My first visit was in the midst of a downpour; I slipped, got wet and ultimately departed feeling a little embarrassed. This in turn felt ridiculous for me since no one was there to witness my Charlie Chaplin impersonation while rock hopping rain swollen cascades at the waterfall’s feet. I was certain my brief outburst of colorful language went unheard, but no amount of rationalization would console me as I slogged the trail back to the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education where I had parked. I realized that the waterfall on Cedar Rock Creek wasn’t finished with me; I had left with my purpose for coming, as of yet, incomplete. Three days later, under similar cloudy skies (but no rain), I was back there again, having relented to the feeling that I needed to return.
This waterfall feels different to me than most all of the others I’ve visited so far. If you’ve ever been in the presence of someone who embodies what is meant by being a nurse, then perhaps you get a sense of what most waterfalls have felt like for me. It’s the picture of sitting in my grandmother’s lap after a humiliating confrontation with the school yard bully. It’s not what she says to me; it’s the way she leaves me feeling. Now I envision climbing down off that comforting lap and meeting my father as I head out the front door to go find some friendly faces for a bit of innocent fun. He knows what I’ve been through, and he knows what it will take to see that I don’t have to ever feel that way again. He gives me that look that’s hard to read ‘cause I don’t want to face in the direction in which his gaze is pointing me. Grandma made the pain of failure go away, but he wants me to risk having to feel that way again, maybe worse! I see him sitting me down and explaining how this is the best for me, that nothing was ever gained by running away, that until I deal with this properly, I’m always going to fear that I’m something less than who I truly am. I tell him that I feel fine, but as he continues I begin to see how I’ve been avoiding the truth of how I feel about me; the more he talks the more I find that I’m having trouble denying it. I try to make a deal to put him off, but he won’t go there with me. I get desperate, even angry. “What you want me to do will make me feel worse!” I see his eyes soften; he’s finished. I feel foolish in my anger – embarrassed that I attacked him in that way. He leaves me with a smile that tells me he still loves me, that he’s going to love me no matter what I decide to do…..but there’s something more in his smile. It occurs to me half way to ground zero that his smile has showed me his same strength in me. I see me differently. I see me more as I truly am, not as I’ve feared I might be. I arrive. I watch the bully clenching and unclenching his fist in anticipation of kissing the flesh and bone of my face. I feel doubt tempting me like a habit trying to reestablish itself. I don’t choose to go there in my mind. There’s greater meaning in my father’s smile. I see it and I go there instead. I hear him telling me that who I am cannot be added to or subtracted from except in my own mind. Come back to the truth, I hear him say. Come home and remain here….your choice, son. I feel a sense of calm that will persist regardless of how this goes. I’ve chosen. I know now who I am. The strength of calm assurance rushes out before me as if my father’s army is there beside me. My opponent’s menacing glare drops from meeting my gaze to my hands, clenching and unclenching at my side. I step toward him; I feel him begin to come out to meet me, then he hesitates, he gives; I see him turn away; he cannot win with me – he cannot make me believe I’m something I’m not; there is no point in trying; he knows this and so he walks away. I’ve given him something to consider. I am my father’s son. He may find that he is as well.
Even now as I look into this waterfall on Cedar Rock Creek, I ‘see’ my father looking back at me, and I feel the wisdom in his smile. The feeling arises out of what I know.
©Miles A Moody LivingEarth-Hearthealing.com. Written and photographic works are the sole property of copyright holder; reproduction in part or in full only with expressed permission or purchase.
Nikon D90, f22 @ 10 sec, 35 mm, Gitzo tripod, Bogen pistol grip head, Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest