I found myself midday yesterday working from the Airbnb without food. I pushed through with work for as long as I could and finally had to forage for nourishment. I wanted to go somewhere new as I had already seen the options in Bonner’s Ferry and Troy. My host suggested Libby. The place he recommended was closed as was most of the rest of the town. I did find chips and salsa and guac so I was vindicated nonetheless.
And while the chips and guac were much appreciated (it is not easy to find Mexican food in Montana) what was more amazing was the Kootenai Falls that I just happened upon. The Falls have been featured in several movies (The Revanant, The River Wild) and it is no wonder that Hollywood used them in films, they are breathtaking.
Being October in Montana, the sky threatening snow at 36 degrees, leaves the Falls and Swinging Bridge pretty much solitary and vacant. I hiked down and spent a couple of hours marveling at the vistas, the wildness of water and the magnificent landscape of rock, earth and sky.
I sat on the edge of the falls and watched the water come with a ferocity that would and could surely kill you if you fell in. I watched all the places where the water was thrown up in violent protest as it crashed against the rocky bottom. The collision between earth and flow, evidence that not all of nature is easy and free. Both elements, rock and water winning: the rocks never budging from their lodging and the water unrelenting in its downward trajectory. The two finding some way to coexist even though the rock ultimately loses to water’s erosive leveling.
It seemed the perfect place to release some water of my own. Again the wild beauty seeming to invite my inner most heart and mind. Allowing me to unleash the pent up feelings of loss and fear and longing. Mostly for my son but also for myself. Middle life is a weird time. I spend a great deal of my time feeling out of sorts, not young anymore and constantly aware of how with each passing day, how much function and vitality I lose. Also not being old yet, still capable of climbing over rocky slopes onto the edge of waterfalls where my own peril is challenged probably a little more than a woman my age should risk. It is the young person in my mind that causes such risk. She doesn’t accept that at 51, some things are better viewed from the safety of shore. The 18 year old that lives in my heart and mind, will always push it and me to the edge of pretty much anything.
I am grateful. I know the day will come when I am only able to walk the safe trail to the observation deck. I know that there will come a day when even that will not be possible. For now, I am going to push it, walk the swinging bridge, perch on the edge of swirling liquid that would kill me with one misstep because right now I still can.
So I sat and watched nature do its most amazing thing. Causing an entire river to fall one drop at a time in an endless rush of water over the rocky falls. With it I added my own falling water. I let go of all the pain, fear, mistrust, apathy, loss and grief. I just threw my inner landscape into the flowing river and watched it drown. All the feelings that keep me guarded and alone. I cast them out and into the aqua torrents as the sky joined us with falling water of its own.
I watched the heavens threaten snow, while the temperature fell, and I marveled at the beauty and dangerousness of falling water. It really mattered not whether it fell from the sky or was pushed over land. It is all water rushing by all the same. I climbed the swinging bridge and stood suspended over the charging river. Watching, always watching the endless flow, knowing that the violence of its current landscape, shake itself out eventually to a wide calm pulsing river through the town of Troy, no evidence remaining of the perilous water falling. Only a beautiful flowing river that begets feelings of peace and tranquility.
It is how my emotions feel underneath my skin. There is a violence that happens as the flowing water slaps and shudders over my raging heart. An inner waterfall that is both deadly and violent, eventually flowing to a pooled tranquility that my soul seems to need regardless of my station in this life. The falling water eventually finding calm and peace after shooting through the narrow canyon of my heart.
I learned a lot about myself yesterday as I watched the water fall. I learned that nature will always hold me firmly in its grip, challenging me to persevere. To know and come to understand myself better and more deeply. And this knowledge is really only accessible to me while standing on the ledge of a wild Montana river while holding back a torrent of my own.