•September 20, 2010 • 1 Comment

the early blue of dawn…

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My eyes tell me I’m somewhere else…

•June 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

June 9, 2010

The woods led us onto the beach.  From here, we would walk about 12 miles of just flat beach.  I don’t think I’ve ever walked along the shore of any body of water for that long.  For most of the time, it was just me and my dad.  We were alone in this complex yet simple set of ecosystems converging together at one place.  The pacific ocean, the expanses of which stretch over a thousand times our limited vision of the horizon, to the far reaches of Asia, hugs the shores to our right with its constant and unrelenting crashing of waves.  On our left are tall, thick and lush green trees rising up and down along the edges of the mountains in which they are rooted.  In between the trees and ocean, we walk on mounds and mounds of dark brown sand, wet and shimmering and reflecting an overcast sky with its hidden yellow sun.  All the elements of this landscape are huge, overwhelming, colorful, and loud.  And somehow, we, human beings with our opposable thumbs and big heads walk this earth step by step.

June 11, 2010

I’ve never walked this much in my life.  Yesterday, we walked about 20 miles of mostly flat beach.  What goes on in our minds when we’re doing all this walking?  I’m not sure about my dad.  I sometimes half seriously believe that all that is going on in his mind is a goal and thoughts of ways to execute that goal.  Even if it’s just walking, he’ll be thinking, for example:

Okay, you see that rock 100 feet away?  Walk to it.  Walk to it completely.  Do it perfectly if you can.  Nothing else matters right now. 

Rock.  Walk. 

Granted, he has been a father and husband for 30 years and is probably habituated to feel the need to make sure everything is in place, everything is taken care of—to be responsible.  Perhaps a kind of point and shoot, plan and execute mentality has settled in. 

As for me, my mind pretty much wanders directionless as it normally does even when I’m not walking 450 miles along the beautiful coast of Oregon.  What is different of course, is what I see.  Today the tide was so low and the beach so wide that with just a slight effort of imagination, it was like we were walking along the deserts of Saudi Arabia.  A colder Saudi Arabia.  I’ve never been to Saudi Arabia.

I see pieces of seashells, both broken and whole, shoveled in a thousand places in the sand.  They are mostly white but sometimes green, red, or yellow and I think it’s litter.  Twice I’ve seen washed out sea lions lying on the beach as dry as death, covered in sand and cooked from the sun.  One was still barely alive.  It arched its head up and down as if to move its body along back into survival, but its body is too fat and heavy to go anywhere without floating in water.  I felt bad for it and kept walking. 

We also saw a huge isolated oak trunk standing about 10 feet in the middle of the beach.  I didn’t notice what it was, even two feet behind it, until my dad pointed it out.  I guess I’m not accustomed to seeing dead oak trees standing alone on the beach.

Another thing I’m not accustomed to seeing on the beach are half naked girls.  I saw one today and good thing I wasn’t with my dad.  An awkward moment happily escaped.  She was climbing the wall of a cliff with her back against the ocean and I couldn’t help but notice, from the angle of where I was in relation to her, that she might possibly be without a top piece.  She was far enough that I couldn’t exactly tell.  I could make out the well defined lines of a muscular pair of legs and assumed that she must be wearing a kind of skin colored thin top that camouflages itself.  But when I turned around to head back to our campgrounds, I saw her picking up her shirt and walking my way.  Well, she ended up not putting her shirt on and unleashed before my eyes a medium to large set of boobs.

Mile after mile we walked, never feeling the building impact in our legs and feet until we’ve stopped for a break and suddenly feel like hell.  We continue on, the pain goes away but continues to build only to be felt with a stronger force when we stop again.  Last night, in my sleeping bag, after all that walking, my feet felt like a rusty old, stiff antique.  I could crack and pop it in a hundred different points.  My feet were pulsating.  I didn’t feel sick or anything serious; just complete, wholly satisfying, deep sleep inducing exhaustion.

Simple People!

•June 9, 2010 • 3 Comments
June 7, 2010

Two days in a row now we’ve crossed coastal bays on small boats motored by guys working at small stores on the other side of each bay.  The first cross was from a city called Manzanita to Tillamook.  Manzanita seemed like a pretty upscale beach city.  It had several charming cafés and boutiques in town, a number of tourists walking about, and just a very clean and well kept feel. 

