February 20, 2015

Linger and Stay

--> There are places in this world that I react to almost violently. A visceral, oozing out of part of my soul which then latches onto that place, never to be retrieved by my body. It goes beyond liking a place, or even loving a place. It’s much deeper, and harsher that that. I’m not sure if I believe in past lives, but if I did, if I do, maybe that explains it. Places I loved so deeply once upon a time, that when I encounter them again, I feel a deep-rooted link almost the moment my feet touch the ground. The first time it happened, I was 11 and we had just walked, bleary eyed after a long flight and then a jostling, bumping train ride, out of Victoria Station and into London. Parts of Vermont were like that for me. Practically all of Ireland has me in its grip. And then there is the Oregon coast.

The beach, here, is unlike what almost anyone imagines when they think of the word “beach”. You don’t go to the Oregon coast to sunbathe or swim, scantily clad, in bathtub temperature waters. It’s not a sit on a stripy chair and order cocktails kind of place. No. The Oregon coast is harsh and wild and breathtaking. And cold. Always. Even when it’s warm, the wind can whip up and bore a chill right down into your bones. But it’s also like a really good book. Comforting and familiar, restful at times and then again, also with a hint of danger. And so beautiful it hurts. It’s for sweaters and hats and letting the soles of your feet sink into the cold wet sand for just a moment before the surf chases you further inland. It’s for climbing great hulking rocks and walking for hours and peering into tidepools to watch green anemones sway gently with the waves, even though they are trapped in small pools, well away from the surf until the tide comes back in.
This summer, we rediscovered the beach of my childhood. Quite literally, the beach where I lived as a toddler. A quiet beach in an out of the way village, it’s more discovered now than it once was, but even on a busy day, almost no one climbs through the tunnel in the cliff and out onto the long, secluded stretch of sand on the other side. It is my favorite place. No beach-front houses. No shops selling taffy and kites. Just the sand and the sea and the pock-marked and fossil studded rocks that spread out toward the cliffs. The waves crash so loudly that voices are lost in the sound. It’s perfect and terrible and wonderful. So beautiful, it’s painful.
It fills me up, going to the beach. It recharges me. And yet, I love it there so much that often, I don’t even want to go, because I know I’ll have to leave.  It’s the same with all of the places that have become a part of me, or which I have become a part of. Someday I want to go and just stay. Stay within sight of looming cliffs and squat lighthouses and secluded beaches littered with sun bleached driftwood. Like Miss Rumphius, when I am old, I will go and live by the sea. And never leave again.
For now, we linger too long, at the beach. Even knowing how slow and twisty and black the drive home can be in the dark. We linger until the last bits of sun have gone. When the cold wraps around you and everyone pulls the hoods of their sweatshirts up over their ears. We linger until there is nothing to do but pull ourselves away from the little bits of our souls that will remain there and head home.