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.
Up 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.