We are settling into something that feels like Spring on the Oregon Coast. We still get the rain, which is nothing new, but it is becoming more and more interspersed with sunshine, offering the opportunity to get out and enjoy this beautiful place, if it happens at a convenient time. Otherwise, you’re left inside, peering out the window hoping it will last until you can get out in it. When that time comes I just hope I remember that feeling, that I want it like I did when I had a task that trumped it.
This week, Allyson and I hosted our good friends Katie and Quint, who we spent a lot of time with in Murray before moving out West. We showed them many of our typical North Coast haunts: Oswald West State Park, the Pelican Pub, Haystack Rock, the Pacific Ocean, and a lot more. A typical reaction to being in love with something is to want to share it with others you care about. It doesn’t get old to hear our friends blown away by the ocean views, the great food, the quirky personality this place oozes. It helps remind you all the things you love about the place too.
It was holy week, that time that can easily just be a downer about how Jesus is going to die, before Easter where everyone out of obligation goes to church dressed nicer than normal. This year, I’ve really connected to the idea of remembering. Remembering big things in our lives that have shaped us. Remembering that breaking bread together is one of the most powerful things we do, remembering that innocent people die, remembering that there is still work to do. I’ve been thinking a lot about what from the present I’ll be remembering and what that will say about me.
On Wednesday, I took Katie and Quint to Cape Meares in hopes we might see some of the gray whales currently migrating by the Oregon Coast, certain, though, we would see awesome views and a few magnificent trees. I started out, as I normally do with guests, taking them to the giant Sitka Spruce–the largest of its kind in Oregon. This is a tree I know I will go back to periodically as long as I am here. This tree is estimated to be 800-900 years, and I think so often about how the landscape has changed in its time on Earth. I want to spend time next to it, the way you want to spend time with your great-grandparents. You know there are things they remember that you might leech from them, that you might take some lesson just by being in the same space.
I was asked to speak at the Maundy Thursday service in Tillamook. This is the service that commemorates the Last Supper, the washing of feet, and the communion meal. It was a service that was always a prominent part of Holy Week at the church where I grew up, so I felt humbled to be asked to speak. It was a small service, there were probably 25 people there and 4 of those were Katie, Quint, Allyson, and me. I talked a lot about this idea of remembering, how when we hold onto something, it offers this chance for us to have a deeper understanding of the thing we remember. How this story means one thing when we are young, and it continues to add layers of meaning as we examine it more. We do this with the important stories of our lives. We hold onto them, and they continue to speak to us, to shape us.
Thursday afternoon we went to Astoria, watched the sea lions on the pier and tasted the wares at Buoy Brewing. Strapped for time, we wanted to squeeze in a trip to the Astoria Column to see the panoramic views, climb the stairs, and toss a wooden plane from the top. As we left the Buoy, it began to drizzle and the wind picked up. It was stronger by the time we got to the column, but we soldiered on up the 164 steps. The visibility was pretty poor–I couldn’t even make out Saddle Mountain, which is usually very visible. We could, though, see Astoria and the long bridge across the Columbia to Washington. Up that high, the wind was cutting, and the rain drops were huge. It was not pleasant, and everyone was quick to toss the airplanes and get back on the ground.
Even in a year of being here, I remember so many different versions of the column trip. I remember days like earlier this week, where you felt like you just went up there to say you braved the weather, unloaded your plane and got the hell down. I’ve also been up when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. You could see Mounts Hood, St. Helens, Adams, and Rainer, and then hundreds of miles out onto the ocean in the other direction. You threw your airplane and hung around to watch anyone else who came up, offering pointers as if one or two airplane tosses had made you an expert on the subject. You just wanted to keep looking, keep taking it in, that there was surely more to see, that you might just stay all afternoon. I remember both feelings. I’ve seen how life can swing back and forth to those extremes too. I try to remember how they are neither one the entire story. I try to remember that I’ve found beauty in both.
On a drive back, Allyson asked if I would play Iron and Wine, so I cycled through my ipod, choosing some of my favorites. I knew that I would end on “The Trapeze Swinger,” this epic 9 minute long song, one of the most beautiful songs to me. It very softly pulls in so many feelings: reflection, appreciation, sadness, humor, regret, love–I’ve listened to this song for years and am still getting to the bottom of it. There are many verses in the song, but the only line repeated is, “Please remember me.” It cycles through these memories that are so specific that even though you don’t know them, you feel how powerful they are to someone. The way the music turns over so many times, it sets you up to feel this way even stronger. I can remember Iron and Wine opening with this song at a show, and shed tears just because of what the music was doing to me.
I thought, listening to it, next to me wife, friends in the back seat, cruising next to our ocean home, how this is such a human longing, just that someone remembers our time spent together. That what we did together somehow matters to someone, that it wasn’t all for nothing. I cycled back through a few memories, and how I hope pieces of them somehow outlive me and go on to matter in some way.
I began to think too about how we were in the middle of making those types of memories too. How, for one reason or another, I might look back longingly at moments like these with the one I love, in a setting I love, how everything in that moment was safe. I’ll remember just how I felt about it. That feeling will seem like something special, and it will be because it was. It doesn’t mean there won’t be more, it just means there won’t be ones exactly like this one. It will shape me, I continue to see new things, find new meaning in it.
Our last full day together, the four of us went to Cannon Beach to spend the day exploring the little seaside town. We saw artwork, touristy items, ate all natural food, and tasted artisan chocolate. At the end of the day, we visited the beach and took the obligatory pictures at Haystack Rock. I think about that now, about how Katie and Quint will remember this as their first trip to Oregon. I think about how these moments play into our own mythologies of ourselves, how we look at them years down the road and realize something that was happening within in us we couldn’t have recognized at the time. Whatever is going on right now, it feels like a special time in life. I hope I continue to feel that way about every phase I’m alive. I hope I remember. I hope all of my life I find moments worth remembering.