We scuffed through the narrow perimeter of dunes. The powdery sand gave way with each step. Tall grasses glowed in the morning light. Once upon the beach, the going eased. An ebbing tide had packed the sand. It stretched for miles, north and south. Ahead, the ocean schussed with a succession of breaking waves that extended a thousand yards from shore.
I tottered along like a penguin in masquerade, warm in the windless air. My wife and I, her sister and brother-in-law, marveled at the ocean’s banal offerings: empty mussel shells, blobs of dead jellyfish, and ropey, bulbous lengths of kelp. The four of us had joined together for a brief vacation from being retired. We’d rebelled and broke free from house bound pandemic vigilance. There we were, aging children of the Covidopolypse, in awe of the ordinary.
We shared a house in Waldport, OR. Each morning, prior to seeking out roadside attractions, we walked the flat expanse of Wakonda Beach. Afterwards, we day hiked and beach combed from Newport to Yachats to Florence.
Much of the central Oregon coast is rugged. Lighthouses protected seafarers in years gone by. Many are preserved. They dot the cliffs from Pelican Bay in the south to Tillamook Rock up north. In particular, we stopped at Yaquina Light at Cape Foulweather and the promontory at Heceta Head.
Between visits to these historic spots, we dined at local fishhouses. Sea scallops and dungeness crab, fresh warm baked sourdough breads, and micro-brews to wash it down. A quick and easy, trouble free excursion that portended a possibility of normal agendas. After three days we returned to our respective homes.
Inland, December in northern Oregon is a cool capricious month. The days are short and damp. The Columbia River swells with rain. Scoters in their waterproof tuxedos feed on whatever the rising current disrupts. One day a flock of several hundred dip and dive and roil the water’s surface as they feast on the river’s secrets. The next, they are gone. Under a flat grey sky, the water is silent on its languid journey to the ocean.
Leaves are off the trees, sodden with fall showers, the air weighted with humidity. Towhees scratch and shuffle the debris in search of seeds, worms, and bugs. I hang suet cages in the bare branches of the lilacs. The yardbirds take turns pecking at the fatty foodstuffs. A solitary nuthatch prefers to dine upside down. A red headed woodpecker politely waits for an opening.
And the year, as peculiar as any other, trips and stumbles on its way to a holiday conclusion. Covid continues to discourage the wary. The Omicron variant is seeking hosts for its virus parties. Doubt floats like a cloud above our human frailty. Will it rain on the unvaccinated or drizzle indiscriminately on everyone?
Looking back on 2021, I recall an unexpected trip to California, a risky reunion or two, and more dispiriting evidence of climate change.
The magnitude of our peril strains belief. June’s Heat Dome delivered an ominous warning. Wildfires in California burned out of control for three months. The United Nation’s climate summit, COP 26, was, as Greta likes to say, “blah, blah, blah.”
Sigh … I think I need another vacation.
My cancer, Multiple Myeloma, continues its Groundhog Day behavior. Read all about it in The Drill.
The Song Bird’s Choir, a song for my friend Jeff.