4 In Travel Stories

Gathering Driftwood on the Niagara River

A five-minute walk from the house where I grew up, you can look down along the banks of the Niagara River as the current sweeps it over the Falls in the distance. A cloud of mist constantly hangs in the air.

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River 1Up close it feels like rain, but a 15 minute drive away and it almost blends in with the puffs of steam shooting out of nearby chemical factories that romantically referred to as “cloud-makers” when I was a kid.

Niagara River by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist

Niagara River by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist

We often walk down by the river when I go home, to a little pathway called Gratwick Park (which I now always accidentally call Gatwick Park) where long stalks of pampas grass shimmy in the wind and rows of ducks glide across the grey surface of the water. The milkweed pods are dry and empty this time of year, the wind snapping against our cheeks, the curly branches of the willow tree exposed to the weather.

Niagara River by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist

Niagara River by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist

We crunched over dry twigs, frozen grass and discarded beer cans to the edge of the shore. This is where the driftwood washes up after a long journey through the great lakes. Each piece is worn smooth and full of character. It could have been traveling for years, decades, or perhaps even centuries. From here, it occasionally becomes part of one of my dad’s birdfeeders, so we searched for a few nice pieces to take home with us.

Niagara River by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist

Niagara River by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist

This is a place that criss-crosses many of my memories of growing up: of skipping stones, balancing across the rocks, suicidal teenage acquaintances drowning in its depths, picnics eating local specialty beef on weck, watching the 4th of July fireworks light up the sky while sitting in the red wagon and eating pretzels with the neighbours, finding solitude, tossing frisbees, long rollerblading adventures, writing on the dock, long summer afternoons with dripping ice cream cones and talk of the future, girly chats and lover’s tiffs and climbing trees with the boys at sunset.

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With the bitter wind rushing across the water, it’s too cold to linger, so we head home again to warm up with a cup of tea, admiring the small red berries popping brightly against the bleakness of winter.

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Adrienne McCormick
    January 15, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Hi Steph–I love this post. I grew up on the backwaters of the Tennessee River in Decatur, Alabama, and now live across the street from the Oswego River in a town that sits right on majestic Lake Ontario. Growing up and living near water shapes the consciousness in many wonderful ways. Thanks for sharing these photos of your return. I always go back to the water when I’m home too.

  • Reply
    Katie
    January 23, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Beautiful photographs and words, Steph! I always love winter time, but this winter I’ve really been appreciating the beauty and the muted colors.

  • Reply
    Philippa
    January 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    This looks absolutely stunning, and beautiful photographs!

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