It was a wild week to be on the Oregon Coast. Our usual constant drizzle gave way to more powerful storm systems that remind you we are just little dots on this big, strong planet, and in the right moment, it can have its way with just about anything that gets in front of it.
Early in the week, I stepped out of the house on my way to work and noticed it was beginning to drizzle. I had not put on my rain jacket, but it wasn’t a downpour, so I decided to live on the wild side and push on to the office unprotected. No sooner than I had got out of my yard, the rain got stronger and stronger, and it did not let up. I sprinted to the closest awning, ending up under the porch of Bunch Lodge. The rain got stronger still, and I began to notice hail in this downpour. It started to coat the ground like an ice-storm. I had to just laugh at my situation. I was either stuck under a porch watching hail accumulate or I would have to sprint to work and make my entrance soak and wet. I ultimately settled for a little bit of both.
Though it’s not the always most pleasurable physical experience, there is something thrilling to me about being out in unpleasant weather conditions. For one, there are typically less people, so I get this feeling of having it all to myself. Even more, though, I get a chance to see the world in a different setting. I get to see it unleash, I get just a taste of what the elements can do. It’s sort of like coming into contact with God for a moment. It knocks the breath out of you, it chills you to the bone. You really feel like you’ve been in front of something great.
Spring is surfacing more and more these days–I’m sure it’s a big part of the reason we’ve had such crazy weather. But, we’re also seeing more and more life cropping up around us. Flowers are exploding all around. It won’t be long before we’ll be able to see gray whales spouting just off the shore. During lunch this week, I looked out the windows of the dining hall to see a cormorant at the edge of the swim dock, drying its feathers. It spread its big black wings and looked like a giant bat with a beak. It stood there nearly 45 minutes. I approached the dock, just to get a good look at him, just to watch him in his element for a moment. I got a little too close for comfort, and he took off to the other side of the lake. It’s a challenge just to be an observer. We often just want to watch, but it’s pretty unrealistic to think that anything we do won’t somehow insert us into this world, make us a part of what is going on, for better or worse.
Wednesday, we had serious winds–I heard they were hurricane strength out on the ocean offshore. The trees spruces and pines surrounding the office swayed like willows, and I worked out a plan in my head to make it quick to a doorway if I saw a tree leaning towards the office farther than it could sustain. By the end of the work day, the winds had only strengthened. On my walk home, I found myself leaning into the wind, planning for how I would dive out of the way of any downed power lines that might be snapped just as I passed by.
Before making it home, I was lured by the sheer power of the wind on the lake. I was tempted to try to capture it in picture or video. Neither were able to approach what I was seeing with my eyes, feeling in my lungs, hearing with every part of my body that could pick up vibration. I let go of that tendency we have all too often to spend too much time trying share something with the rest of the world and not really experience it personally. I went close to the lake, where water was white-capping then being whipped up into the sky like little tornadoes. A group of seagulls were out above the water and the mercy of the wind. I wondered if they had gone out there on their own or if the wind had just carried them there against their wills. I got the urge again to take a picture, pulled out my phone, then a strong gust came in and took my breath away from me. I put my phone away, and decided I had seen as much as I needed to.
After dinner that night, the lights flickered, then went out on us. Word was the power was out all the way to Manzanita. Gusts came whistling down the chimney. Outside it was dark, dark, and the wind was not letting up. The generator was fired up for the camp dining hall, and Allyson and I decided to spend some there to have a little light. She practiced the guitar and I accompanied on mandolin. It felt nice to sit in this building that’s partially our home, taking shelter from the elements, making music together. We returned to house, lit some candles and read by the flickering light. The soundtrack was the howling wind. Still, it was a pretty quiet night.
As we began to get ready for bed by candlelight, power was returned. I had been entrusted with turning the generator off when electricity was restored, so laced up my shoes, zipped up my rain jacket, and leaned back into the weather. On my way back, I heard the ocean roaring, competing with the wind, and I had this irresistible urge to go see it. I wanted to feel the wind coming off the ocean, unrestricted by forests and the walls of buildings. Something in me just had to know. I trudged out there, between the rocking trees. Branches that I normally hardly see move waved up and down like they were violently trying to get my attention.
The walk was pretty exhilarating, There was a lot of leaning into the gusts. I wondered if I would see trees lifted from their sandy foundations, if I might be lifted. Then, I emerged from the path to see the big powerful Pacific. Though it was very dark outside still, the froth of the tide was bright white. It looked to me like that tide was covering about 50 yards worth of space as it came in from its farthest point to its nearest. There wasn’t much visibility, everything quickly faded to gray and then to deep black. But even those images are clear in my memory now. Those flashes of the shore pines being tossed by the wind. The sound of the wind gusts. There were moments that day that it sounded like the ocean was on the east side of us rather than the west. That’s just what the wind was doing.
Yes, I’ve found myself in some pretty wild feeling situations this week. I can’t help but be drawn to witness these things as they visit us here. There are moments you must take great care to make your way to without disturbing that you’re observing. Then, there are moments you must take great care not to be disturbed yourself by that you’re observing. In the end, I find it such a blessing I am able to stumble across so many of these things. I will do my best to approach them with great care, hoping there are many more of these moments in my future, that there are many more who might see what I see, feel what I feel.