Susan Among the Zen Monks in the Gorge

Upper Multnomah FallsOne summer, we drove into the Gorge to view the falls. There are several falls along the way. Multnomah Falls is the tallest, and is now a major tourist attraction, complete with gift shop, food carts, and a fancy restaurant where a few years ago Rachel Ray filmed a segment of a food show. Summer falls, and it’s hot in town and in the Gorge, but the mist from the falls is cool.

There are two falls at Multnomah Falls, an upper and a lower. To get to the pool at the upper falls, you hike a switchback trail up to an old bridge. The pool below the upper falls is now off limits, but you can view the upper falls and the pool below from the bridge. We used to climb down the trail and wade into the pool, but you can’t do that any more. Wading into the pool, you could get soaking wet just from the mist from the falls. The falls don’t take the place of waves, the smell of salt-water breezes. In the Gorge, in the summer, if there’s no wind, the air seems thick and heavy, but if you take the old highway, you pass along cliffs of shade and green fern groves growing under the fir trees. And the falls are always a cool surprise.

Lower Multnomah FallsAnyway, this last time we stopped at Multnomah Falls, Susan decided not to make the switchback hike to the top. On my way up, I passed a group of men coming down. Their heads were shaved. They wore robes and sandals. I didn’t think much of it; monks, I assumed. I nodded as we passed on the trail. When I got to the bridge, I spent some time looking at the upper falls and turned around and crossed the bridge to look down on the lower falls and below to the trailhead to try to spot Susan. And there she was, sitting on a stone bench, surrounded by the monks. I waved and waved some more and finally caught her attention, and she waved back, and all of the monks waved too. I took a picture of her in the middle of the monks, all waving. Then they all stopped waving and went back to talking with Susan. Later, Susan told me they were Zen monks. And this morning I’ve spent probably 30 minutes looking for that photo. Alas, it seems to have disappeared. I think in a past life Susan may have been a Zen monk who attained enlightenment.