The other side was a bit of a contrast.  Over the distance of a ten minute boat ride,  I felt as if I had gone from The Country to, well, the country.  People dressed and spoke plainer.  Right off the boat, we ordered fresh oysters from a guy wearing overalls and a trucker’s hat.  The oysters were damn good and huge.  We asked the guy where we could throw away the shells.  He picked them up with his hands and threw them right into the bay.  “We’re simple people!” he said.

Damn big and good oysters. They don't look too big in this picture, but they were. At least the biggest I've ever had.

Seafood Shack in Tillamook, across the bay from Manzanita.

Dad standing outside store in Tilamook, on the other side of the bay from Manzanita.

 After the oysters, we walked south to a city called Girabaldi, apparently the oldest seaport on the West Coast and similarly to Tillamook, a contrast to Manzanita.  I kind of feel bad characterizing cities as “country” or as contrasts to upscale cities, but I’m partly taking these impressions from words spoken by the people there.  The guy who took us across a bay from Girabaldi to Ocean Bay Spit himself said, “when I first moved here I wondered to myself, ‘why in the hell would anyone live here.’  There seems to be nothing going on.”

My impressions were colored with an additional element of desolateness because it was raining in Girabaldi.  In fact, my dad and I had to walk two miles along beat-up-but-still-used train tracks in the rain.  The wooden tracks were uneven and slippery, adding extra pressure on our legs.  My dad was walking ahead of me for awhile.  He suddenly turned around and asked me, “David, do you think I am strong?”   I said, “Yea, dad, you’re pretty strong.”  He said, “I am.  This strength was what built the Myra House and Ecoterra.  Your ordinary person couldn’t have done that.  In fact, of all the things I am proud of in my life, it’s not being an architect or getting a PhD.  Anyone can do those things.  It’s building and creating Myra House and Ecoterra.  And also raising you and Lydia.  And keeping mom happy till this point.  So those four things I am most proud of in my life, not my licenses or degrees.”  I said, “You’ll probably have five things after walking 450 miles by foot.”  

Dad and guy who took us across a bay.

Me in the boat going for contemplative. The stick usually works for that. Not sure about the sunglasses.

So from Bay Ocean Spit, we walked 10+ miles to our campsite for the night called Cape Lookout State Park.  It’s right along the coast of Neetart’s Bay, apparently the cleanest bay on the West Coast since the rivers running into it are too small to be used for dumping wastes.  The water is the clearest of ocean water I’ve ever seen.   It makes me wonder about the quality of our ocean waters generally in the States and how amazing it must’ve been when all the world’s ocean waters were, if not more, just as clear and uncontaminated as Neetart’s.

Dad along the coast of Neetart's Bay. Me getting artsy with the camera.

 So now, I am in my sleeping bag, in my tent, listening to the sound of waves crashing on the coast of Neetart’s Bay in Northern Oregon while typing my memory and thoughts of the past few days away.  Through the zip up screen window of our tent, I can vaguely see the horizon outlined by a dark black line, and right above, the last shadows of the sunset, a fading dark mix of orange and red, and right above that, the light blue sky rising and filling up the night. 

Dad. 54. Living the Dream.

Me. 25. Still got work to do.

And you thought I was just walking!

Right into the thick of things.

•June 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

From Day 3, June 3 2010

After several more miles of walking through the woods, we came upon Cannon Beach, apparently the most beautiful beach in Oregon.  In order to get from one side of the beach to the side nearest to town, we had to wade across Ecola River.  It was about 100 feet to cross and the water was so frigid cold that after several steps, I started yelling all kinds of profanities and inexpressible cries of pain and ran back.  So we tried again, this time at the place where the river and ocean meets, hoping that the water would be warmer there.  It was.  But half of it was still cold as hell and while I was screaming my head off, my dad, with no expression on his face kept silent, lips tightly shut.  (The sensory receptors on his calfs down must be nonfunctional).   I’ve never had my feet in such cold water for that long.  The pain feels like a thousand tiny daggers piercing your flesh, the pain never numbing.

Dad and me wading across Ecola River

From Day 6

Last night was our first night pitching the tent and camping outside, at Cannon Beach.  Everything was going fine.  We could hear a small river trickling down below us.  We lighted our portable stove and mixed cheddar cheese rice with mashed potatoes.  Although the food was a bit salty, after hiking all day, it was nice to have something in our stomach.  We got into our sleeping bags.  Suddenly, it started raining.  Light at first, the rain fell stronger, repeatedly rapping against our tent.   We realized that our tent was not completely water proof when we noticed small puddles of water in the tent corners and the inside edges of our sleeping bags getting wet.   

