll say instead. Watching the waterfall cleared my mind of the distractions of my life long enough for me to appreciate the beauty of standing and breathing by a stream in the woods. I felt lucky to live with family on this land, and I felt lucky to be a farmer. As I climbed higher - the dry summer meant that the rocks of the fall, usually slick with algae, provided sure footing - I began to feel spray splash my face and soak through the few parts of my pants that weren’t already wet. As I stood near the top, already cold and and getting colder as the water roared past, I was thrilled to realize there was nowhere else I’d rather be.