Foggy Predators, Ghostly Ships: Day 3 of the Coastal Trip

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All photographs by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

That watchful bald eagle on a basalt mound whose photo I posted last time was patiently waiting for a strike at his prey.  Success was not a surprise but the unfolding event was at once thrilling and sobering. Such precision! The crying and diving seagulls tried in vain to retrieve one of their own but the eagle was not even detained.

For humans, there’s something to be said for reasonable proximity to civilization with its conveniences and comforts. Yet we still seek wilder places if we respect, appreciate and even revere nature, as do I. I am quickly released of angst or drear, from any worldly mental detritus as my home city’s buzz and bombast is left behind. A more primitive mind is set in motion as senses are stimulated, satiated. And sometimes roused by a flashes of alarm here and there as rain forest and ocean (and other Northwest landscapes) take greater charge. More on this in a bit.

First, a few sights on the still-quiet main street of Cannon Beach since low season prevails until Memorial Day (5/29). There was a chill drizzle but we always mosey about. (I have gotten better shots in sunshine though the shops are still attractive–see my older Cannon Beach posts for prettier weather.) I tend to stop at Josephine’s to peruse the handcrafted jewelry–and chose lovely earrings. The fish and chips spot we so enjoy is not pictured, unfortunately, but is called Tom’s Fish and Chips–oddly enough! I highly recommend it.

We decided to take a drive up to a favorite spot, Ecola State Park, part of the Lewis and Clark National and Historical State Park. The narrow road winds up through old growth rain forest and thick mist hovered and shifted among the branches. The park stretches about Tillamook Head, affording famous views when clearer. It boasts viewpoints of numbers of capes, headlands and basalt rock formations.

As we parked we were one of two vehicles there. This place can feel eery, perhaps due to terrible ship wrecks over a couple of centuries or more. (The  nearby Tillamook Lighthouse was deactivated due to the dangerousness of these waters and weather.) There was greater erosion this time with fenced off areas after very stormy weather over the past year. The foamy waves below us, right beyond the cliffs of headlands, crashed and overreached all else, imbued with such kinetic energy and hidden life. A clinging fog, heavy, steely skies and the ceaseless crashing waves heard even from headlands trails emphasized this.

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Marc went to get a closer look at the sea as I wandered about alone. Suddenly in the distance a crow cawed incessantly, rhythmically, an alarm in the obscuring and isolating fog. My heart changed gears as vision and hearing tuned in. I looked around, studying bushes and forest for signs of other creatures, human or otherwise. For this is bear, cougar and elk country; there have been many such sightings. I hadn’t checked the sign that is always updated with sightings, as landslides had closed longer trails. Though I couldn’t see or hear any other unusual movement or sound, the crow’s calling kept me alert as I made my way back towards Marc. I had such a strong feeling of being covertly watched that I called out to him; he didn’t hear me due to the deafening ocean. Since I’ve had encounters in our NW and also Canadian wilderness with bears, I know to not run. But the urge can be powerful…Cougars are such sly predators, especially, not as easily kept at bay by loud human commotion and noises as bears. I hoped for the great elk, which we’ve seen in the area.

But this time I would not discover what was there or not there. The fog hung thick upon all, the stillness prevailed after the crow quieted and we were soon on our way. Was it me that startled the sentinel crow into full voice? Perhaps. It was odd other crows were not about and responding.

Sometimes nature overtakes me, somewhat frightens as well as excites–the part of me that knows a little if not enough, while at some level recognizes even more. That buried animal being with acute sensory signals, sending and receiving. But I remain drawn irrevocably to all its diversity, complexity and magnificence; its ineffable powers of mysticism and poetry.

Said crow is on guard; the silvery fog has its own life amid the verdure.

We head to nearby Indian Beach, much loved by surfers. Alas, not this day. But the opalescent light, drape of fog and the restless sea combined to create more beckoning scenes. Marc, as usual, was shell and rock hunting as I explored. I often reminded him of “sneaker” waves which rush upon and steal lives each summer.

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On the way back up I paused to take a shot of the winding path. Right ahead of me I could see results of a recent landslide close to the path and a picnic table. In fact, the next day, the road we took into the state park soon was closed due to a large landslide. Coastal land is always eroding and shifting; rock, land and mudslides are common. We take certain roads at our own risk and rarely in the height of winter’s rainy season when the Coastal Range is more unpredictable.

