Thursday, April 30, 2009

Places: Niagara Falls

(Theme Thursday this week: Water)

I am thinking about Niagara Falls today... have you ever been there?

When I was little, we stopped there several times... it was right on the way to my Grammie's house.

The Falls are so huge. But you knew that. You've seen pictures probably, right? Big, horseshoe-shaped cliff with water crashing, falling so far and so hard that it sends mist all the way to the top, where it feels like a constant light rain on the street above. When the sun is just right, there's even a rainbow. Very cool.

Actually the Niagara Falls include three individual falls: The American falls, the Bridal Veil falls (tiny one in the center above, near the American falls), and the Canadian or Horseshoe falls.

If you are going to the falls, I have a suggestion or two. The best view of the falls, and also the most "touristy" places to visit, if that's what you like, are on the Canadian side. In fact, the hill near the falls is so covered with neon that its kind of a joke. It glows! In the summer, there are thousands of flowers; the grounds are beautifully kept. The floral clock was a highlight for me when I was a child, and I still think it's pretty cool to see a huge working clock planted in the grass with flowers - different colors each year. At Christmas time, holiday lights are scattered all across the lawns.

(The US side has some nice things to see too, like the river before it gets to the falls, and an aquarium, but the most and best views are in Canada.)

Secondly, be aware that they know you're coming, and they want your money! The prices are ridiculously inflated! So... when you get there, travel a few blocks up the hill, AWAY from the falls, for meals and lodging, and you will be surprised how fast those prices go down! There was a great little restaurant there that served beefalo meat and also had great breakfasts. I stopped there several times when I went through on my way to take a son to school. Loved it. Just far enough away from the mist to be affordable. Excellent food, casual atmosphere. You'll find a good place, too, if you look around. Just remember to go up the hill a few blocks.

In January when it gets very cold, the mist freezes, covering all the trees in a thick layer. It is one of the most amazing things to see! So beautiful! I stood on the Canadian side and looked across to where all those white trees stood, ethereal and stunning. Go here to see what I mean. All these photos are copyrighted, but they are worth seeing!!

Winter storms swoop down once in a while and leave deep snow. One of our favorite memories of Niagara is waking up to a huge snow storm, and - since we had to get our son back to school in time for classes - setting out anyway, in spite of the weather. There had to be a good 6 - 8 inches of snow on the steep roads in town! It was quite an adventure trying to go uphill in the deep snow, and hoping we wouldn't have to stop for another driver who'd gotten stuck in front of us. We just went around them if we had to... if we could. It took a long time, spinning and slipping all the way... but eventually we got headed the right direction and made it across the bridge to the US. That's when we discovered that parts of the interstate were closed due to the storm.

Huge white flakes fell hard and fast as we thought about what to do next. If I had known about this, I would have probably wanted to stay in the hotel room until the storm subsided. But I had my two nearly grown sons with me who were convinced we could just take the back roads... the tiny little red lines on the map. They talked me into trying it, though I was really not sure that tiny red lines were a good idea. But they were right!! It was weird to be in the middle of such a big, snow-dumping storm and discover that by heading north we drove right out of it in only ten miles or so!! The lake effect storms there tend to be very localized, and I had not realized that. It turned into a good trip after all.

I wonder what the Falls will look like in a few years. The volume of water rushing over the edge is so great (150,000 US gallons per second!) that the edge is being eroded fast. If you look at pictures of the Horseshoe falls from years ago and compare them to today's falls, you can see that the shape of the horseshoe has changed significantly. There are engineers working on this situation.

By the way, those gallons also rush through a generator that supplies electricity to a lot of homes in the area. At night (this is almost too strange to believe, but it's true) they divert much of the river's flow through this electric plant, and some have said they thought someone turned off the falls at night. Obviously, no one can turn off Niagara falls! In fact, at night, colored lights shine on the water:

Looks pretty, doesn't it? And yet, for a few hours each night, according to Wikipedia, "between 50% and 75% of the Niagara River's flow is diverted via four huge tunnels" into the hydroelectric plant. It's impressive.

Here's another good link if you want to see some more pictures.

Niagara falls is an amazing work of nature.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blossom Time!!

Finally! Forsythia!!

After a few warm days in a row, the forsythia began to blaze last week! The first bush to flower around here, every year its bright yellow color convinces me that spring is really here after all, and winter is past.

Also, we have daffodils,

Little grape hyacinths are blooming...

...and the Tulip trees and fruit trees are blossoming!

Whites and pinks are showing up all around town. And in the orchards, standing all in rows, they remind me of pretty young girls dressed up for prom, looking so charming and ready for something special to begin.

The lilacs are just beginning to think about flowers; they have a way to go yet.

The non-flowering trees are budding and beginning to leaf out, too!!

The willows are the first to show their yellow-green color, and you can see them from a long way away, like banners across the valleys telling the world that they are serious about bringing in spring .

