The Mists of Oregon

Cape Lookout
My father and I stayed close to where the ocean had wet the sand enough to make for easy walking. The ground was soft, but solid. Low tide pulled the sand out to sea as we made our way down the beach at Cape Lookout.

At one point he turned to me, “you want to keep walking?”

I’d stopped next to a small depression filled with imperfectly arranged stones, half a shattered sand dollar, and a small puddle of water too fearful to run out with the tide.

“Yes,” I replied, looking up from the stones at my feet. “I want to see what’s down there.”

I pointed south. Mossy crags curved into the sea at the other end of the beach. Something glittered on the walls there and I wanted to see it.

Read the rest (and see all the pictures) on Medium.

Perspective

One of the beaches is called Cape Lookout but I’m not sure what to look out for. All I see is ocean. Some would say endless in its vastness.

IMG_6924The ocean is not endless. Thousands of miles west of here are the Kuril Islands. Russia and Japan, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan. Travel further west and there is all of Europe and then the Atlantic. Another three thousand miles of America and I see myself. There I stand on the beach looking at my own back.

I am looking into tomorrow.

Disputed and distant, the world seems very far away when your toes are digging into warm sand.

The Washington-Oregon coast is marked by monoliths, massive rocks jutting up from the sea, the inexplicably tough remnants of an older, more distant coast. Gravestones for dead titans.

The signs of life here are more like memories. Scarred, broken shells whisper of crashing waves; the carcasses of sand dollars tell tales of searing sunshine, brittle old age, and the strong hands of cruel children. Mussels, stood on end and pushed into the pulverized remains of a millennia of erosion, serve as a reminder that being monolithic has nothing to do with size.

Standing on a beach gives you perspective.

Beside the ocean, you are minuscule. Atop the sand, a giant.

IMG_6908

A Graveyard in Tillamook

IMG_6792A few miles down the 101 from the famous Tillamook Cheese factory, a massive hangar marks the countryside. AIR MUSEUM its roof proclaims. Constructed in 1943 at Naval Air Station Tillamook Hangar B housed eight K-class blimps, which were used for anti-submarine patrols in the north Pacific. The air station was decommissioned in 1948 and Hangar B’s twin, unimaginatively named Hangar A,  burned down in the 1990s.

IMG_6790Beside the air station, a weed covered pair of train tracks cross the field. Defunct now, a gathering of engines and cars sit waiting among the warehouses. It is a graveyard of sorts. Rust twists the green paint on one of the engines and cobwebs fill the windows of another.

As we explore the area my father chatters about the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad.

The Port acquired the Naval Air Station in the years after the war, including 5.5 miles of rail connecting to the Southern Pacific in Tillamook. In 1990, when Southern Pacific abandoned the line from Tillamook north around and over the mountains the Port bought it. Operating six days a week, the railroad carried lumber and grain from the coast to the outskirts of Portland.

IMG_6810Flood waters from a 2007 storm ended the railroad’s commercial activities and repair costs upward of $55 million have put resumption of full business out of conceivable reach.

The future of Hangar B, one of the largest wooden structures on the world, is also in question. The Air Museum’s lease on the hangar expires in 2016 and there are no plans to renew. Hangar B needs over $15 million in repairs. The Port cannot afford it.

IMG_6794Glorious as the Hangar is, Tillamook is a long way from marketable.

* * *

There is no one to yell at me as I climb into the rusty steam engine. My father frowns and looks over his glasses; he says Katie in that fatherly warning tone but he doesn’t stop me.

The inside of the engine is not as rusted as the outside, it’s coated in black paint or soot or both. Cobwebs stretch between the mechanics. My pictures of the interior are terrible, dark and blurred.

The engine doesn’t want to be remembered like this. What thing of glory wants to be seen in such a state?

Primordial Green

IMG_6503Hot, sweaty, and buzzing; some summer forests offer little sanctuary or solitude. I melt and cringe under the canopy while bugs land in my eyes and nibble on my ankles. The air burns. The water suspended in the air clogs my lungs and presses down on my shoulders. There is no calm.

Other forests, like the rainforests of the Columbia River Gorge, envelope me in the embrace of gem shadows and cool shade. The air doesn’t sizzle, it simmers. Water doesn’t hang unnaturally in the air, it tumbles down mossy walls. There, I can breathe.

I am always quiet in such forests. I walk purposefully, aware that the crack of every twig under my feet interrupts the deep woods symphony. As the sun moves overhead, the glittering emerald landscape shifts. Shadows bask in sunlight, filtered through the trees. I step lightly, careful not to mar the path too heavily with my passing.

IMG_6589Moss, vibrant even in the shade, clings to the stonework elevating the path as it winds toward the waterfall. Nearby a stream bubbles and laughs, tittering down toward the river.

Suddenly the forest is not quiet. A great roaring rises up as the path bends. The giggling of the stream is subsumed by the waterfall crashing down the gorge wall.

And there, surrounded by the primordial green and deafened by the rumble of the falls, I know a deep calmness. It is the kind of serenity reserved for starry nights in empty fields, for deep pools and slow rivers, for the silence between old friends and the breathless beauty of a pleasant afternoon.