Friday, August 10, 2012

Waterfalling in Ithaca

"As you set out for Ithaka,
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery." 
- C.P. Cavafy

Ithaca Falls, zoomed in
After cancelling our Maine vacation, my two teenagers and I decided to go to Ithaca, New York for a few days, leaving my husband behind to tend to the yard and garden. Ithaca has had a magnetic pull on me ever since the first time I went there for a college interview back in the mid 80's. I knew immediately that I needed to be there, and my parents were gracious enough to find a way to make it happen. After graduating from college, I stuck around for a few years, left, returned after my first child was born, and left again three years later following the homebirth of my youngest child. Leaving was never easy. It always felt like a piece of my heart was left behind, calling me back.

In the gorges of Ithaca, something awakened in me so powerfully that it felt like a birth. Therefore, it is one of the two places on earth that I consider "home." For quite some time, I believed I had to be next to a waterfall in order to write a poem. There are some places where poetry seems to hang in the air waiting to be discovered, and Cascadilla Gorge, which meanders from downtown Ithaca up to Cornell Law School, was such a place for me. 

Uppermost waterfall, Cascadilla Gorge
Midway up Cascadilla Gorge, below Stewart Avenue bridge
Although in time I learned I could write anywhere, it took a long time before my longing to move back to Ithaca subsided. Now I have found my place on the riverside, and what was born in Ithaca has developed over the years and taken on a life of its own, its survival no longer dependent upon being in Ithaca. However, we've made a practice of visiting Ithaca each year to see our friends and favorite places, and I always find peace and renewed strength in these personal places of power. For many years, Ithaca Falls was the "safe place" I visualized whenever I wanted to relax or feel peaceful.

Ithaca Falls

Ithaca Falls, zoomed in
While driving around with my son one night during our stay in Ithaca this week, it occurred to me that despite thinking that we never go on vacation, we have been doing it all along. Ever since leaving, Ithaca has been our vacation place. It may not have an ocean view, but it is the place my children beg to visit. They are connecting with the waterfalls even if only while waiting, sometimes impatiently, for me to finish taking pictures. Someday when I am gone, they will be able to find me there, in much the same way as I run into the spirit of my former selves when I walk the gorge trails and sit by the waterfalls that have become like dear old friends throughout the years.

The evening after returning from our Ithaca trip, I found my daughter crying and understood the source of her sadness so well: She longs to return to Ithaca to live on her own and can't stand to be away. And so the journey back to Ithaca begins for her.

In this spirit, I offer the poem, Ithaka, by the Greek poet, C.P. Cavafy, which I heard for the first time during a graduation ceremony at Cornell University. It is a powerful piece about the role such Ithakas play in our life journeys, and it is well worth the click:

View of Cayuga Lake from Stewart Park as the sun sets

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 


Stephanie Winston Vann said...


Sara said...

Wow.. very moving! I too love Ithaca... I live here, moved away a couple times and moved back. Ithaca is a beautiful place!

Anonymous said...

Love it.. and my girls and I feel the same way about Ithaca. Only living a short distance away in Auburn, we make quite a few trips to Ithaca a year. We love the waterfalls!! I love what you said about it being a vacation. We are a lower income family and cannot afford to take big vacations. We have discovered waterfalling and take many day trips to do this. It doesnt cost us hardly any money and my kids have learned to appreciate doing this and never can wait until the next trip!! Thanks for sharing!!

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