We are in Wells Gray Park, a huge protected natural area in the Caribou Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. It is a land of mountains, lakes, rivers, and forests with a diversity of wildlife, notably bears, moose, birds, fish, and more than 30 species of mosquito.
More than anything else, though, Wells Gray is a land of waterfalls. Due to its unique geological history, there are about 39 named major waterfalls and uncounted smaller cascades in the park. Helmcken Falls is the 4th largest waterfall in Canada, about three times the height of Niagara Falls.
Much can be learned in the company of waterfalls. Watching a river’s wild cascade, breathing the mist, and experiencing the roar, it is clear that a waterfall is a living being. The word “waterfall” tells of relationships. A waterfall is the event when a particular river arrives in a particular location. It is the immensely powerful and beautiful shape water takes for a moment in its journey down a stream.
If we stretch the time scale, we realize that everything (and everybody) is a temporary event like a waterfall. Just as a waterfall is a momentary shape of water, a tree is the shape takon by sunlight, water, and certain chemicals for a few centuries. Animals, including humans like myself, are the shape food, water, and air takes for less than a century. The waterfall is the story of life written in an instant.
A striking feature of many waterfalls is that the water above the cascade is deceptively smooth, quiet, and calm, giving little warning about the confusion and danger ahead. From the quiet of a lake the current accelerates imperceptibly until suddenly the water rushes over the fall in a paroxysm of energy, chaos, violence, and beauty.
The same may be true of human affairs. As we age, life can go smoothly until we become ill or reach old age and our systems begin to fail at an increasing rate. For society, it seems the pace of technological and social change is gradually and smoothly accelerating, like the river above the falls.. Suddenly, a threshold may be reached and chaos ensue. The swimmers ahead of us may already be in the maelstrom while for those of us farther behind, everything may still seem safe and calm. Listening with an alert mind, we may hear the sound as we approach a fall before it is too late to swim to the safety of the bank.
There are always lessons in nature.