I am glad to see it. We all are.

There is something, I suppose, about waiting, that is valuable. Jen brought that to my attention recently. I'm sure the hard work of waiting when you can do nothing to hurry time brings us some kind of reward, a developing of patience and virtue, maybe. But this does nothing to make me like the waiting any more, and while these last few weeks of winter's waning have held promise and beauty, it is warmth that we want and need, and it can be harder than you might imagine to wait for it. Seeing the blossoms on the trees helps. Having a few warm days here and there helps, too, even though it's too early in the season to plan on having them regularly. we'll take what we can get... it is so good to see spring!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Soloist

Husband and I saw The Soloist today.

This is a an important movie...

It's about



being homeless,

mental illness,




and caring...

Caring enough to make a difference,

even when it doesn't seem to make a difference.

The acting is excellent, the music is the kind that you can sink into and be transported, the story line can open your eyes and heart to things you want to know about but don't realize it yet.

This movie is worth seeing.

check it out here:

or search it on YouTube.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


After the last couple posts, here are more "joys and thank yous" (things that give reason to be thankful):

111. Drumming on the sidewalk, outdoors where the sun and breeze add to the experience.
112. Good coffee, hot, right when you wish for it
113. Friends who help with parking and stuff.
114. A delicious sandwich that someone got for me so I wouldn't have to go hungry.
115. That kind of friends.
116. Good drummers who let me be part of it too.
117. Drumming.
118. Dancing outdoors
119. Watching people having fun with the music that I help to make, seeing them smile
120. Shakers shaped like fruit!
121. All different kinds/walks/styles of people brought together through the drumming

122. Walking outdoors on a warm-enough day in the early spring
123. The sparkle on the stream as it dances over and around the rocks, singing on its way (I'd sparkle too!)
124. Time with my kids, making good memories
125. The first blossoms of spring
126. Funny shaped trees
127. Our Town, and the people of it who come up with such good, fun ideas!
128. Chalking the sidewalks with lots of fun colors
129. Babies in carriers, taking in life with their parent
130. The smell of fresh coffee
131. Little, friendly dogs who aren't too scary
132. Coffee art!

Isn't this cool? It makes the drink even better!

Yeah, there is so much to be thankful for!!

Sunny Weekend, Part 2

We have a really cool town. Remember in January I wrote about ice skating? That was so much fun! Lots of good memories were made that day. I even posted a video.

Well, this town just keeps on thinking of good ideas that way, and this past weekend was another good time. Friday's drumming (see previous post) was part of a celebration of local artists, and Saturday, there was a "chalk on the sidewalk" event. No kidding! How cool is this?? Yes, they actually gave out chalk to anyone who wanted to participate (or you could bring your own) and they let everyone color the sidewalks downtown. It was great!

So, Daughter and I went down and checked out all the artwork that was already there.

There were giraffes, fish, butterflies, a giant gorilla,
and lots of dragons.

There were swirl designs and earth designs,
and slogans about the earth and love
other good things.

We saw people working on their creations - grown ups and children alike.
Everyone was having fun.

This is actually the same circle where the ice skating took place this past winter! It looks a lot different now, covered in chalk designs instead of snow and ice!
There was also music, and some people were dancing, jumping up and down to the beat.
And if you wanted, you could but a t-shirt to help with the cost of the chalk, etc. But I couldn't, and they were fine with that. I think they truly just want to let people have fun.

We saw this guy drawing a little blue waterfall that ran down
over the edge of the curb,
and splashed on the sidewalk.

We ran into some good friends and talked a while on the sidewalk, and then we got some chalk and colored. What fun!

I liked the colored bricks we'd seen here and there so we colored some too.
I added a few little designs: a leaf, a heart, a sunshine, etc. Sweet girl had found
a really bright orange-gold color that looked good wherever she put it.

Sweetness got into her drawing, and the artist in her took over.
Other cares of the day were forgotten.

And this is my little pink whale. I think he's kind of cute. Silly, but cute.

We really had fun. I also got the girl an ice cream cone, which in my mind had to make it a perfect day. It was great. I appreciate the somebody who comes up with these good ideas in Our Town.

Thanks, unknown people of fun!

Sunny Weekend, Part 1

Today is cool, grey, and wet. Yesterday was, too.

But last week! Oh! Last week, we had four warm, golden, sunny days in a row!! We loved it! We needed it! Everyone felt good, and we all got outdoors and savored the good weather. Our Town had some cool community events happening that weekend, and the timing was perfect to go and enjoy the activities outdoors.

Friday night I drummed downtown with a group, and people gathered on the sidewalks to listen and dance. I love when that happens, when we see people's joy because of our drums. I drummed for three hours, and my hands were slightly swollen and bruised when we were done. I loved it! Drumming is healing. It enriches me. I am thankful to God for giving me the joy of drumming with friends. And I am deeply thankful to those friends for teaching me to drum, and for letting me drum with them at events like this. Drumming deepens who I am; it gives me something I can't put into words. I only know I am somehow a better, stronger, happier person when I have drumming in my life. It is a gift from God to me, and I love it!

