And so it is time for the muse to heed the call of the ocean. I will be taking a little sojourn to the Oregon Coast for eight wonderful days. If you click the picture above, it will take you to the Cannon Beach Webcam - where you can get a glimpse of the place that inspires me to no end.
I promise a veritable tsunami of writing upon my return.
Until then, I am reposting a couple of journal entries. One, having to do with Cannon Beach itself. The other, just a whimsical moment that still makes me smile when I think of it.
“You’ve asked me what the lobster is weaving there
with his golden feet?
I reply, the ocean knows this……”
- Pablo Neruda -
The storm winds were already bending the limbs of the trees as I drove the winding road up to the cliff’s edge. Just moments before, I had been standing in our oceanside suite watching the darkness take over the horizon. I grabbed my camera, forgot my jacket, and knew that I could capture some fantastic shots of the brooding ocean if I were fast enough.
The parking lot was empty when I reached the top. The wind swept up off the water in cold blasts, and I immediately regretted not having a coat. I held my camera close as I took to the trail, walking the familiar track against the hillside. I glanced over the rough hewn wooden fence, to the rocks and water far below. There was no sand visible as the waves lashed the bank. White foam streaked the water with deceivingly tranquil strands.
I rounded the hill and walked to the dead end of the trail. The wooden fence gave way to steel gridwork. There was fresh dirt where another part of the bank had slid away to the sea. I wondered how much more this storm would demand of the mountain I stood upon.
Lifting my gaze beyond the cliff’s edge, the Pacific was before me. The wide blue sea had grown dark with the gathering of clouds. I looked through the camera’s lens and focused in on the whisps of stark white fog spinning in contrast to the black horizon. It was mesmerizing… this dance of the elements. It seemed the battered evergreens were releasing their minions to ward the shoreline from the coming storm.
The wind held no comforting scent of woodsmoke from the chimneys down in the village. The only thing it carried was the bitter cold from distant parts of the deep water, where only the salt survives. It picked up in speed, and pushed me back a little. I should have obeyed the gentle warning then and there, but I didn’t.
I turned my attention to the sculpt of the shore curving back toward the coastal town, and was about to frame in my last shot when I heard another sound beneath the rush of wind. I lowered my camera and looked back out at the ocean. The wall of black was closer… much closer. I could measure the waves with just a glance, and watched them disappear into the clouds…. but I had never seen clouds so thick right on top of the water. And then it began…. an augmented hiss like the wind raking over millions of dry leaves. The back of my neck tingled as I watched in amazement, this wall coming…. visibly…..rolling toward me. The hiss grew deeper, gained strength, and suddenly I thought of the trains that rolled through the valley at night. No need to slow for cars when the towns are sleeping.
I started running. The trail, about four feet wide at best, suddenly seemed like a gymnast’s balancing beam….totally unforgiving. I was sprinting, aware of my heart with every single pounding stride. The train was right behind me… roaring with the promise that it would plow right over me if I were to falter in the slightest way. Gritting my teeth I came to the end of the trail and jumped down a small bank to the grass. I bolted into the nearest picnic shelter and pivoted to look out toward the park. I barely had time to swallow back the lump in my throat when the roar hammered down on me, and my view of the park was blinded by a blur of white. I steadied myself against the picnic table as I watched golf ball sized hail come thundering down, rolling into the edge of the shelter, and pummeling it’s roof. Adrenalin raced through my senses, pushing my heart into a flutter. The green grass was gone. In it’s place was a growing layer of ice, and I wanted to cover my ears. This was pure power! Nature slamming into the coast, and there I was…just a speck trembling beneath a tiny wooden roof.
And then, just as quick as the blink of a power outage, it was over. It seemed the last of the hail fell all at once, and the wild drumming ceased. The abrupt silence gave me a chill even worse than the roar. I hesitated to leave my shelter… and so I stood there, laughing a little too high pitched, not wanting to think of the consequences had I been caught against the bare hillside.
At last, I walked out under the bare sky. The hail crunched beneath my shoes, and as I looked up, I saw a swirl of mist and blue. I picked my way back up the slope to the trail, reaching out to steady myself against the fencing. There was nothing but clear sky out toward the horizon. The storm had rushed in, crashed against the coast, and raced over the tops of the trees to the mainland. I laughed through a few deep breaths, feeling my pulse finally start to slow down.
A faint rainbow arched from the south shore across to the northern cove.
Sometimes pictures can’t replace a thousand words.
I heard the sound of wind chimes today.
It was a peculiar thing to hear as the snow fell all around me. Normally, the chimes are taken down in autumn - and their silvery bells aren’t heard again until the first winds of spring.
I must have forgotten one….
…because as I was out beneath the bare limbed oak tree gathering kindling from the wood pile, the liquid tones filled the air as a swirl of icy wind rounded down through the canyon.
It stole my breath away.
It was such a delicate sound… watery. As if perhaps someone ran their fingers along the slim metal strands to bring the chimes to life. But when I glanced up at the porch where they were hanging, there was no one there….
I went on gathering the wood, until my arms were full and I struggled to open the door back into the house. My cat slinked around my ankles, and looked up at me with that silent ‘meow’ she gives me. It reminded me of a vague dream I had before waking this morning.
When at last the fire took to the logs and spiralled up toward the chimney, I closed the glass doors and stood in the glow a moment. I could hear the chimes again, and glanced over to see the snow slanting across the window. The wind was coming from the North.
Out in the orchard, there were the black dots of crows sitting on top of the tree props. They were hunkered against the storm, their wings held like a mysterious man’s cape to the rain. Why did they stay?
I fancied that they too were listening to the wind chimes… hypnotized by the sound. Called out from their warm nests in the evergreens, to sit in the iced winds and listen to the accidental melody. Maybe they were dazzled by the snow, too stunned to fly.
I lit my amber incense and the candles on the low darkwood book case. The flames cast soft shadows over the carved elephants from India who guard the Mark Twain collection. The scented smoke slipped past the watercolor painted in the 1800’s, making it seem like the small boat being guided out into the waters of Venice was gliding through mist.
I gazed at the old travel poster of the Sahara hanging on the wall… the bedouin man standing on a hill, watching the train pass through the sands at night. I imagined there was no snow outside, no crows braced against the storm. I inhaled the amber and imagined the wind chimes melding with the sound of drums. Cymbals on a dancer’s fingers. Silks fluttering in spiced winds.
I was suddenly transported onto that train, my fingers pressed against the glass as I peered out at the dune to see the light of the bedouin’s fire. The flames were high, the desert palms caught in the glow. Dancers swayed in the shadows, the golden threads woven through their skirts catching the light.
The sparks were rising high into the night sky, to be lost among the stars.
Before I knew it, I was standing out on the sand still warm from the long day of sunlight. I was running up the dunes, toward the sound of singing, the lure of drums…. the firelight flashing between the dancer’s bodies….
….the sound of wind chimes.
I blinked as the poster came back into focus. There was my bedouin man, draped in his robes, staring down at the train. I looked out the window… and the snow had stopped. The crows were gone….
…and I couldn’t stop smiling.
It was a joyous reunion.