The year was 1976, America was relishing in its Bicentennial anniversary of independence, and I found myself in a musty antique shop, browsing among the discarded treasures of generations gone by. There, in a small offshoot room, hanging on a crowded wall, suspended amongst pictures, tapestries, murals, and rick-rack, I spied an old picture. It was a Stereoview, taken around 1890 by the famous George Barker. Stereoviews were the rage around the turn of the century, consisting of two almost similar views of the same thing, mounted side-by-side, in one frame. When fitted into a special, wooden viewer and held up to your eyes, it created a single picture with a stereo effect to it. The picture on the wall was of the ice bridge of Niagara Falls.
It fascinated me, both with the idea of the mighty Falls frozen completely over and hundreds of those old-time people walking around on it, and because it brought back memories of seeing a similar ice bridge myself when I was a kid, growing up in Western New York, in the ‘60’s.
Niagara Falls! The water—the roar—the mist—the smell—the power—the mystery. Niagara is a mystic enchantment that pulls people into its swirling mists and absorbs them into its magic. Niagara is a gift to man, declaring the glory of creation and thereby the surety of a Creator. Surrounded by history and steeped in lore of fascinating legends and people, it’s not only the Falls, but the rivers—the gorge—the mighty lakes, all splendid, magnificent and oozing with life. Take a walk through the Niagara Gorge (but please, not in the winter like my ‘boys’ did) and I guarantee you’ll come out a different person than when you went in. You’ll meet God in the Gorge (See post titled: “Come Walk with Me” at right.)
And then—the 60’s. It’s strange for me to think of the 60’s as nostalgia, but in fact they are. The 60’s were special years, creating a decade, unique and stand alone in our history. In 1961, the world feared atomic war and we built backyard bomb shelters and we had ‘A’ bomb drills hiding under school desks, while spewing the illusion of being at peace with ourselves and the world. We felt ‘everything had been done and invented’ and there was nothing left for us to do. Meanwhile, the decade was on the verge of being the most dynamic, world-changing decade history had ever seen. Communications, civil rights, technology, economics, drugs, assassinations, space travel, society values and wars all around the globe, exploded literally overnight, turning America, and the world, upside down. The 60’s came in with the ‘Twist’ and bobby socks and left with us with VietNam and a man on the moon, leaving us in shock and yearning for those years when we wore bomber hats, drank hot chocolate and our only wars were snowball fights.
How much more inspiration would one need? A combination of a forbidden Niagara few people know about, coupled with the decade of the best and worse times in America. The ‘picture’ itself brought all this into focus for me, and I started writing.
I wanted to write about people who felt their life was unimportant, and didn’t know where they fit in. A decade when America was at its prime and at its worse, when young people thought everything had been done and there was nothing left for them to do, yet, aside from the Revolutionary War era itself, was the most revolutionary decade in American history.
Meanwhile, it’s no different from any other time, with people having the same needs, fears, joys and sorrows across the generations. All are ‘journeys’, traveling the same road, only in different times.
That was 1976 and I wrote 12 typewritten pages, put it aside and continued my own ‘journey’.
Fast forward 32 years and now it’s September 2008. I had just endured a personal loss and as a result was forced to sort out files of old papers. Buried among bill receipts, technical reports, letters and various doodlings, I came across 12 typewritten pages. They were yellowed, stained and crinkled when I held them. As I read them, I immediately grabbed a pen and began editing them. 350 pages later, ‘Bridges – a Tale of Niagara’ was conceived and a year later gave birth to ‘Journeys Across Niagara’. I give this child to you, with my wish that you enjoy reading it as much as I have in writing it.
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are