“With what deep murmurs
through time’s silent stealth
Doth thy transparent,
cool and watery wealth
Here flowing fall
And chide and call.”
~ Henry Vaughan, The Waterfall.
Varied and abiding impressions remain with me, drawn from my experience with the terrain in Wales. Parallel to the element of the land is that of the water. The north coast comprises shoreline, rivers, islands, and mountain waterways. There are as many reminders of home on the Maine coast as there are distinctions uniquely north Welsh. The latter is surely exemplified in the Snowdonia region of mountains, steep hills, and narrow passes.
Intimate spaces and valleys can somehow lend themselves to vastness, due to their proximity to the sea and openness to the skies. The juxtaposed presence of waterways came to mind while hiking the trail along which the Abergwyngregyn falls are reached. Streams and a river trim and traverse the path as it ascends toward two lofty waterfalls. With their sound and spray, falls make themselves known from a distance; at a downward bend in the trail, the presence became suddenly more evident.
Arriving at the base of the falls, a feast of boulders, crevasses, and cold spray rewarded the navigation. Pools of collected and distributing water reminded me of the tidal basins from my home coves across the Atlantic. From the chilled depth of Aber Falls, I gazed skyward to the heights of the source. Though not quite to the massive scale of larger falls I’ve visited in North America, these waterfalls present common aspects. I was reminded of Montmorency, Niagara, and especially my Appalachian Trail adventures. These living waters attest to an endless persevering continuity. They never run dry. All day and all night; even when we’re all back at our jobs. The moving waters are a constant presence, assuring our finite senses of the emergence of creation from unseen depths. Perhaps it is an incalculable mystery as to how long these rushing waters have been tumbling over the cliffs of Snowdonia.
wonder of tides
On both sides of the ocean, I am compelled by the same traits of these living waters. One such is the timeless appearance of the forces of nature. Waterways and bodies of water are a constant wonder. Beneath reflective surfaces and still lakes are forceful currents, waves, and rapids. Capable of soothing calmness and devastation, waterways have been a mysterious presence throughout my years. Having lived my whole life near coastlines, going to the water means withdrawing from troubling burdens. Simply looking at sea currents and flowing waters is enough to assure and intrigue all at once. The fluid movements are as temporal as they are eternal. Watching the waterfalls brought to mind how a mortal person, at a fixed time, can bear witness to continuity itself. I wondered about the countless poets, thinkers, and observers through many centuries that stopped to gaze at the same mountain waterfalls that captivated me.
Anglesey, North Wales.
Above: Puffin Island. Below: South Stack.
Living with a connection to the water- especially the Atlantic- has bred a built-in reference point within, through which I relate to my context in the world. Following a couple of months of travels, I found myself at South Stack, in Anglesey, looking westward and thinking of Penobscot Bay, which has matching cliffs to those of northwesternmost Wales. The water’s edge is a demarcation of finitude. These margins are thin boundaries to keep in mind the proximity of physical and spiritual worlds.
held by the source
Nowadays, I look at the ocean, Maine rivers, and nearby cascading falls with the imagery of Wales in mind. In many aspects of life and perspective, a sense of familiarity draws together places and experiences. Beneath the physical features of waterways and shorelines are the concepts of continuity and clarity. But the profoundest unifying factor is dearness to heart.
Above: Looking west toward Maine, in Penmaenmawr, Wales.
Below: Looking east toward Wales, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
I’ve described physical features which tie to rich metaphors in the life of thought and spirit. Seeking and continually returning to the water is directly related to going to the wellsprings of trust as though to a lifeline. In a culture that truncates and pushes tasks and spans so closely and immediately, thereby eroding liminal spaces for recollective thought, the limitless sources of creation provide contrasting respite. Vastness, depth, and untamed forces of nature are spellbinding while also wondrously comforting.
Grander than all which has been tabulated and distilled into bulleted points is the compelling mystery of the unknown. My views of waterways are changed. In true pilgrimage fashion, I have re-approached my home with enhanced perspective. Adventures cultivate a deepening supply of insights and comparisons. Awe-inspiring sights and experiences help to soothe undetectable personal progress. Waterways and their constancy evoke timelessness. They maintain their forms and forces, while turbulence occurs inland, away from shores and riverbanks. It is as though bodies of water speak timelessly to the rapidity of the passage of time. Fluidity may imply changeability- even instability- yet an individual soul may decide to be equally pliant. “Loosen the grip,” I thought, while immersing my hands and self into the cold waters. The moving currents cannot be grasped; infinite flows through the finite. Like our ephemeral slices of time, the living waters become our possession by our participation and our reverence.
* dyfroedd byw, means living waters.