I AM HALFWAY UP KATAHDIN, but the sky has closed in and I can proceed no farther. Piece by piece the fog is taking the mountain away. Occasionally the fog around me thins to a wispy white film, letting in sunlight, and I am able to walk quickly to the next visible cairn. Other times the fog is a dark gray soup, impassible. I cannot see the trail and must wait.
A sudden cracking, crashing sound echoes just ahead. It sounds like boulders set rolling, as if some giant creature has stumbled. Immediately I think of moose—but no, surely I am up too high. There is little for moose to eat up here. Whatever made the noise was not a hiker, for I hear no talking, no self-deprecatory curse or cries for help. But someone—or something—is out there.
When the clouds slide off again, I see nothing but barren land. The granite looks the same as ever. There is no moose, no bear, no party of hikers climbing over the mountain. But something must have caused that noise—unless it was Pamola himself stepping down out of a patch of cloud and dying like an old myth in the sunlight.
I think I know the answer. The mountain shifted. For a thousand years, a loose rock poised on a ledge while wind and ice and the feet of moose, deer, caribou, and fox shook it off its base. That rock may have been waiting to fall for a hundred millennia. At last, a final nudge of wind dropped it down on a rock just below—a crack, the sound of a mountain coming down, inch by inch by inch. That rock will wait for millennia before it moves again.
The land looks no different than a minute ago, but I have heard it crumbling, ever so gradually. A slab of rock slides a single inch closer to the sea. Across the tablelands, across the eons, the process repeats. Too slowly to notice, a river of rocks is flowing down these slopes into the flat forest below. That is the speed of a mountain coming down. It is ancient yet mortal.