Leaping by Donna-Lee Smith

Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art


The first time it happened was on a family holiday when the parents piled the four of us into the back seat of our wood-panelled Plymouth station wagon, circa 1959.

Dan 10
moi  9
Deb  5
Dave 4

I hear ya, the 4 Ds, what were they thinking?

We piled in, we were piled on, we were on a camping trip from Ottawa to see the falls, the mythical falls!
A long day journey with moi pleading car sickness so I could sit up front and not stay squished in the back with the squabblers.  I know, you’re wondering how can 4 kids be packed into the back seat of a station wagon: no problem: this trip was 20 years prior to that belt legislation. Plus, we had Heidi with us, a usually sweet dachshund, but cranky car companion. What were they thinking?
Am writing this in the throes of slouching towards 75, can’t remember anything much about the actual road trip. But we must’ve played horses and cemeteries. You get points for horses you see in the fields and you lose all your points if someone yells ‘cemetery’. This requires lots of I saw it first. 
But I do remember the awestruckness of seeing the falls, feeling the mist, the magnetism of the cataract, the thunderous roar, the trembling…and the irresistible desire, more the irresistible need, to leap. To be one with the shoots, the flumes, the brume….
Even today, with small cascades, like Hogsback Falls on the Rideau River in Ottawa, I want to leap. 
Anyone out there feel the same tug?
Perhaps Annie Edson Taylor did when she first saw Niagara Falls. To design and build a barrel, at age 63, and throw herself into the river and over the falls! We’re talking a drop of 160 feet, a flow rate of 85,000 cubic feet per second! Though she was the first person to survive this remarkable feat, she was not the risk taker you might take her for: she sent her cat over the precipice a few days earlier, and he survived.
You? Would you go over Niagara Falls for fame and fortune? 

This prose-poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.
Donna-Lee Smith and friend
Donna-Lee Smith writes mostly from Montreal, but also from an off-the-grid cabin in the Laurentian hills north of the city, where bears raid the blueberries and wolves commune with the moon. At other times she writes from Gotland Island (Baltic Sea) where her grandchildren also eat blueberries and commune in Swedish.
She has a hankering to leap.

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