By 2AM, neither of us could tolerate sleeping in a wet sleeping bag any longer and decided we should sleep in a one toilet, one sink public bathroom.  We left our tent, set down our thin mats and sleeping bags on the concrete floor of the bathroom and returned to sleep.  Although it was warmer and dryer here, this ground was the stiffest, flattest, and hardest I’ve ever slept on.  I felt like I was sleeping in a prison, though even in prisons there are mattresses.  Nonetheless, we slept well and had animating dreams.  My dad dreamt about Gomi at home with three colorful lions, interpreting the dream as a symbol for what was going on at home.  (Perhaps Gomi is my sister and the three colorful lions represent the three interns?)

The next morning we set off for Small Sands Beach.  It would take us 11 miles.  11 miles might not sound too bad but when you are carrying 30 extra pounds on your back and hiking up and down mountains with wet and muddy paths, it can be the most strenuous physical work.  I even hesitate to call it “exercise” since when exercising, you’re supposed to adjust your body whenever you feel a strain or strange discomfort in order to prevent any injuries.  But when you are competing with the sun’s falling in order to have enough light in the middle of the woods to get to your next destination, there is not much time to readjust every time there is a strain or discomfort.  You just keep walking. 

This particular 11 miles seemed like it would never end.  For awhile we just kept walking up the mountain and once we felt like we had crossed the apex and began walking down, the path would elevate again.  This constant up and down of the path and our expectations seemed like a brutal game played against us by nature in order to test our mental and physical perseverance. 

Yet there is an expansive joy in this kind of hard work.  Everything in our surroundings seemed to overflow.  The air is crisp, clean, and full of oxygen.  The countless spruce, douglas fir, and cedar trees create a harmonious and rich brown and green pattern of tall, lean, and great heights.  And about every couple of miles there is a clearing over a cliff of the great blue Pacific Ocean splattered with various strokes of stark white waves.   Not to mention, when we just can’t go any further, a short break of resting on some huge fallen trunk with a spoonfull of peanut butter in our mouths tastes and feels like, as a friend says, “drinking milk from the the teet of the primordial mother.”

Dad drying off his sweaty shirt.

Me walking through path.

A clearing from the 11 mile mountain hike to Small Sands Beach.

Walking on Arch Cape.

Crossing over a suspension bridge into the trail from a residential neighborhood.

Dad climbing over a tree blocking the path.

A stream running into Small Sands Beach.

 After six hours of walking, we finally arrived at Small Sands Beach, a small and secluded beach surrounded by mountainous forests on each side.  We washed off our muddy clothes in a cold river and laid them out along pebbly rocks under the sun.  We were fully exhausted, every part of our hips downwards aching as well as our shoulders and backs.  We ate more peanut butter and slices of bread and then walked towards a dry area of sand, laid down, and fell asleep.  I’m not sure if it was because we had been hiking all day, slept in a public bathroom overnight, or because the beach was so quiet and nice, but in that moment of laying down under the sun, listening to the crashing waves while dozing off, I felt as if I had entered paradise…or at least a nice reference for a future date spot.

post-college, freedom and anxiety

•February 16, 2010 • 1 Comment

Although I’ve graduated college nearly a year ago, the feeling of college as a thing of the past has recently just settled in.  How have I become aware of this?  The thing about school is that it basically structures your day.  Classes are at a certain time, papers have to be written, and tests taken, so you schedule around these imperatives.  In one sense we can say the structure of college carries you.  Well, this is how I know I’m not in school:  I have to carry myself.  I don’t mean that I’m completely on my own and have to survive.  I have my parents for that.  I just mean that I wake up and I don’t know what to do.  I know I should eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but besides that, my days are spent, hour after hour, wondering what I should be doing.

•December 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

“I don’t believe at all that it’s an immortal principle.  I believe it can perfectly be destroyed.  That’s what has happened to mine, which was a very good one to start with; and it’s you I have to thank for it.  You are very bad,” Madame Merle added, gravely. – The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James.

A Quote about Reading

•June 17, 2008 • 3 Comments

“The printed, bound and paid-for book was–still is, for the moment–more exacting, more demanding, of its producer and consumer both. It is the site of an encounter, in silence, of two minds, one following in the other’s steps but invited to imagine, to argue, to concur on a level of reflection beyond that of personal encounter, with all its merely social conventions, its merciful padding of blather and mutual forgiveness. Book readers and writers are approaching the condition of holdouts, surly hermits who refuse to come out and play in the electronic sunshine of the post-Gutenberg village.”

-John Updike