This week we got some desperately needed rain, but still not the kind that seems to last for several drizzly weeks without a break. Most of the rain came at night and gave way to fairly sunny, warm days. A few days during the week, a marine layer blanketed the camp over the course of a morning or late afternoon. I love this aspect of living between the ocean and a range of mountains. You can watch what the air is doing. You see it move, because it is up against something else. If you want to measure something, you have to put it up next to something else.
This week was marking by a couple of significant happenings, the first of which was a visit from my sister, Tracye. Because she is a photographer by trade, I’ve been excited to see would do when she gets here with a camera. Oregon is so beautiful that I’m taking postcard quality pictures with my phone. In the hands of someone who actually knows about light and angles and shutter speeds, we might get a picture that transcends human expression. Beyond seeing this place with her camera, I was excited for Tracye to see it with her eyes. Despite us being separated by some sort of distance for some time now, I’ve felt a strong closeness, a comfort with my sister since we were teenagers that picks back up when we are together.
The other significant happening started with a lingering sore throat that developed into a light cough that developed into a congested, cloudy feeling head. This is the first time I’ve really been sick in Oregon, and it’s lasted much longer than I’m normally sick. It was never anything miserable or painful, it just knocked me down a few pegs. I had that feeling where you’re kind of outside of your body. It’s like, you’re there in the room, but you aren’t really offering very much. Or your mind is moving in slow motion, which means your body isn’t on the same rhythm as everyone else. Being sick makes being a good host sort of challenging. You don’t feel like moving. When you do feel like moving, it takes your body a ridiculous amount of time to get the signal. When it comes to conversation, you’re really doing work to answer questions in timely fashion that makes sense.
Still, there were a few days I was able to get out with Allyson and Tracye and let the Oregon Coast show off for us. I have been here for about 6 months, and I am still amazed by the beauty. We stopped off at the scenic overlook spots on Neahkahnie Mountain. In the big parking area where so many motorists impulsively pull over, because you can see for miles down the Pacific Coast, I discovered a small set of stone stairs on the outward side of some masonry and a small path. The three of us made our way down–Tracye with a camera in tow. As we emerged from some dense salal bushes, we found ourselves of a skinny cape that jutted out into the ocean several hundred feet above the water. On one end was huge rock outcroppings, on the other miles of beach sand. We could see a couple walked to the edge of a parallel cliff who looked like ants. We waved and they waved back. The wind was blowing strong enough that Tracye anchored her tripod, so her camera wasn’t knocked over. Allyson climbed to the top of a six foot rock at the edge of the cliff. Her hair blew all around. It looked like she felt so free. I wanted that too. I wanted to keep it for a while.
The slow down in my responsibilities following summer camp has allowed Allyson and I to slide into some new evening routines. After the sunset, we can build a fire in the fireplace or wrap up on the couch to watch TV. One night we saw a 12 inning game between the Cubs and Pirates. Allyson goes through the batting order, learning the names of all the new players this season while I rub her shoulders. This routine will become a new normal for us over the next few months. The Cubs look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. We will watch plenty more games over the next month. That is exciting, for sure, but as I think back on the picture that lingers is Allyson propped up against the back of the chair, my legs on either side of her, leaning her head on my knee as I scratch her head.
We took Tracye to Cannon Beach as the sun was setting. It’s a huge, iconic Oregon coast beach with a giant rock right where the tides wash called Haystack Rock. People who see our pics online regularly recognize it as part of the backdrop for The Goonies. It is one of my favorite places to see sunset. People stand all over the beach, watching the colors change. The seagulls roost on the huge rock, cawing, jockeying for position. You are drawn to the rock. You want to get closer and closer until you are where it towers right next to you and water washes in around you. Tracye sprang into photographic action, plotting spots to shoot and pointing out where to stand. I love to watch my sister go to this zone. She knows exactly what to do, and she’s good at it. I love to see people operate with certainty. It is a beautiful thing. She knew what she wanted to capture and how to capture it.
On the day we were supposed to take Tracye to PDX to fly back home, I woke up hacking and coughing, hazy struggling to get up and walk to the bathroom. Allyson told me I should stay home and sleep, that she would make the drive. I wanted to be well, I wanted to see my sister all the way to the plane. But, over the course of the night a lot of mucous had settled down in my lungs. I would spend most of the rest of that day propped up on pillows in bed. In the evening, I would get a text from Tracye telling me she had landed in Memphis. I told her how good it was to see her. It’s crazy to think that she woke up that day with us on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and now she was on the banks of the Mississippi a few thousand miles away. It took Lewis and Clark two years to make a trip that took her less than a day.
Later that week, I felt good enough to walk around camp to take pictures of low water levels on Smith Lake. I walked out onto the camp’s “Secret Dock.” I looked out over what is becoming a familiar scene of the green mountain looking over the lake. I made a little too much noise, and two raccoon scattered to the woods for safety. We both checked each other out–we were so close, distance-wise. One was soaked, because it had been under the dock, in lake water. It stood on a log watching to see what I would do next. I watched it, then felt like I was stressing them both out too much. I backed away and watched them return to their business. I would return to my business too. But good God, there’s something else inside me that wants to stay still and watch. To see these things against these wonderful back drops. To measure them and know them, to see just how big they are.