That brings us to packing up for the next leg of our vacation. I felt emptied of self’s pettiness, then refilled. As ever, I rediscovered many aspects nature’s majesty, how it creates and destroys, how it charms and mystifies and instructs. And I always feel my smallness, how the greater countryside oversees and and defines much of who we are now, as well as in the distant past. My insignificance is challenged; I become again more open to vaster realms of mind, body and spirit. There can be fear exploring the turbulent, multi-faceted sea but it’s born of a healthy respect. The wildness out there calls to the wildness within and I pull it in closer even as I am cautious. We are not so powerful as we like to believe; nature will remind us over and over of this. We are clearly a part of far-reaching, layered, numinous design.

We begin our drive up the sunnier northern Oregon coast to Astoria. The explorers Lewis and Clark ended up in the area. Named after John Jacob Astor ((owner of American Fur Company), in the 1880s he established a fort there. It is the oldest settlement west of the Rockies and sits at the mouth of the legendary Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean, one of the most dangerous sandbar regions for ships’ crossings in the world. We love Astoria’s rich history and curious sights.

A couple of “teasers” from Astoria are below–stop by next time to see what else I saw!

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The Muse Knows: Day 1 of a Spring Beach Trip

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Pacific Ocean–all photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

There are times the muse shows up with a fine sentence or two that beckons me like a hunger-inducing aroma. Or an entire paragraph that apparently is taken out of the middle of some narrative if I could only figure out what it’s intended to be. Or the muse presents a newbie or older story character: he/she may clumsily step forward or scurry, leap or float about or suddenly wake up in a peculiar spot–maybe a tree top or a country roadside or a bar– and then speaks directly to me as if I am this being’s private audience member. Or will talk to another character, and I am warily peering into their crazily compelling lives.

Awhile back I wrote a very long poem in its entirety while walking. The words came so fast, in such an unusual format, that I recorded it on my phone as it flowed into and out of me. I came home and wrote it down with no significant revisions. It took a long time to transcribe it but I was happy when done. And it got published.

So it is true for me that I usually sit down then just let my fingers get to work writing/typing words one after the other. I don’t mean it is necessarily good stuff, I mean it flows quickly. Language inception and usage are alchemy to me. How does it manage to even begin? We–words and I–take off for somewhere or other like comfortable, mischievous cohorts. But not today! Today it has been this: what to do and how on earth to do it? This question wormed it way into my calmly reconfigured mind yesterday and today. Then this afternoon I heard the insistent MV (Muse Voice) whisper: Follow moving sunlight into moonlight; follow the soul’s light. 

You always do get stirred up by light, water, trees, sky, etc., I mutter aloud as the instructive thought lodges itself. Yet this is my only clue for a post? Wonderful, all is simpler since this is my favorite route to embark upon when writing: follow soul first, then intellect to help shape any inspiration. The words will be revealed. Pathways perk up within and without–made of striations of shifting shadows, the ripplings of chameleon light.

But it is a rather broad, misty directive from the ole muse. It might be enough if I want to open a scene with a mysterious glen where human and other magic is about to unfold and the birds are atwitter and then silence draws me to a point of light far beyond an exquisite but faint and far-off horizon….Reality wags a finger at me: readers may not want to hear about a simple visit with an ocean. And what about the hundreds of photographs from a rather short trip to a few Oregon and Washington beaches. Nothing like wading through a stranger’s fond remembrances.

I took a power (and sweaty–it is warming up, gratefully) walk. Consternation slows down mercurial creative impulses so I let it all go. Walks are powerful medicine I must daily take. Afterwards I attacked a bunch of household chores, another intervention for a cluttered mind. Finally, I stared at a vibrantly blank computer screen. I am rarely at a loss for words as those who know me can attest.

My first day back to the blog after a lovely vacation, yay!–and this is what I have? Perhaps too much time off has made me loathe to work very hard on the blog? But that isn’t it. Sometimes I have more overload to sort and prioritize before settling down, getting it onto the page. There is a lot stuffed in both my memory bank and my photo files; sometimes it seems one and the same. I pushed away a tiny niggle of anxiety. Would I get this post posted today or not?

With more consideration, I managed to extract another interpretation of the muse’s suggestion: merely sample the trip’s offerings,  offer up a small smorgasbord of choices for eye, mind, spirit. Let it go its own way.

