“Have you ever read The Magic Mountain?”
“No. Much too big.”
— Nora Pascoe, answering Wolf Pascoe
To the right, Multnomah Falls, a natural wonder so picturesque it can make anyone look like a real photographer.
The stream drops 600 or so feet out of the northern Cascades, a few miles east of Portland. You can see it from the Columbia River Gorge highway, pretty much as it was when the Corps of Discovery passed by on their long journey west from St. Louis.
… we passed several beautifull cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendious rocks which cloles the river on both sides nearly … the most remarkable of these casscades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock into a narrow bottom of the river on the south side.
— Meriwether Lewis, April 9, 1806
The bridge gets lost in the long view, but the bridge is the point, I think. Something pensive in its shape. An echo of Monet’s garden bridge at Giverny, no? Is there another waterfall bridge as philosophically lovely as Multnomah’s?
Not that I’m aware of.
See the people?
Looking up? Down? Back? Forward?
Time away from time.
THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN
I read Thomas Mann’s opus a hundred years ago. High in the Swiss Alps, a tuberculosis sanatorium. A young man, Hans, comes to take the cure. He’s better in a few weeks. He stays seven years.
In some novels people speak in broken sentences. In this one they speak in long philosophical tracts. If you’re a novelist, I wouldn’t recommend this as a dramatic device. It will send people running from your book screaming and tearing their hair out.
But the image of the mountain refuge beckons. It’s where the long sick go when ambition falls away, when time is suspended and there’s nothing to do but detach and reflect.
I stood on the bridge at Multnomah falls and looked up and down a long time and thought of Oregon, California, and The Magic Mountain.
I should be content
to look at a mountain
for what it is
and not as a comment on my life.
― David Ignatow
I know, I know, David Ignatow informs against me. But here’s how seductive the place was: the approach from the highway took us through a long, narrow parking lot. I drove along an endless, single row of parked cars, looking for an empty space.
There were none.
“Let’s just go home, dada,” Nick said.
At the head of the long line, I idled and looked up. It was the place where the trail began, where the view of the falls was best. When I looked back in front of me, the car in space numero uno was pulling out.
What does such a parking space mean to one whose parking karma is zilch?
It means we were supposed to be there, it does.
This bridge. If you were like me, you could spend seven years on the bridge at Multnomah Falls, and never need decide anything, such as whether to move here.
You could cruise east Portland listening to houses.
Exhausted, you could fall into naps on the back porch in the posterior of the afternoon.
Time out of time.
An afternoon nap is childhood come again. Your mind is a drafty, country house, like the one you spent a week of summer in when you were ten. You keep finding new rooms on the second floor.
You awake expecting visitors.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
The White Hotel, my favorite novel, about a mountain refuge.
For the record, if you’re interested in The Magic Mountain and don’t read German, this is the translation you want.
Where do you spend time away from time? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
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