There is a certain majesty in waterfalls. Rushing expanses of water falling from great heights, landing and continuing on its journey, reforming along its journey without thought. Waterfalls take many forms, from small isolated rivulets over jagged cliffs to wide blankets of rushing, gushing power toppling through valleys and into rivers.
Waterfalls inspire me. They fill my soul.
This morning, with a friend, I drove out to one of my favorite places near Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls. Snoqualmie, a Native American word denoting a ‘ferocious people’, is the name of the local city and river, and the name of the powerful falls. Powering through brown cliffs and rich green trees, the falls rushes somehow gently, almost silently, into the river, a deep percussion of the rush of its force underlying it all, felt in the ground beneath the feet and in the depths of the soul. The air smells of woods and water. The browns and greens startle the eye in every shade and hue, from deep pine to almost yellow leaves, from tan wood to deep mahogany rocks. I could stand there for days, pen and paper in hand, in one spot and just absorb it.
Men seek to harness the power of the water fall, as the do the wind and the sun and the earth in every level and in every capacity. Pipes and machines gather and divert parts of the natural fall of water, collecting it to be used for convenience. Yet the water powers on, unknowing and uncaring, following the laws of gravity and nature and pushing forward.
I stood at the waterfall this morning simply listening for a time. I listened to the conversations of lovers, of parents and children, of best friends. I heard the snaps of photographs on selfie sticks, trying to capture the right angle of faces and waterfall. I watched the footfalls of shoes on dirt and people walked up steep trails and stairs nearby. I heard wind in trees, water on rocks, echos against rocks.
After climbing an incline, I stopped to catch my breath. I felt the sheen of sweat on my skin, and air cooling me, and I felt refreshed. Similar climbs in the deserts of Utah leave me dehydrated, achy, but here it renews me somehow.
Minutes later, I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, marinated in a plum sauce and served on a roll with apple slaw, and I watched the falls and the river and the elevation and the rolling hills into the distance, all through a window of the local lodge. People inside and outside were still in a hurry, but the falls moved at a steady pace. I chewed and I watched and I breathed and I savored.
Snoqualmie. Ferocious people. I wondered if I was ferocious. That’s not a word that often exits my lips or works its way into my writing. Ferocious. I tried it out loud. I thought of wolves and eagles, teeth and talons, savagery and blood. And then I softened the word a bit. I pictured it inside me, applied it to drive and ambition, associated it with words like fury and power and ambition. Ferocious. Suddenly it felt right, there in this place, with the water thundering over the cliffs.
Snoqualmie sat within me as I drove away from the falls, determined to be more ferocious, like the waterfall.