I've come full circle--last Monday I wrote about the sea of stars, and this Monday it's the literal sea. My little sister* and I went to the beach on Saturday for the day, and though we'd been planning it for like a week, no one actually thought either of us could make it happen so it was a bit of an achievement. I'm not 100% sure why we had so many doubters, although it could be because Sam and I bring out the most dysfunctional parts of each other and we tend to live as if everything is a bit from SNL. You would be surprised how disruptive and not conducive that is to reality, despite what TV might make you think. But that’s neither here nor there—and really, we only had one major detour.
The detour was a misguided attempt to go on a hike to Cape Falcon, although I found after delving deep into the coastal forest along a road that took us to what was surely a cult’s commune that it’s important to specify in Google maps that you’re trying to find a trail head and not drive to the cape itself. So after barreling down a gravel road in Grocery Getter and rapidly discovering that we had made a grievous error, we got back on the highway, hearts racing, and went to Hug Point. I think all the way around we made a better choice—Cape Falcon is the kind of geographic location you would find in a David Baldacci novel, and Hug Point is something straight out of a children’s book. Think about that.
I’ve heard rumors that the Oregon coast is considered exceptionally beautiful, but I can only assume that the people who think that are all redheads. If you’re looking for a “beach”, where you go and frolic in the waves, maybe got tossed by a sneaker and potentially dragged out to sea in a true pantomime of fun, and where you can lay out a towel and sleep in the sun for six hours, the coast is not it. But you can do what Sam and I did, which is wear sweatshirts and experience constant runny noses while climbing rocks that you can get up but not back down. We also found a dead bird in a sea cave, so that was cool/ominous. I also became particularly obsessed with finding “the old road” that someone wrote about on the internet—or maybe I just saw a picture of it and decided it was surely a sign of humanity’s mark on nature, now wiped out. We initially headed in the complete opposite direction, naturally, of the way it was, so by the time we actually found it, the old road had evolved to something of mythical proportions, which happens when you say, where’s the old road?, sixty times in an hour. There was also a waterfall that, for as much as I hyped it, should’ve been taller than Multnomah. When we stumbled upon it we climbed to the top of it, which sounds impressive but was really more of a scramble up a slight incline than a climb, and then walked up the creek for a ways, telling each other eagerly every few minutes that we were probably the first humans to ever see this land. We had to scare some kids off to make that plausible, but it was worth it.
When we finally did get to the old road, it was very obviously not an old road, and if it was, it was the worst placed road in all of history, as it curved alongside a sheer cliff and was definitely covered when the tide came in. But we went ahead and cut our feet on the barnacles walking along it anyway and enjoyed ourselves immensely.
My sister is funny, in a very special way, because she can be funny and not hurt other people. It’s a rare trait. Too often humor is biting and sharp, caustic, deprecating, insecure and unforgiving, which I sort of hate to put out there, because that’s generally how my sense of humor errs. But for Sam, all the world is an improv stage, and sometimes we like to bounce stuff off each other to see how far it will go. I’m not her best straight man, but I do have a pretty good imagination and a nose for characters, so it can get a little rambunctious. It’s difficult to explain, because it happens so organically and can’t be captured very well outside of the moment. But we have been known to become truckers, old men toasting, blondes, cab drivers, mafia dons, characters from the Lord of the Rings, English, the list goes on and on. Also our comments and actions can only be described as absurd. So there’s that.
We walked along Cannon Beach proper after we ate lunch in a kind of renovated attic dining room that was very cozy and very efficient, which was ideal as neither of us are very good at feeding ourselves, so we ate at light speed and got the hell out of there. Then we bought gummy candy and I dropped the bag on the floor and Sam said, “you ruined Christmas!” just a little too loud. But it was funny. When we were on the beach, Sam told me she told Grandma she would go to the beach for her, and there we were, so we said, what’s up Sea Granny, and I told her what our older cousins told me, about how she got that nickname. Apparently, this was a long time ago, maybe 25 years ago, Grandma wrapped sea kelp she found on the beach around her neck like a scarf and modeled it for everyone, then kept meandering down the shore like it was the most natural thing in the world. Meanwhile, it was reported that my Dad was running into the ocean, rolling in the sand and then running back out to the ocean. In the words of Michelle, your dad was a wild man. So we had a good laugh, and then had a quiet moment, and then we spotted a wedding so we watched that for awhile and talked about how funny/awful it would be if some embittered passer-by started yelling, “it’ll never last!” Perils of a public wedding venue, you know.
When we were leaving I took a long last look around, because really, I love the coast. It’s no tropical isle, but it is a magnificent, awe-inspiring part of the world. We stood, close to being alone, on the sand at Hug Point, backed by swirling, towering cliffs, looking out at that shimmeringly endless ocean and said well this, all this, this is good. When you look down the beach and see a shoreline shrouded in mist, and look out to the water and see all the colors of grey and silver, and you look behind you at dense trees rising away from the beach, and you close your eyes and feel salt sting your face and sand shifting underfoot, and hear the shoooosh crash shooooosh crash of the waves, and know that for as long as there’s been a moon in the sky the water has been moving, there is a vast timeliness that one could easily get lost in. A power bigger than you, right there, unchanging and uncaring, one deep breath from being swept away, it’s a beautifully scary thing. It’s almost uncomfortable, but not quite, and someday I think I’d like to live by a beach. Let’s go, I say to Sam, and we do.
*Sam is perpetually about 13 in my imagination. She is also small of stature, so this moniker is appropriate in more ways than one. This is Sam at the beach.