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The mountain away from time

The mountain away from time

by Wolf Pascoe on August 27, 2012

“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.




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.



Poetry night at hotel de dream




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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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

BigLittleWolf August 27, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Ah, contemporary life… This is lovely, Wolf. And your close is delicious.


Wolf Pascoe August 28, 2012 at 9:24 am

You are very kind.


Kyle Bradford August 28, 2012 at 7:29 am

My friend, you need to move to Portland.


Wolf Pascoe August 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

Easy for you to say.


Kate August 28, 2012 at 11:44 am

A waterfall like that, a bridge so exquisite, the space opening just for you. Sometimes a mountain may just be a mountain but when it calls to your mind, think it wise to listen.

I agree with Big Little Wolf, what a close!


Wolf Pascoe August 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm

“Always be closing.” — David Mamet


Barbara August 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I love bridges, especially those near waterfalls. That one is so lovely, I’m sure I would get lost in time there, too.
I agree… you need to move to Portland. Then Tom and I will come visit! 🙂


Wolf Pascoe August 30, 2012 at 11:14 pm

“you need to move to Portland.”

Not you too! But we’ll have a wing set aside for guests!


The Exception September 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Is it possible to not worry about moving and just enjoy things as they happen? To be the river and enjoy the journey? And bridges are awesome but so the view is too from the top of a mountain


Wolf Pascoe September 15, 2012 at 1:33 am

“Is it possible not to worry?”

I was going to say “when I sleep,” but I’m not sure it’s true.


Pamela September 15, 2012 at 6:59 am

I was tearing my hair out after 20 pages of magic mountain.

The thing about moving is that you can always move back. What about renting out your house for a year and trying it out? What would you do if you weren’t afraid of doing the wrong thing?


Wolf Pascoe September 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Pretend that I had no ambition to do anything at all?


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