So often I write about the lush forests I love to explore along Washington’s temperate coast, but the truth is we initially moved to this area to be near the ocean. Our house sits directly between Willapa bay to the east, and the Pacific ocean to the west, less than a mile from the beach as the crow flies. I saw the Pacific ocean for the first time as a young child – maybe age 7? We were on a family vacation from Wisconsin and visited the Oregon coastline along Cannon Beach. I remember the awe, the wild thrill and mystery of it all – the great sea stacks looming from the waves, the screaming gulls, the flocks of sand pipers running along the surf as the waves receded, seeing the mollusks and starfish clinging to the rocks at low tide, my ever adventurous dad wading out to bring a couple of them back to us so we could examine them close up. I remember standing ankle deep in excruciating cold water for family pictures and the endless treasure hunt for sea gifts that had washed up into the sand. I was hooked, and I spent a life time dreaming of living near the Pacific Ocean. At last, over 30 years later, that dream actually came true.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that now that I’ve lived here for many years, I find myself taking the ocean for granted. I do not walk the beach every day, as was my dream when I lived in hot, dry, treeless places, nor do I particularly enjoy the ever faithful rain here, which I swore would never bother me as I dreamed of coastal living.
There are days here…incredible days, when that old thrill comes back, when I feel like a kid again, when I can’t imagine a grander place to live. Most of this week has been a string of those days, full of beach exploration, mystery, fascination and surprise.
My husband and I have lived on the Long Beach Peninsula for 13 years now. In all those years, neither of us have ever seen whales. At last, this week, I got a glimpse of them at the mouth of the Columbia river. They were a bit far away for my camera, but I was able to watch them spout and see their backs roll out of the water from time to time. It was a thrill that made me feel like a kid again, yelling “Did you see that!? There it is!!”
Also this time of year the brown pelicans spend time along our shores. These great birds feast along the mouth of the Columbia river, part of great hoards of birds feeding on anchovy and other small fish. Groups of pelicans are often seen flying low above the waves like squadrons of fighter pilots in perfect formation and dive from high in the air, plunging to submerge into the water to feed. It is a thrill to watch, a challenge to capture, and a gratitude to experience.
Sea lions are another local attraction that never disappoint in entertainment value and I spent time this week watching them. Like a couch full of irritable basset hounds (My husband and I had the great fortune of living with and loving a house full of bassets for more than half our marriage), they lounge on docks, push and bellow, have noisy showy squabbles, then sleep with their heads resting on each other.
This week I explored secret coves, had thrilling new experiences, found artistry in wind swept trees and tracks in the sand, watched the sun set over the beach. I renewed my love affair with the ocean and my gratitude for this amazing, adventurous life I live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet!
Mossy whispers: Delight awaits, even in the familiar. It is endlessly possible to renew the extraordinary within the ordinary. The child in you is waiting in excitement to fly out the door!