A setting based on a beautiful place I’ve seen? Now, this one is a cinch.
The rocks are slippery and wet, and the climb is hard and high. You’ve got to be careful climbing, because this is a place you don’t want to fall. If you slip and don’t catch yourself, there are only two places you can end up: on the rocks below, or in the churning pool at the base of the massive waterfall.
Being careful means going slow, though, and that’s not so bad, because where you are is gorgeous. You’re in the middle of a rain forest, the waterfall opening up the greenery like a form of natural magic. When you step off the humid dirt path, past the overgrown vines and fern leaves into the waterfall’s beauty, you feel like Columbus discovering the New World. This is a place that still sings of ancient strength, of a time before man ruined everything. Here, you could picture the gods of old not just rising up to greet you but rising up in such power that your whole being trembles with awe.
The water of the river above you runs down the rocks in several distinct streams. A series of waterfalls, really. But terms don’t matter. The truth of this place isn’t in a name. It’s in the glorious pounding tremor of the water’s flow from heaven to earth. The shiny glints of rainbow that get cast into the air as light twists with the water’s reflection. The firm, life-giving mist that gently but relentlessly presses into your clothes until you’re reminded that once upon a time, your ancient antecedents were creatures of the sea. The water reminds you of where you once belonged, ages before man was ever man.
Climbing up the rocks is easy in at least one sense: It’s something you have to do. In a place like this, you are compelled to do whatever it takes to get to the top. And of course, when you do reach the top, it looks nothing like you expected.
You see, at the top, the river actually looks still. Perhaps it’s a relative stillness…a calmness in comparison to the wild churning pool below. But it’s also that it looks shallow, impossibly shallow, here at the top. How does water so thin and easy turn into such madness from a different angle? Is gravity that powerful a force?
The water is comfortable, not truly cold, not hot, but natural, as if you could lose yourself in it without much notice. You stare at its clear purity from the stone you stand on top of, noting that the river must be deeper than you realize, since you can’t see its bed from where you stand. But it feels shallow somehow nonetheless.
And that’s when you know that what they say about water is both true and not true. Yes, it has three forms…solid, liquid, and gas. But even in its liquid form, it has more than one form. Water is like Proteus, the Greek shape-shifting god. You never know what it’s going to look like, or be capable of, from one minute to the next. That is its strength and its magic. And its danger as well.
(This is based on my visit to Angel Falls and the surrounding area in Venezuela.)