Waterfalling in Ithaca

“As you set out for Ithaka,
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.” 
– C.P. Cavafy

Ithaca Falls, zoomed in

After cancelling our Maine vacation, my two teenagers and I decided to go to Ithaca, New York for a few days, leaving my husband behind to tend to the yard and garden. Ithaca has had a magnetic pull on me ever since the first time I went there for a college interview back in the mid 80’s. I knew immediately that I needed to be there, and my parents were gracious enough to find a way to make it happen. After graduating from college, I stuck around for a few years, left, returned after my first child was born, and left again three years later following the homebirth of my youngest child. Leaving was never easy. It always felt like a piece of my heart was left behind, calling me back.

In the gorges of Ithaca, something awakened in me so powerfully that it felt like a birth. Therefore, it is one of the two places on earth that I consider “home.” For quite some time, I believed I had to be next to a waterfall in order to write a poem. There are some places where poetry seems to hang in the air waiting to be discovered, and Cascadilla Gorge, which meanders from downtown Ithaca up to Cornell Law School, was such a place for me. 

Uppermost waterfall, Cascadilla Gorge
Midway up Cascadilla Gorge, below Stewart Avenue bridge

Although in time I learned I could write anywhere, it took a long time before my longing to move back to Ithaca subsided. Now I have found my place on the riverside, and what was born in Ithaca has developed over the years and taken on a life of its own, its survival no longer dependent upon being in Ithaca. However, we’ve made a practice of visiting Ithaca each year to see our friends and favorite places, and I always find peace and renewed strength in these personal places of power. For many years, Ithaca Falls was the “safe place” I visualized whenever I wanted to relax or feel peaceful.

Ithaca Falls

Ithaca Falls, zoomed in

While driving around with my son one night during our stay in Ithaca this week, it occurred to me that despite thinking that we never go on vacation, we have been doing it all along. Ever since leaving, Ithaca has been our vacation place. It may not have an ocean view, but it is the place my children beg to visit. They are connecting with the waterfalls even if only while waiting, sometimes impatiently, for me to finish taking pictures. Someday when I am gone, they will be able to find me there, in much the same way as I run into the spirit of my former selves when I walk the gorge trails and sit by the waterfalls that have become like dear old friends throughout the years.

The evening after returning from our Ithaca trip, I found my daughter crying and understood the source of her sadness so well: She longs to return to Ithaca to live on her own and can’t stand to be away. And so the journey back to Ithaca begins for her.

In this spirit, I offer the poem, Ithaka, by the Greek poet, C.P. Cavafy, which I heard for the first time during a graduation ceremony at Cornell University. It is a powerful piece about the role such Ithakas play in our life journeys, and it is well worth the click:

http://www.cavafy.com/poems/content.asp?cat=1&id=74

View of Cayuga Lake from Stewart Park as the sun sets

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Queen Anne’s Lace: The Beauty of Weeds

Not one to be deterred by a label, I am quite fond of many plants that are considered weeds and in many cases prefer the term “wildflower.” For a while in the spring, I became preoccupied with photographing the dandelion in its various stages and showed some of my photos to my kindergarten students on our Smartboard. A few children remarked with disdain, “That’s a weed!” and went on to say how dandelions were not appreciated by their parents and/or grandparents. However, I tried to connect them with the wonder and awe of the dandelion’s finer qualities. One of my favorite children’s picture books is The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Anthony, and I can’t resist the sight of a child blowing dandelion seeds into the wind or approaching me proudly with a fistful of freshly picked dandelion flowers. But that’s another blog entry in itself.

Now our yard is covered with Queen Anne’s Lace. Despite its close resemblance to some rather noxious plants (i.e. poisonous hemlock), I am dazzled by the sight of the white, lacy flower clusters soaking up the sun’s rays and thought I’d keep the commentary to a minimum and simply share some of my favorite images I have captured so far this summer. Until researching the plant recently, I wasn’t aware that it is also called “wild carrot” or that it has a long, carrot-like taproot and (when crushed) smells just like a carrot. Each tiny flower produces two seeds. The umbel closes into a bird’s nest shape as it goes to seed, and when the seeds are brown, they are mature.

It’s interesting to learn about the Queen Anne’s Lace life cycle, but for me the pleasure is in looking closely at its shape and the way it interacts with sunlight.

 
A nest of flowers

 

 
 

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

No Place Like Home

Last summer, my husband, teenage son, and I went on our first ever vacation. Eager to hear the sound of the ocean waves crashing to the shore all day and night, I reserved a campsite at a National Seashore where I’d stayed one night 20 years prior. To make a long story short, camping didn’t go according to plan due to the intense bug situation. We ended up fleeing our campsite at 2 a.m. our first night there in search of a hotel, where we spent the remaining two nights of our trip. However, the sight and sound of the ocean waves during the daytime and the feeling of my toes in the warm sand were delightful. 

We decided that a yearly beach vacation would be a good idea, and in early spring I started making less rustic arrangements for a vacation to Southern Maine. I secured a cottage with a $500 deposit.

So many friends raved about their Maine vacations, and we were looking forward to ours. However, about a month before we were scheduled to leave, we began to have cold feet. My husband had planted a number of gardens this year, and tending them had become more of an undertaking (labor of love) than we’d anticipated. We both had become attached to the flowers and vegetables that were coming up – some of which we started from seed. We didn’t want to leave them.

We started having conversations about canceling our vacation plans. The bottom line was that we didn’t feel the need – or any desire for that matter – to get away from our little home on the river. The timing didn’t feel right. But we’d already put down a deposit, so we tried to convince ourselves that a beach vacation would do us good.

A week before our vacation was to begin, we noticed the ominous presence of a woodchuck lurking in our yard. We also regretted that so many cherry tomatoes were ripening and that we would miss out on hundreds of them while we were away.  

We arranged for some family and friends to tend to our garden by harvesting anything that became ready in our absence. Then we spotted one full-size tomato that was beginning to blush, and that stopped us right in our tracks. Each time we went in or out the door, there was that one tomato staring at us, weighing on our mind.


And of course, there was still the grave matter of the woodchuck who surely would take advantage of the opportunity presented by a yard left uninhabited for a week. We understood the likelihood that we would find our gardens destroyed upon our return.

All of a sudden, it didn’t make sense to go away and leave behind the gardens to which we had given so much care and attention. We could not be at peace with the prospect of losing all the eggplant, peppers, broccoli, and about 1,000 tomatoes. The $500 deposit was paid months ago and seemed trivial in comparison to what we would lose if we went away for a week.


Furthermore, we recognized this whole situation as a wonderful metaphor for other areas of our life. Interpretation: Do not abandon what you have worked so hard on when things are beginning to ripen! Be vigilant about protecting it from threats – whether they be external threats or internal ones, such as the thoughts we think and the words we say to ourselves and others.

We ended up canceling our trip and forfeiting the deposit. And wouldn’t you know: On the first afternoon of what would have been our vacation, that lone tomato was fully red and ready to pick. I photographed my husband holding this freshly harvested leader of the pack in his hand, and the expression on his face was priceless. 


We felt so grateful to be there to harvest that first tomato ourselves. Being away would have been like missing a son or daughter taking his or her first step.

If it took $500 to realize there is no place like home and that we already are steeped in happiness here and now, then so be it. The abundance of gratitude in our hearts is worth so much more.

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.