MY WATERFALL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have a small, but picturesque, waterfall and stream in my backyard. It only flows for part of the year when there’s a lot of rain and/or snow. The summers are usually pretty dry. During those months, you can just make out a ribbon of rocks among the trees that mark the spot where the dormant waterfall sits silently.

Spring waterfall after a big rain

This waterfall plays an important part in my life. As a kid, I used to play with my neighbor in the woods on my parents’ 40 acres of land in Connecticut. We climbed all around the waterfall that was in those woods. We perched on rocks at the spots with the best views of the rushing water. We tried to divert the water into different patterns. This proved difficult, if not impossible. But we had fun trying.

Waterfall today

Flash forward 30 years. My mother has given me a piece of her land so I can build a house, next door to her country house. She wanted to keep me and her grandchildren close. We have to decide where to put the house and how to orient it. My ex husband, the architect and I walked through the woods and came across the waterfall, bordered by old world stone walls. Eureka!

This is where the house has to be! How could we not take advantage of this unique and glorious natural wonder? How many people get to look at something like this every day?

Winter waterfall

So the decision was made to place the house near the stone walls and the waterfall. But there was a conundrum. Most people want their houses to have a southern exposure, for maximum sun and light. But south for us meant that the house would have to face up the driveway, looking at nothing but the driveway and the woods. The waterfall was due west. Not the best exposure for the sun.

Southern exposure view

But for us, views were more important than sun (which bleaches out all your furniture and fabric anyway!) So we designed a house with LOTS of windows and angles that maximized the views of the waterfall. Therefore our living areas face west, not south.

Kitchen bay window to left and round porch to right

I have been grateful for that decision every day for the past 29 years! The waterfall played an important part in the design of my house and continues to play an important part of my life every day I live in that house. It never fails to make me smile when I get to drink coffee and look out at it.

View from my bay windows in the kitchen

Looking at my waterfall, I don’t just get the usual sense of peace and Zen that everyone gets when they experience nature. I also get strong memories of my past. I first set foot on this Connecticut property when I was eight months old, in 1950. I took my first steps here. I am still part of my carefree childhood playing in the woods. I am still connected to my parents and their love of this property. Because of my deep love of this piece of land, I have called it “My Tara,” after Scarlett O’Hara’s beloved plantation.

View of the stream from the kitchen and porch

Growing up, we lived in New York City nine months of the year (that’s where I went to school). I think that increased my appreciation of the country even more. It was a special summer treat for me. Also, my grandparents built a house on the property so I got to see them every day when we were all in Connecticut. That ramped the specialness and joys of the place up to eleven!

I moved to my house in the woods full-time in 1990, when my kids were five and ten years old. My mother, still a city lover, asked me why I could move out of the city after being exposed to all the cultural benefits of city life. I responded: “Because I was also exposed to the glories of country life. And that is what resonated more with me at that stage of my life.”

View of waterfall from my round porch

I’m grateful for all the years I got to spend in New York City. All the theater I got to see, all the museums, art galleries, ballets and concerts. But I can still drive in for those things if I want to. It’s more important for me now to be able to sit and write at my kitchen table, enjoying my view of the woods, of my dogs playing in the backyard, and, of course, of my waterfall.

THE DAM AT THE POND

Dam at Whitins Pond

This is a dam that’s hard to find. You can hear it from the road, but you can’t see it without going around the big brick building that was formerly — you guessed it — a mill. A cotton mill, I believe.

A perfect water lily
A perfect water-lily

Funny to finally discover this dam after passing so near for more than a dozen years. You really can’t see it from the road, which is where we usually shoot from and I probably heard it, but didn’t pay attention. It’s an interesting dam, not like any of the other local dams.

It’s not very tall, perhaps 10 or 12 feet. Water doesn’t flow over the dam as much as it comes through holes in the dam, set at various heights in a long crescent.

The waters spits out and onto a plateau of flat rocks. I’m not sure what this design was intended to accomplish, but there must have been some special purpose in the design.

Close up at the dam

The old mill used to be an antique cooperative until last year. They recently converted it to an adult activity center. The senior center in Uxbridge is tiny, so this is definite upgrade. The building has been beautifully restored and its location, adjacent to the river and Whitins Pond … well, it couldn’t be lovelier.

 

WATER, WATERFALL, WHISKERS, WINDOW, WESTWARD, AND WINTER …

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letter W – Needs to start with W and have two vowels in the word


It’s the middle of the winter, which is a fine “W” word. Along with weather and water and window — an easy peasy collection. At this moment in time, it’s pouring rain and our front yard looks like rice paddies, without rice.

Wires in the winter blizzard – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Wires in the first winter blizzard – Photo: Garry Armstrong

White water at the dam

Sunset facing westward

Window in the kitchen – October’s colors

Tugboat in the water

Wintry weather on the water

Whiskers!

Waterfall at Roaring Dam

It is remarkable how ugly this place can look when the weather changes. Drenching rain removes the snow. Then it removes the grass. Soon, every impression in the ground has become a sucking mud puddle. I have never had less desire to go outside. For anything at all.

PRECIPICE – OR – DON’T FALL!

Garry is not afraid of heights.  He might have liked mountain climbing, but work kept him otherwise occupied. He did try — and enjoy — jumping out of planes. With a parachute.

The years have marched on and although he no longer ventures up on the roof, it’s not his fear of heights. More like a fear of getting giddy at an inappropriate moment.

I haven’t met many people who can climb high places and not get freaked out.

I’ve gotten a little bit better over time, but I still don’t like being near the edge of anything higher than a small stepladder.

Thus, during the times when Garry decides he want to shoot the falls from right along the edge, I try to control my urge to whimper and cry out “DON’T DO IT BABY! I LOVE YOU! COME HOME!”

AN OLD DAM ON THE BLACKSTONE ONE WINTRY DAY

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I found a dam. I’ve been to that dam before, but it’s hard to see anything of it in summer. The trees and brush around it have really taken over. It’s difficult to shoot anything in the summer.

This is the most water I've seen coming over a dam on the Blackstone in several years. We didn't get as much snow as we usually get, but we did get quite a lot of rain and it has made a difference.

This is the most water I’ve seen coming over a dam on the Blackstone in several years. We didn’t get as much snow as we usually get, but we did get quite a lot of rain and it has made a difference. Will it be enough?

We tried to shoot here last summer and couldn’t get anything worth mentioning. This time, it was just me. Garry opted to stay in the car and after about 10 minutes, I was inclined to agree with him.

The last two weeks have been almost like summer, but it was cold today. I shot quickly and then, we went home to the warm house. Just in time to feed the dogs!

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I was watching the weather this evening and they were warning that we have no snow run-off this year, so we really need some rain and soon, or all this water won’t be enough. More than 80% of New England is in a moderate to severe drought state and has been for a long time.

I was wondering about that. Let’s do some rain praying around here!