I didn't get pics of the drumming, because of course, I was busy. But Amy did, and you can go see them at her site here.


That was Friday, and Saturday dawned just as sunny and beautiful. In the morning, Daughter and I went to the park with the walking trails and we walked. I hadn't wanted to. I was ready to just sit. But I am so glad we went! We have been at the point in the season where the leaves are not budding and only the grass is green.

Most thing are still bare and brown.
(I find it hard to see the beauty in this.)

Those four days of warmth made a huge difference, though, and now things are starting to wake up.

I love that veil of green that comes when the bushes begin to leaf out, before any of the trees are showing green. It almost looks from a distance like a greenish mist in the woods.

I am so thankful for the five (more or less) senses that we are given. Seriously, they are they means through which I enjoy life, see the beauty, feel the breezes, experience all the other gifts that surround me. Our senses are a magnificent gift from the One who designed us! Thank you, God!! And those senses were soaking up a lot of beauty at the park!

We saw an intriguing log...

We wondered how the tree could have grown to have such a twist in it the length of the whole trunk.

I found a plant that I don't know yet, just budding along the water's edge. Anyone know what this is? (edit: I just learned that this is a marsh marigold. It's kind of nice to have a son who's a biologist.)

We saw skunk cabbage,

little yellow flowers,

strangely shaped trees,

and the sparkling sun reflecting on the water.

I heard invisible birds (I couldn't see them) singing an endless variety of songs in the tops of stark, leafless trees...

...Water laughing it way over rocks in the stream, and the sharp screech of a grass whistle from my sweet daughter.

I smelled the woods, the stream, and the fields. Each has its own scent, something I don't usually notice.

We felt the warm sun, the gentle breeze, the rough bark, the scratchy branches, and the scrootchy mud. If you've stepped in wet mud that sucked at your feet, you know what scrootchy means.

We found a tiny pink blossom, the delicacy of which made me want to just stop and study it. So beautiful!

(edit: Same biologist son tells me this is called a "spring beauty"... appropriately named.)

We walked through wet mud, green grass, and dry sand, over tree roots and boardwalks, past raspberry bushes, strawberry plants, blueberry bushes, apple trees, dead leaves, and horse poop.

Daughter wanted to catch a little garter snake, and I let her go chasing because I was confident she would not catch it.

She surprised me!!

And there followed a difficult conversation about why we could not take it home. Ouch.

But all in all, what a great morning! She was pretty disappointed about not bringing home the snake, and after lunch I decided to take her downtown for another fun event that was happening.

I'll post about that separately. Keep reading.


(PS - Thanks to my son who knows about plants and their names. He's a great resource! He's also a great person. I like him quite a bit! (-;)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Soggy, beautiful beach

One misty moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather,
I chanced to meet an old man clothed all in leather.
He began to compliment and I began to grin,
With a "How do you do", and a "How do you do", and "How do you do", again.

-Mother Goose

It was a misty moisty morning here on Tuesday, but we were on a mission, two of my children and I. We had to go to the beach to buy a season pass to give as a gift.

I love the beach! No matter the weather, there is something about
being near the water that refreshes and revives.

And a season pass to the beach is a good gift.

So we drove about an hour to the state park, bought the needed pass, and then spent a short 15 minutes relishing the beach in its cold, soggy state. It was beautiful anyway:

Being off-season, the picnic tables were all stacked up, waiting for warmer weather. Bulldozers were busy scooping up great buckets full of sand that had blown across the parking lot and piled up in the driveways. They carried it back onto the beach and dumped it where it belonged. Maintaining a beach takes a lot more work than we realize.

Brother and Sister walked down to the water and back.

The familiar lighthouse stood guard in the gray.

And on the road heading back,
a row of gingerbread up on the bluff looked out over the water...

this is what they see.

And there was this cool old building, painted on the side.

Truthfully, this time of year can be dull and colorless. It's been cold. It's far better than February, but still cool, and the earth seems to be waiting, waiting... for warmth and life to burst forth. The trees are bare, and the ground near our house is still littered with last fall's leaves, crisp and brown and dead. We glean hope from an occasional spot of green grass or bud, but most of the beauty is still only a potential. When warmth comes, things will change.

But for us on this day, running an errand in the cold and mist, it was a good day. There was beauty on the beach. And isn't that how it usually is? There is ugly and there is beauty, and we have to choose to see beauty around us. Sometimes we have to go out of our way to find it. It's worth the effort.

Soon, I hope to post pictures of warmer days!

More joys and thank yous:
108. nursery rhymes, because they are fun and they remind me of my mother and when I was small
109. a trip to the beach on a wet day
110. the way everything looks on a misty day, like we are living in a dream or a story or something