The Oregon Coast has been angry this week, unloading day after day of heavy rain, with wind and hail, without giving us much of a break. These are weeks where you must accept that some portion of your clothing will be damp for most of the day. These are days that you appreciate a good office window, that allows you to see the outside without having to endure the outside. We are all ready for a new season, to go outside and recall what warm air feels like. I have been feeling this need for things to improve. To see the world improve. To see my attitude improve. Lately, I’ve felt like we are at this fork in the road, and one path is dark and one is light.
I’ve been working long hours the past month, and I’m looking to balance that out in the coming days. I want to do this for my own well-being, for my friends, for family, for Allyson, for my daughter. I am better everywhere in those times I’m balanced. In these moments, I certainly still put in a lot of time at work, but there is time I spend outdoors, extended time exploring and visiting somewhere, late nights with friends, time spent reading and writing, time taking walks and having long conversations with Allyson, even time just standing in front of my window looking out. I am not doing any one thing so much that I have trouble focusing on other things. When I leave one thing, I’m fully in the next thing. That seems more difficult these days.
On Wednesday I took the day off and had lunch in Idaville. From there I followed the Kilchis River as it wound into the mountains. All the recent rain swelled the river, making it quite strong. It still had this minty blue-green color to it, which was beautiful against the evergreen forest backdrop rising on both sides. I took Kilchis Forest Road, a gravely road filled with pot-holes that looks like it’s mainly used by fishers and loggers. I found a place to pull over that seemed to be speaking to me, and Digby and I walked through ferns, around spruce and hemlock trunks, down to the banks of the river.
This was a simple moment, I didn’t take a long hike, I didn’t find some landmark–Digby and I just got to a place and spent some time there with it. We climbed around, balancing on fallen tree trunks. I watched the river, giving great interest to how strong and fast it seemed to be flowing. I looked up at the trees on the mountain side and how the rainy mist was getting caught up in their branches. There was no specific purpose here, nothing to accomplish. I wanted the wilderness to speak to me, to heal me, to grow me. It has done this all my life, but lately I’ve had more trouble listening. Worry can impact your ability to listen. I find myself worried about the future in a way it seems like I didn’t ask for. I guess, being newly in charge will do that. I guess momentous historical times will do that. I’ve had trouble lately freely giving the trust and confidence I had had for a long time. It is troubling.
I’m trying hard not to let my actions be discouraged, though I’ve felt discouragement in the things I believe in and long for. I am still carrying myself in a way to show trust in the things I believe. I am still working to train my ears, eyes, nose, heart, hands, and feet to listen to the voices wiser than me, more ancient than me, the ones who can see farther into the future than me. The river, the trees, the mountains did not speak English. I did not feel totally transformed as Digby and I made our way up the fern-covered hill back to the Honda Civic. I hope it is the kind of message that seeps into a body, that shapes it in ways our brains don’t really have a way of noting as it happens. I continue to trust, because I know it has before.
There is this new sort of restlessness building up in me. The restlessness I am used to is one that urges me on to explore, to see new places and try new things. It was part of the push to move out West. It is the nomad or drifter in me. But, this new restlessness is a restlessness for change. I find myself growing weary with our disillusion. With the way we are letting our fears rule us. I am weary of a lack of decency for other humans, for other life in general. I am seeing this too much for my taste, in every realm of my life. It transcends politics, transcends social class. I’m ready to get to work that matters, that creates something new, something we all truly need. I’m getting really tired of pettiness and self preservation that wastes so much time. I’m tired of wasting time.
The news this week troubled me, seeing so many programs I am passionate about on the chopping block. I’m hearing more and more about education, the environment, public radio getting massive slashes. I’m not interested in a political discussion here–just talking about things I value not seeming to be valued and how troubling that is. I believe in teaching everyone and how that changes lives. I believe in wilderness. I believe in a free, creative media. It is a lonely feeling considering these things could just go away. I guess everyone who is afraid is afraid of that with something they love.
On Friday night, the skies cleared a bit and the moon was bright. I wasn’t feeling up to it, but Allyson encouraged me to go for a run, knowing it would be good for me. I sat out, under a dark blue canopy with the ocean roaring to my left. As I continued, my muscles remembered the routine, took some control from my mind, and I slipped into an autopilot state, allowing me to be with my emotions and some of those restless feelings. I passed the remains of an old shipwreck that is unearthed ever so often, when the ocean cuts away the right amount of sand. I ran all the way to Rockaway, stopping near the downtown wayside, the part of the beach most tourists to the town occupy.
As I caught my breath and did some push-ups, I saw writing in the sand. The first I noticed said, “Demon Death.” I wasn’t sure whether is was referring to death by demons or death to demons. The next one I saw scratched out “SOS,” in large letters. Of course, you’re on the beach, you have the deserted island fantasy and put those letters together for the drones flying over. Then I noticed that the larger letters were being used to spell out “Save Our Souls.” I ruminated on that for the rest of my run. Whether you believe in a higher power or the idea of the soul, I feel this strong sense that many of us are looking for some sort of redemption right now, some sort of rescue. The moon had an enormous ring of light around it, much like the ones you’ll see around light sources at a swimming pool at night. I thought about my own life and what it would mean years from now. I hope that whatever comes of this time will be a rescue from these troubling days.
On my way back, I stopped at the shipwreck. It is the remains of the Emily G. Reed, a ship that ran aground on the Oregon Coast in 1908. It comes visible every now and then, sometimes going many years without being revealed. I have wanted to see it since I moved here, but missed it on the rare occasions it was visible. Here it was under the night sky. I took some time from my run to walk on its planks, to sit on them, lay on them. I sat out under the night sky, listening to the ocean that sent this ship to its resting place, wondering what it was like to be on its hull when it was seaworthy, making the trek across the Pacific from Australia to the U.S. When the ship went aground it shattered, throwing some of the crew into the ocean. Some treaded until the tide washed them in. Some were found in the Pacific by other ships 200 miles north. Others did not make it.
There is much on my mind these days, and I find this need for stillness to sit with it all. I knew that I should take a break from the run that night to rest on this ship that might disappear again soon and be gone for years. I felt a need to touch it while I could, that there might be something important in a moment like this. That maybe I owed something to this crew from more than 100 years ago to give them some of my thoughts. Maybe this would have something to say to this new restless feeling, this longing. This longing to be rescued and redeemed, or to bring the rescue and redemption, or some combination of them both.