Windiness swept into the coast this week, cooling down even days that might have been hot this week. I’ve always had a fondness for wind, but I think I appreciated it a lot more in the South, because it wasn’t constant. In the summer, you can go a month without much wind to speak of, so when wind returns, you take note. Living next to the ocean, wind is ever present–it’s just a matter of how hard it blows. I still love this wind, but I have to remind myself to appreciate it. This week, each time I went to the beach, I knew I would want at least long sleeves, so I was a little more aware of wind than normal.
The wind shapes, contorts things, shifts. It reminds me that everything is moving and changing, even the air we breathe. When it presses a little harder on me, I tend to pay more attention to the movement. One day, Allyson and I took Digby for a walk to the beach. After stepping out several yards, we recognized that the wind would make beach walking miserable for anything a foot tall. So, to keep a barrage of sand out of Digby’s eyes and nose, we turned back. Retracing our steps, we saw that our footprints were almost already filled back in by the windblown sand.
Time fills in holes pretty quickly. You can turn your back on something, get occupied with some other task and totally forget what’s going on all around you. We need some time to just see what the wind and sun, the trees and water are doing around us. We need some time to witness that there is life surrounding us from all angles. Just sensing this for a time without the distractions, the chores, the goals can give us the energy to do all those things much better later on. They reorient us.
Our retreat group was highly self-sufficient this week and didn’t need our summer staff to lead any activities, so we gave them several days of work projects, several days off work, and one day for a field trip to Saddle Mountain State Natural Area. This hike is one, we were scouting for a Senior High Adventure camp coming up in a few weeks. The Resource Staff seemed like perfect guinea pigs, and they were more than willing to submit to testing.
I knew from the beginning that Oregon would be this outdoor paradise, where I’d have so much natural beauty within a short drive, but even with that always in the back of my mind, this place continues to surprise me. It was a light week for the staff, so we spent the entire day, hiking this giant, rounded rock face that gave us views for hundreds of miles. I need days like this to continue to function. Days when I step out of the car and into wilderness and spend my time in something a bit wilder. The hike was a little over 5 miles total, and though it was steep at times, we took it really slow, stopping to enjoy these fantastic views of the mountains across from us, of rock formations that made me wish I had taken geology, and to sit near the edge of cliffs taking in the warm air, trying to process what we were seeing. I remember Rikki saying to Hope and I, “I’ve seen so much stuff I wouldn’t have noticed, walking with you guys.” I love this time spent on hikes, this time to discover things and point them out to someone else who agrees they are indeed cool.
I had the idea of Sabbath in my head a lot this week, because we were afforded some time off. This was a serious rule in culture for a long time, but I think most people hardly give it any thought around here. Even for the religious, it is often just the day we go to church. I’ve grown to believe that there is much more to it than that. It is a stopping, a ceasing of the normal. It’s a time to listen, a time to observe. A time to receive, not to get. It’s difficult to train yourself to be able to do this. We train our bodies to go, to accomplish, not to waste time. Even when we can stop, our bodies have forgotten how. It took me a few days before I felt like I was slowing down enough just to take the day in and enjoy it for what it was in its moment. To not be looking ahead to what was next before I even took on what was now.
One of those free days, Allyson, Hope, and I went to Astoria, one of my favorite cities in Oregon so far. Last time I was in Astoria, I saw (and heard) hundreds of sea lions, and I said we would surely encounter them if we went. We had lunch at Josephson’s Smokehouse, a placed known for its smoked salmon and lots of other seafood that is shipped around the world. We went on to walk the pier and nearby streets of this interesting little fishing town that gives so many vibes at once. It’s certainly an old fishing city, it’s where most of the Goonies was shot, it even sometimes reminds me a little of San Francisco’s more working class little brother.
As the day ended, though, we had still not seen any sea lions. As I settled up our check at the Astoria Brewing Co., I asked if there were any sea lions in Astoria right now. The bartender told me the male sea lions who didn’t get a mate are the only ones in right now. She affectionately called them “the losers.” She directed me to a pier behind Safeway, so we drove out there and began looking for them. Making our way to the water, we found blackberry bushes, with sweet tasty berries. But when we got to the water, we didn’t see any. We were walking back to the sidewalk when we heard that unmistakable raspy, crackly voiced bark. Just to the east was a dock full of sea loins jockeying for the best dock spots.
In hectic times like this summer has been, it’s tough sometimes to turn your bodies switches off. Even our down time seems like it should be full of agendas and lists of how to have fun and accomplish the most entertainment in the time we have for it. Once the camp resource staff and I made it to the top of Saddle Mountain, we spent time just sitting there, looking out over large swaths of this beautiful place. We could see the ocean on one side. There was Mount Rainier, St. Helens, Mount Hood. We could see the Nehalem Bay just north of home. There was Washington, there was the Ocean, there was Portland. It was something you didn’t really know what to do with. You just sat there, trusting you were in good hands, trusting it knew better than you.