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|Stopping for Joshua Bell - Page 11|
As I thought of other times, I knew that Jerry was with us, too. We had come to banish grief, and for the most part, we had succeeded. But we hadn't banished memory. In fact, we were flooded with memories of Jerry and of so many others. Not only did we feel a kinship to each other and the natural world, but we felt a kinship to all those who had lived and who would be born.
At the falls, we stopped for a rest and lunch. Jim and Jan hiked on to the site of our first camp. I had injured my knee on a previous mountain climb and it was throbbing and swelling. I stayed behind at a spot close to Cascade Falls. I meditated on the sounds, the spray, the light and the coldness of the water. Every moment of watching was a lesson in time. To try to stop time or to hold on to the past is like trying to stop a waterfall.
Then I spotted the ouzel—a nondescript gray-brown bird about the size of a barn swallow. Ouzels live only in remote areas by waterfalls, and their outstanding characteristic is that they can dive into the rapids, whose pressure would splinter a canoe, and emerge with a small fish. As this ouzel darted in and out of the falls, I followed her path to a large daubed nest about three stories up on the rock face. Two chicks waited for those little fish. Only their orange beaks were visible when their mother appeared with dinner. Once, when the mother was delayed, they peeked out and cheeped so loudly that I could hear them above the roar of the falls. I wondered: "How long in evolutionary time did it take to find the exact set of notes that can be heard over a waterfall? Have ouzels occupied this site since the Midwest was a great inland lake, since before the Native Americans came?"
When Jim and Jan returned, they brought the vertebrae of an elk, three rocks delivered by the last glacier and a porcupine quill, perhaps from a grandchild of Porky and Bess. We watched the hard-working ouzel feed her young, we passed around bread, cheese and apples, and we talked about time. The waterfall itself was formed by millions of years of water trickling across stone. And what are we made of, but the same stardust that made the rock, the ouzel, the aspen and the elk?