The Lessons of Water Wheel Falls

Mother of the twelve year-old boy.

Teacher says “Boots tie like this
Hoist the pack like this
Sleeping bag here, food there, jacket on top
Now, take the map and the lesson taught
And led the way
For I long to see the water fall.”

She led from back
Letting me think it was me.
Who knew mothers could
scramble up the rock
or walk the log across the creek
Not graceful or fast, but proved it done.

The trail too long for short legs
Heights that take the breath away
can’t go on as strength and air fail.
Go on we must, teacher says
Step and rest, step and rest
Slowly up the hill go and to the shade of camp.

Her hands light the fire,
cook the food,
instructs mine to gather the wood,
cover the ground for a bed,
fetch the water to wash,
watch for the bear who might.

In the midday light
Arching high wheels of water
Spring from the walls of the gorge
A sight never to be forgotten
Grand mysteries fill the young mind
while age cools her feet in shallow pool.

Years roll on
Memory fades
but lessons remain
Step and rest, move as you can
The gorge can be crossed
The majesty can be found.

How then at the end of days
does one stand here?
Listening to doctors saying.
Needing to tell her
that it’s time
for the last lesson.


This is a poem I’ve written for my book.  It’s in the second part of the book where I share about my mother’s final days with pancreatic cancer.  The subject is one of the strongest memories I have of my mother – our hike to Water Wheel Falls.  I described this in a post a couple of years ago titled, Trails, Love and Hardtack.  Standing by her bed in her final days, it was also a memory that was often on my mind.

Till next time,


About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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5 Responses to The Lessons of Water Wheel Falls

  1. Beautiful tribute. I have similar memories since my dad died when I was ten.My mom had to fill in on all fronts. Thank you for following my blog.


  2. PreciousRhymes says:

    Read, listened and pictured through the words Andrew. It’s beautiful. A mother myself this triggers deep emotion within my being. I close with a hug!


    • Andrew says:

      It’s a very powerful, foundational memory for me. I can hardly put on a pair of hiking boots without her crossing my mind.


  3. This is a beautiful remembrance of your beloved mother. What a lovely memory to recall, Andrew.


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