At last, I invite you to come along on vastly abbreviated initial portions of our trip. The fact is, no decent meander is truly ordinary if we see with welcoming eyes and heart, and the Pacific Northwest coast is mind-boggling every time I stop to better absorb its wonders. There was a wealth of beauty and peace gathered over the days we were there. More pictures and thoughts are likely to be shared in posts to come as we suddenly changed our course (the best way to go) and headed north to unplanned places. It appears the muse–that mysterious, often capricious creative spirit which nudges and, at times, saves writers and others–loves to travel, too. To embrace the multi-faceted views, to enter a deeper immersion into this life. To seek out that light out amid the ruin and peril of our ailing and loved world. It is there, everywhere.

As we begin our drive from Portland, the countryside beguiles us…and we start to simply breathe.

As we begin to approach the Pacific Ocean, we often like to stop at beautiful Wheeler, a village on the north coast overlooking Nehalem Bay. There is excellent fishing and crabbing here; many enjoy kayaking and canoeing.

We arrive in Cannon Beach late in the afternoon. Before entering the town the Pacific Ocean winks and sparkles, mesmerizing us as if this is its job. The town is a favorite weekenders’ and summer vacationers’ spot. We prefer visiting coastal areas during low season (fall and winter stir up great stormy seas) rather than high season. This time we go mid-week. So it is emptier this day, quieter, and this lends a nostalgic and peaceful atmosphere.

Cannon Beach rightly touts a spectacular beach, with famous basaltic rock formations (made of lava flows from Columbia Plateau over 17 million years ago), the primary one at this beach being Haystack Rock, with wonderful tide pools. Other curious rock formations line up here and there like sentinels guarding the sandy stretches. Haystack Rock is part of Oregon Islands Wildlife Refuge, thankfully. Even the lovely Tufted Puffins favor this site as well as Pelagic Cormorants and other seabirds.

To start: breathtaking expanse of the Pacific. And you will see our quaint, tidy lodge with tables and chairs in front. The pond is pooled beyond a waterfall feature that was lovely to go to sleep to along with ocean songs. The red barn with white fencing for horses are by the Ecola River as we walk into town; horseback riding is popular on the beach.

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As evening falls upon us, the ocean is an even more seductive entity with rollicking waves, its roaring voice rising amid tidal forces. Potent sea light which reflects for miles on shifting water and illumines the long horizon alters everything moment by moment. It creates its spell, liming the cresting waves, undulating across sand, casting its radiance on all, even through free-form clouds. The salt-tinged wind (more than a bit chilly and strong) lifts me from myself, starts to set me free.

This is why we come to the coastal forests and waters: to be renewed. Follow a slow moving sun with me as it vanishes behind the seeming rim of earth.

Look for a distant Haystack Rock and misty Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (decommissioned in 1957, now privately owned and used as a columbarium), as well as the ever present Western Gulls who reign over the beaches. The last shot is taken as we walk back across an inlet and to our rental suite.

Tomorrow, we know, there awaits much more and it will be all we hope to find–even with spotty rain forecast. I’ll just follow the light I can find.

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Friday’s Passing Fancies: Classic Car Fever


Lots can happen during one of our favorite beach getaways in Yachats, Oregon besides walking miles of salt water-saturated sand and looking for whale spouts: mountainous hikes, tide pool explorations, ogling art at a fine group of small galleries, sipping a cup at the aromatic, conversation-humming coffee shop with its mixture of townies and tourists, sharing tales and easy silence around a crackling beach bonfire or catching a Celtic music festival.

And then there are car shows, which I always stop and see. My father loved to tinker cars, especially older or small foreign ones. I hung around him whenever I could in the driveway as he repaired various things under the hoods. He’d don his greasy coveralls, get out his toolbox ad concentrate, while twisting, banging, yanking, connecting. I’d run for more tools or polish things up. I didn’t learn all that much about the intricacies of their engines, unfortunately. It was more about the beauty of the machine, from rims to innards to worn or refurbished interiors–and hanging out with my busy father.

There was a classic car show going on at the edge of the village. It was smaller, maybe less high end than some I’ve checked out. But it still showed off a variety of finely-tuned  and polished beauties.

Nothing like wandering on a sunny afternoon a few yards from rolling ocean waves, studying gleaming paint and chrome. These cars were loved by folks enough to pour money and heart and time  into so it would be a proud specimen, a brash or elegant nod to the past of the USA’s automobile history. What a thrill to see what fruits the art and science of restoration can bear!

