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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Friday’s Quick Pick: Poem/Day 2, A Design of Vast Goodness

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All photographs by Cynthia Guenther Richardson May 2017

From here I can see only possibilities of
eternal renewal that shatter all we insist
seems true: the final ruination of beauty,
brutish betrayals that extinguish love,
relentless human industry absconding
with more than can ever be given back.
But we are the life we seek; we can awaken.

There is a design moving deep within
and without: I open to sea’s lush rolling waltz,
ingenuity of snails, wild birds chorusing whether
hunted or hunting, bold spirit wind riding waves.
They have as little thought of our
foolishness as do we of their brilliance.
We perseverate, escape; they be and do.

Then come children, small prisms reflecting
all light that air and water molecules offer.
They are singular in perfection as they
chase sun’s glitter and happiness across sand.
But together they secure whole worlds
with great wide hearts, souls streaming.
Perhaps this world, this one that fights

and bleeds even as it yearns to heal
but, too, those faraway shores we left
to be born in flesh, home where every
being knows its worth, its sacred place,
our praise-making souls burnished and vast
and each of us could not, cannot help

but shine and shine
as magnetic brightness skimming water
as moon, sun, starlight on wings aloft
as clarion of triumph in all children’s laughter.

Remember
then be the design
you already are and want to love

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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 Quick Pick: Poem/Tulip Times

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(For my two sisters, here and gone)

It’s April so the flowers are talking to me
about the perfection of love and laughter, and
how what appears empty is in fact brimming,
the overripe clouds split by soft tearing
so that radiance gilds every upturned face.

Tulips bob in breezes, daffodils are soon passe.
Rows and rows are united in bright tonal harmony;
earthy secrets arise in potent, pure scents.
Country explodes after winter’s mad rains;
every color competes, unique, extreme in beauty.

I am thinking they are here for me today though
they bravely bloom for even those who care little.
I cup a cherry red tulip, recall a spring we three
strolled through acres ablaze, our talk like soft skeins
knitting family stories and us together with fine stitches.

Who can know that such a wealth of happiness
cannot be hoarded, only found in small gifted moments?
We had planned on more visits, farther travels
and vast outpourings of words, an abundance of flowers.
But if time has unraveled, leaving two of us behind,
our shared sister heart will not. It is made human but holy.

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Friday Quick Pick: Rainy Rumination

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The rain is generous here,
manifesting its chameleon ways.
It beguiles and rages,
tap dances and waltzes,
arrays the city’s narrow streets
in a rainbow of taupe, bisque, slate;
calls cyclists and walkers
to come nest in cubbyholes
with a strong coffee or beer
and ponder from windows the
voluptuous clouds, their churlish rebuke.

Rainfall does not bother to cease
for rewards of joy or taxing sorrow,
will not flee farther eastward
to high desert, rocky buttes.
It commands, feeds bloated earth
and rattles the awnings
and rushes headlong into
mountains and rivers as if
it must bury every crevasse
and slick down every abutment.

And, too, drench our souls,
which pine for small luxury–to step
onto pathways with no slimy mud,
no gutter a shocking flood, to avoid
more wreckage of yet another
month that may miraculously
reveal fine blue horizons,
emergent from that muck and drear.

So as the brazen clouds regroup,
restrain deluge and drizzle,
we enter gardens long at rest,
see anew the rewards of wetness,
how it does right by its duty:
sumptuous blossoms, chittering birds,
the trafficked pond, waterfalls’ chorus,
our hearts hitched up again
as senses feast on seasons
defended, recreated by copious rains.

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