Sunday, March 01, 2009


What does it feel like, I wonder, to be travelling so fast that the rush of wind burns you? The air must slam you, when you hit a little gradation from thinner to denser air, cross one of those cloud-edge boundaries: it must strike as heavily as train strikes a car marooned on the tracks. It hits you hard enough to tear you to pieces. And each piece bursts into flame from the mere friction of the air.

Watching the wisps of water falling, from Elowah, Wahclella, Multnomah. Wraiths of spray diverge from the fall, and drop, slower than the main plunge of water, fifty feet, a hundred, a hundred and fifty -- and vanish, like the meteors, before they hit the ground.

Stand at the bottom of one of the great falls. They generate their own wind, wet and cold even at high summer: an endless tumult of air and water, imperfectly mixed, blowing slantways from the splash pools.

We're all falling, even if the thunder of it is inaudible most of the time. We come to the falls because we can hear it and see it here, for a little while, remind ourselves briefly of a reality we can't bear to hold in our minds, but which we need to touch, every once in a while. It would be impossible to live in the constant awareness of falling. But it would be even more impossible to live without ever glimpsing it.

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