A boomer who still can hear Niagara Falls

We can’t do it all. Sometimes we just don’t have the time, sometimes we don’t have the means. So Sherrill Pool Elizondo of Cypress, Texas, has figured out how to sometimes live vicariously, through all her senses.

Of the five senses, I would be most terrified of losing eyesight. To be able to see family, friends, the beauty and wonder of nature, read a good book, drive a car, look at family photo albums are just a few of the blessings that come to mind when I think of good eyesight. When it comes to personal possessions, it is no surprise that people first think of taking photographs if forced to flee their homes during a disaster. Sadly, sometimes all that is left is only in the mind’s eye … that wonderful place of imagination or recollection.

There are times I miss certain places. I can visualize, hear, smell, and almost taste these places. It is as though I am longing for a place that I need to return to for a brief moment. Usually it is my hometown or another local that holds good memories. There have been occasions, while traveling, that I have experienced a familiarity that equates with feelings of home. Some have suggested this is similar to deja vu, but perhaps it is rather a case of feeling comfortable with one’s senses in a particular place and time.

Faded photograph … Sherrill in Switzerland in 1970.

This happened when I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, as a young woman. I felt at home, as though I had been there before, which I hadn’t. Wendell Berry has been quoted saying, “If you don’t know where you are, than you don’t know who you are.” Was he referring to the concept of sense of place? I also felt a deep spiritual connection to California’s Muir Woods … as if I was standing in a place that was there at the beginning of time, very primeval and serene.

There is an old Beatles song called In My Life, and the first few lines poetically give meaning to places that we remember.

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain…

In the Spring, I think of my hometown and I experience memories of scents rather than visual memories, like the patches of sweet scented clover that popped up near the house where I grew up, the fresh smell of recently mowed grass at the track near my high school, and aromas coming from Mexican restaurants along the San Antonio River. Memories are not just about what someone has seen with the eyes, but more often than not, involve other senses. Too bad it is not possible to time-travel to re-experience our memories. When not doing real-life traveling, I have vicariously experienced places by way of trips made by family members and friends.

Sherrill Elizondo

My oldest son traveled in and out of the U.S. during his college years with his two younger brothers and some friends. He visited friends where he could stay in their home while sightseeing or visited places where he could find affordable accommodations or camp out. On one trip with his brothers, they traveled to the Basque region of Spain where ancestors had lived. They visited the town of Elizondo, our last name, where they were welcomed and made to feel at home by locals. Many asked if they were Basque rather than American.

There was one adventure my oldest son had though, that was chronicled home in phone calls and postcards. One summer he was working on a construction job with a friend whose father owned a company on the east coast. He relayed funny anecdotes about life in New York and New Jersey, day to day contact with construction crews, and laughed when he talked about driving with his friend around the Big Apple in an old beat-up pickup truck bearing Texas license plates. Sometimes he would sit in Central Park alone, in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded him, not too far from what he called in his postcards the proverbial “concrete jungle.”

During his time away from Texas he called me one day. I was having difficulty understanding what he was saying because his words were drowned out by the sound of rushing water. It was different than the sound of torrential rain. When he finally said, “Hey, Mom, I’m calling from Niagara Falls,” it was then that I understood. This mighty roar made me feel like I was right there or standing directly beneath the falls. I was thrilled to hear his excited voice sharing his experience.

That afternoon so many years ago, I knew that I might not ever see Niagara Falls but I sure had heard it. That is enough for me because, in recent years, I was able to stand alone under Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite with my son’s firstborn. That was something I experienced with all my senses and something I will not soon forget; a special shared moment in time with a grandson. There are places I have remembered all my life …