Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beautiful Niagara, & photo essay


I remember the first time I saw a photo of Niagara Falls before the developers got to it.  It was an old silver photo from the late 1800’s, and there was the Horseshoe Falls flanked on all sides by trees, trees, and nothing but trees.  I cried to see a scene so heartbreakingly beautiful and so utterly lost in time.

When I was a child, visiting Niagara Falls was a near yearly event.  My parents immigrated from Germany, and Niagara Falls was number one on every visiting relative’s list as a ‘must see’ tourist attraction.  I don’t remember much about those visits beyond the heat, the traffic, and the fumes, and my most compelling visual memory is one of surfing through a sea of arm-pits (our visits were always done on mid-summer afternoons).

Under the circumstances, I failed to understand the allure of the attraction. Niagara Falls became synonymous with tacky, crowded, boring, hot, swimming in oceans of pavement.  I thought nothing would ever draw me back as an adult until I saw ads for deep winter discounts on accommodations  and my frugal mind began to spin.  And so a Falls View weekend was planned.

I remember my first winter visit to the Falls as an adult.  Walking along the falls, there was not a soul in sight.  There I was, alone with nothing but tonnages of green water sheeting down, and ice and snow all around.  I almost cried again, it was so beautiful.  Somehow, without the crowds and the stench of traffic, the magic was back.

So now, every ten years or so (this was our second winter trip) we take advantage of winter discounts and enjoy what’s left of the natural beauty of this wonder of the world.  In winter, it stands alone in all it’s glory, the snow becomes a regal mantle that obscures it’s gaudy carnival cloak.


Niagara River below the falls; hiking trail just north of the Hydro Electric Dam takes you right down to the river if you are willing to scrabble and climb.  Here you can sit on rocks with nothing to separate you from a cold and watery oblivion. 

10012407niagara I actually crawled onto the rocks to get this view, but didn’t dare stand up.  With water moving so fast, one false move could spell “The End”—no guard rails here.

10012402niagara Green in the valley beneath the snow.

10012405niagara Hearts for lovers for those that can see.

10012401butterfly Amorous butterflies at the conservatory (image cropped to preserve privacy, a rather old-fashioned concept in these days of youtube but I hold to it).

10012404butterfly The lovely but uncooperative owl (I think) butterfly.  They are glorious iridescent blue in flight but always fold their wings up tight at rest.


Jennifer Rose said...

I love going to the falls in the winter. it is so much easier to get a feeling of the impressive power of the falls when there isn't hundreds of people fighting to get the perfect shot. it is sad to see tho how much has changed over the years.

I remember going when I was about 13 and it was touristy and tacky then, but when we went back 10 years later it was like walking into a different place. its gotten way too commercialized :/

Michelle (artscapes) said...

My only trip to Niagara Falls as an adult was in January. It was a really cold January and the Falls were solid ice. The sound of water around them so limited. It was like time lapse. Amazing... There were few tourists about then...

We did the Butterfly thing too! :-)

kaslkaos said...

Jennifer, The Niagara River Gorge is still relatively unspoiled, so if you get the opportunity you should see it. Comfy shoes will get you down the hill (winter can get too icy, but otherwise it's not a bad trail) or there are beautiful lookouts and parklands between the falls and Niagara On The Lake.
Michelle, I've only heard of the falls freezing over, and cannot even imagine it.
The Butterflies are always fabulous.

Jenny Bennett said...

I enjoyed the photographs (especially the first one)and the personal history that went with them. I'd love to hear more about your family, why your parents settled where they did, what their impressions were.

kaslkaos said...

Answering those questions could fill numerous blogposts, and I think I will as I often have no clue what I should blog about. I'll be doing much guessing. It was a touchie subject. For some reason my parents thought I was ashamed of my heritage and it was so far from the truth it made me very angry. Hence, never asked them those questions.
The 1st photo is thanks to photoshop. We had really grey weather, somehow the auto re-touch enhance a sliver of wan sunlight into a golden afternoon.

Chrissy said...

I would love to visit, I never really thought of it as being commercialised. How silly is that?
The butterflies are amazingly beautiful.
Indeed your heritage does sound interesting, perhaps it is your parents that had the problem for whatever reason. Indeed, my mother has always said I have gypsy blood. When I went looking back, I think she is right but it may well be from her side. I would never say too much about that though ....I think it's great and adds colour but somehow I am not sure she would share my enthusiasm, lol

kaslkaos said...

Chrissy, familiarity turned Niagara into a cliche. Blogging here has taught me to see it with fresh eyes.
My mother had heaps of coarse dark incredibly curly hair, my sister looks spanish. We had comments about Gypsy blood too. I don't think my parents minded that speculation at all. They always referred to us a Heinz 57's if you dug backwards long enough, Germany sitting smack in the middle of Europe and all.
PS. Now I'm looking at your avatar with new eyes, gypsy indeed.


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