Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lesson 80: #3--The River

I can shoot two birds with one stone on this blog post.  To clear up any misconceptions--"shoot" as in with my camera, not "shoot" as in bang-crash-pull the feathers off-digest.  Slovenians, "to (kill--don't like using that harsh word, so I replaced it with shoot) two birds with one stone" is  an expression Americans use for resolving two things with a single action.  Therefore I can tell you about my recent sightseeing excursion and tell you about my #3 favorite song of all time, all on one blog post.  Yeah!  I'm all for efficiency.

We went to Niagara Falls this week.  My kids had never been there so it was high time (or high water, rather) that I took them for a little day trip, and so we went.  As with anything, I am always searching for the teachable moment.  It always helps to do a little prep work before you go somewhere new.  I could care less about computerized car navigators and such.  I hate that annoying voice squawking at me.  It distracts me more than it helps me navigate and I find myself arguing aloud with the machine.  It's like having a backseat driver bossing you around from the windshield.  Plus, our navigator was a man named "Richard" and had a British accent for awhile until I changed the setting.  The last thing a person wants is a foreigner telling you where to go in your own country.  I prefer maps.  If you have yourself a map and are wise enough to know that being lost is only a temporary thing, then you are good to go.  When I mean prep work--I mean history--like history of the area and finding out a little about what you are going to see before you get there.  "Building prior knowledge" is what we teachers call it.

On the two hour drive up, I read to them aloud all of the information I found on Niagara Falls--some geography stuff, but mostly the interesting stories and legends of the falls.  Mind you, Natalie has autism and I'm not sure how in to history she is.  I did put TLC's song Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls on her iPod for her though. Sam was wrestling Triple H and the Undertaker in the backseat, and Ellen looked, well,  pained.  Nevertheless I kept at it, commenting on the tightrope walker, the kid and his sister who fell out of the motor boat in 1961, and the beautiful Indian princess who decided to chance her luck with the spirits and take a ride over the edge in a canoe rather than marry the old, toothless, smelly member of the tribe.  All were good stories in their own rights, but it was the one about the teacher, Annie Taylor, who was the first to willingly take a trip over the falls in a wooden barrel with her cat in tow that  really seemed to spark the imaginations of all three of my children.

Annie Taylor was a 63 year old school teacher from Michigan that took her famous ride in 1901.  I am guessing that she was unmarried and had no children, as did most teachers of that time period.  The articles I've read on her thus far just tell about her stunt--not so much as to WHY she did such a thing.  What would possess a woman to willingly take a joyride over the falls?  I know.  Spend your lifetime in a one room school house filled with children ranging in age from 5 to 16, and have virtually no materials to work with--just some hard benches and some slates.  That is sure to drive any sane person around the bend.  Go ahead, Pennsylvania Governor--keep on taking away all the education money and there are going to be a few more joyriders, but this time they will be a bunch of teachers from Pennsylvania heading over in tandem.  A barrel ride over a 100 foot drop--sounds like a party, doesn't it?  I am sure the kids drove her to it.  I wish I knew what their reactions were when word worked its way back to Michigan:  "Hey, did you hear Miss Taylor sailed over Niagara Falls in a wine barrel?"  I know those little dickens were thinking--"before or after she drank all of the wine."

My three little dickens made the following comments about the story:
Ellen:  Are you ever going to try that, Mom?---I'm too tall to fit in that barrel--no way.
Sam:  Did the cat live or die?----lived
Natalie:  No boat.-----You just have to wonder if she thought we were going to stuff HER in a barrel.

You will see on the movie, set to my number 3 favorite song of all time, Garth Brooks's song The River, some  great shots of the Niagara River as well as of my kids.  It was a fun day for everyone.  We still travel with an umbrella stroller, so we didn't do all of the attractions as they prove to be a little much for Sam yet.  We did manage to walk over to Goat Island (my favorite part), eat lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (the last slide shows the outside wall of the restaurant), and find some geocaches.  We found a $5 t-shirt shop and the girls were happy as could be.  The shot of Ellen in her $5 t-shirt sporting a pair of cut offs made me realize she's a lot more like me than I originally thought.  No Maid of the Mist ride for us.  I was happy to take shots of her from up above on the observation deck.  Natalie kept looking down and saying over and over again, "No boat" in her flat, monotone voice.  Me neither, child.  Don't worry.

I discovered something interesting on my search for information about the falls.  Back in the recesses of my tired brain, I remembered hearing somewhere that it was one of the 7 Wonders of the World.  Google that one if you want an interesting read.  Come to find out there are LOTS of wonders of the world:  7 Natural Wonders of the World, Wonders of the Modern World, Wonders of the Ancient World.  Read the list.  It is sure to leave you with lots of things to wonder about.  Our good old Niagara Falls is considered one of the 7 FORGOTTEN Natural Wonders of the World.  What the heck are Forgotten Wonders?  I did a little more searching and it seems that there are 7 Wof the W and 7 Forgotten W of the W.  Weird.  Victoria Falls beat out Niagara Falls, bumping it to the forgotten list.

Canadians must have been pissed about this, because I see that in 2007 they came up with their own contest for the 7 Wonders of the Canadian World.  People could submit nominations and some committee made up of their broadcasters in the CBC came up with a short list.  Their citizens were allowed to vote on-line to determine which they liked best (so the Pepsi people are copycats.......).  Niagara Falls came in an #2, thumbing its nose at Victoria Falls.  Victoria Falls, Slovenians, is  another big waterfall that divides the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa.  Don't get excited.  I am sure you get the catalog even in Slovenia--but that is Victoria's Secret.  Two different things.

Thinking of all of these lists of things makes me want to create my own list---like The Seven Wonders of Eloise's World.  I will surely spend some time thinking about what would be on my new list.  But for now I still have just two lists of favorites: songs and books.  We are working our way up to my #1 favorite song, but today, we stop at #3 on our climb---The River.  I found this song in the early 90's when I was sailing my vessel through this strange time in my life I call "college."  That time in between high school and full maturity is hard for anyone, no matter what route you take through life; college, military, or work.  For me it was college. I was tied to my dock for awhile until I earned my teaching degree.  After four years of test taking and hoop jumping I was finally mature enough to do something with all that knowledge and set out to find a job.  I knew my destination, but I wasn't quite sure at the time how I was going to get there.  I heard this song and used to sing it all of the time.  I still love it today and sing it to the wildlife on my long runs, thinking about my new dreams for my future.  It's comforting to me and has remained with me for nearly 20 years, so it has earned its rightful position at #3.

Any dream is just like that.  A dream is just like a river, ever changing as it flows.  Sometimes people are lucky enough to achieve their dreams early in life, and for others dreams are a thing set far off in the distant future.  If you are lucky enough to find your dream sooner in life rather than later, then pick a new one and set sail again.  Just don't stop and sit upon the shoreline.  Keep sailing.  You have lots of living and dreaming to do.  For others dreams are so far off that you feel like giving up.  But I tell you, don't, because your dream is  just around the bend, so keep on sailing.  With some faith you'll eventually get there, in God's time.  Trust Him.  He knows when.  So whether you find yourself in the still waters barely moving or are chancing the rapids, hold on tight and pray that everything turns out all right.  If you make the Good Lord your captain, as per the suggestion of good old Garth, you'll make it through all those rough spots.  I believe that and hope that you do, too.

Happy sailing, but a word to the wise: if you are ever sailing on the Niagara River, heed the signs--especially the ones that say No Boats Beyond This Point, Rough Waters Ahead.  They aren't kidding.

Captian Eloise


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