Legendary king of rivers moving to entwine with the great salt sea,
generous, brawny, demanding, enigmatic, indefatigable, crackling,
monstrous, mystical, ancient, unpredictable, transformative, spellbinding
anadromous miracle, water to water, life to life, power to power
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.
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.
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!
An imperturbable demeanor comes from perfect patience. Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace like a clock during a thunderstorm.—Robert Louis Stevenson