I have vivid memories of Christmas Past that involve the “Festival of Lights” in Niagara Falls. I don’t look back at high school with much awe, I must admit. But, one of my fondest high school memories was arriving by bus to the then-glorious Rainbow Mall; walking through the multi-story winter garden greenhouse hearing carolers dressed in Renaissance garb serenading us in our young friendships and romances; crossing over to the state park filled with light sculptures and eventually walking to peek into the roaring, icy Niagara Falls amid the freezing mist stinging our cheeks.
I held some of that memory in my mind as I coaxed my mother and daughter to make the Niagara Falls drive with me during our holiday visit. I knew we had to stay stateside due to lack of passports, but I was undaunted in my quest to show them both the lights of Niagara this Christmas season.
As it turns out, not only is the former Rainbow Mall now demolished, but the former “Winter Garden” is now a multi-story souvenir and ethnic fast food establishment. Not quite the winter-tide festivities I remembered. On the bright side, the parking was free and plentiful this side of the Falls, with all the action now having moved to Canada.
I admit, I started to get a little annoyed at my daughter whining about not having a passport. I was biting my tongue, hoping and waiting for something to redeem our hour long trek. My Mom was a good sport, though, and we hiked toward the falls through an empty, unlit park. As we approached the Niagara Rapids, I started to feel myself getting drawn in to the stark beauty of the dusk, the rapids, the unlit winter trees standing in stark silhouette to the rushing water:
My daughter, who had been dragging her feet, suddenly sprang to life and brought out the 35mm camera she has been learning to use. She started testing out settings, lighting, lenses. This was the perfect place to experiment. A dozen or so other people…not hundreds…were gathered by the edge of Niagara Falls waiting in hopes of an illumination. It was past 5 p.m. and dusk was becoming dark. The sky was majestic with winter clouds as the sun dipped low into the horizon. At that moment, the illumination emerged full force from the Canadian side, creating billowing mist clouds:
First, vibrant red:
Then, an enchanted green:
Next, bright golden yellow:
Finally, a lavender dreamscape:
We snapped pictures through several cycles through each color on that cold, misty evening. It suddenly didn’t matter any more if the timing of a former grand event had come and gone. There was beauty here…total delight, in fact…even in the remnant pieces of nature that were illuminated during the warmth and wonder of a three generation trip.
Even if we think we know the destination, sometimes we arrive to a place different than our expectations. I was reminded that it isn’t about getting where we think we want to go, but about our willingness to take in what gifts are offered here and now, as the present moment unfolds.
Now, I hold this new memory as delight.
In response to the AdventWord global advent calendar project with the Society for St. John the Evangelist. Today’s word: #Delight. Follow the worldwide advent calendar at: http://www.aco.org/adventword.cfm