I saw a 1966 Mustang that brought back memories of cruising along the streets in my hometown with a guy I sure did like. But the one of my youth was turquoise and somehow the one at the beach did not hold a candle to it, so it didn’t make the cut here.

You’ll notice there was a lotus pond on the grounds of the motel where it was held. I’ll save those shots for another time but will throw in a picture of the Pacific Ocean. I did have a bit of trouble getting the photos I really wanted, as people milled about and vehicles were parked so close to each other.

What a scrumptious week-end! Enjoy a few of the moments!

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Friday’s Passing Fancies: Hail to a Morning Glory

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Before the rain began. (All photos, Cynthia Guenther Richardson)

I awakened today to a wondrous surprise! For weeks the meandering, dainty vine elongated and wove itself among the slats on our second story city balcony. I watered it, occasionally directed the petite stem through more slats and checked for tight flower buds. Nothing but more viny growth. It seemed a bit anemic but tenacious. I felt it might be siphoning off energy from the waiting blossoms but I am not a a knowledgeable gardener…so just encouraged it with attention, words of appreciation. But, still, I was disheartened. They’re such gracious blooms. I wanted them to creep along and brighten the railing with  their trumpeting beauty.

I recalled morning glories we grew when the 5 children were all six and a half years or under. We had strung a dozen strings at the edge of a wide porch, roof edge to open porch floor edge, and planted many seeds with the kids. And before all that long, the vines climbed and the flowers seemed not far behind. A riot of morning glories! Every time we stepped out on that porch we felt so cheered and the children loved watching them do what vines and flowers did, unwinding and climbing, opening to delicious light, shyly boasting of their own beauty. The children felt proud of their part in it.

And then, this morning I stepped out on the balcony  with tea in hand to check potted flowers and plants–behold! A blossom, one tender, radiant blue blossom! I can’t even explain how ridiculously pleased this made me. It might have been due to feeling the twinges of a melancholy that snags me every once in awhile. The weight of the world, the passing of time, a sadness not really given to naming as much as acknowledging as it comes and goes. sadness. Just what I needed–a graceful morning glory. I have admired it off and on the entire day.

You’ll note that photographing wasn’t easy to accomplish. I offer the first one to indicate where I stood while bending over and around. I had to lean over the somewhat rickety balcony to get any shots, be agreeable about a sudden downpour (it felt gentle and good) and I dropped one camera–not the best of my two and not my phone, but still. I’d been talking to my daughter in N. Carolina (where Hurricane Hermine is dumping a ton of water) but ran outside to retrieve it from wet dirt and gravel. Not good to multitask more with two devices already in hand.

But to the point: morning glory, show yourself! If it was a little battered from the rain, I think it will be okay. It still is lovely to me. I suspect there may be more bursting forth.

And a poem aloft on damp winds was caught in the net of my mind–it is below, offered in closing.

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Glory This Morning

I am offered this lesson,
a prescient tale, a warning.
Frail beauty breaks forth
from mysterious strength.
From a small blooming hope grows.
A salve for eyes of sorrow
is seeing with clear heart.

It is another brief report
from earth and sky,
a vivid reminder:
patience and joy require
a turning from self,
abandonment of despair,
willingness to love,
then release.


Friday’s Quick Pick: Berry Gorging Time

One of my favorite trips in summer was visiting Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada as well as surrounding areas. Glorious Rocky Mountain vistas, turquoise lakes, pristine wilderness stretching for miles and miles. One of the most remarkable experiences we had was watching at least a dozen bears gorging on great offerings of just-ripened berries alongside the road. Cars lined up right by them. Berries were growing along the roads and were easy pickings. People cautiously snapped pictures of these majestic, powerful creatures. Perhaps one of two ventured out of their vehicles.

Their very presence was enchanting and awe-inspiring; it gave me chills to be in their presence. And intimidating, as some feasted only feet away, and all were close enough to charge. They move rapidly. But the bumper crop of berries kept them fully engaged. Since there was such an abundance, we heard they were out roaming, eating their fill everywhere and thus, there were trails and areas we could not walk or hike, at the least warned with orange ties to trees and signs.

I think this cub is a grizzly bear. There is a black bear in the second to last frame but there were other sorts of bears in the area taking advantage of the berry abundance. (Let me know for certain if you are a bear expert!)

I have so many beautiful shots–how could they not be with such landscapes?–of that journey, more may show up here from time to time. Enjoy!

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