This week the sky broke open. Not with rain, but with drops of light, and then rays, and then a sky full of sunshine. The sun peeked around the canopy of trees enveloping the rig, erased the steam and busted apart the molecules of H2O clinging to the inside of windows and also daring to convene on some of the walls. I have tried to be diligent in writing this week, hunkering down inside, and stealing moments outside with Gatsby, to chase the openings in the trees and soak in the sun’s golden light. But, yesterday, I also broke open. I ditched the writing in search of movement. Yesterday, it did not rain here, but the skies were covered. I’d already decided I needed to break away from the writing to enjoy the weather, so I chased the sunlight up the coast to the north.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the rain. I always have. When I lived in Austin and San Marcos, I used go crazy because of the lack of rain. Too much sun. All the time. Too much sameness. I grew up in four seasons, of which summer was my least favorite. And then I moved to a place that felt like summer nine months of the year. And it never rained. Austin is a great city, and I know some absolutely wonderful people there, but I lived there during an extended, crushing drought. I wished for the hurricanes to impact us, not in a damaging, dramatic way, but just to bring us rain, and, instead, the fringes of clouds would pass overhead, teasing in their presence, and not leaving a drop behind as they made their way overland choosing other places to dump the wet stuff.
Now, I’m staying in one of the wettest regions of the country, during the rainy season. It’s gloriously lush here and green, rich in life and steeped in water, from the air to the sea. I feel at home here in so many ways. This is exactly where I should be for the moment. I am inspired here. And the people…I just cannot say enough about what it does to the heart to go to town and be surrounded in kindness. There is something for me here, both in the ways that I am turning inwards to write a something that wants to be written, and in the ways that I am turning outwards to exchange goodness with those around me. Sure, I am still visited by doubt and dour moods. I still face those very real vulnerabilities we each deal with in our own ways. Facing them is part of this journey, as is moving forward in spite of them. Slaying those dragons each time they rise up to throw their fiery fury my direction. And sometimes the way to do that is to get a change of perspective. Step away from your current moment and chase the sunshine up the coast.
So, yesterday, I took off in the car, not knowing exactly how far I’d go. I had it in mind to stop at enticing places along the way. I had a general thought that maybe I’d go as far as Coos Bay, because they had a food co-op there and a place called Natural Grocers. But I wasn’t married to that destination. When I got in the car, I just drove. At each amazing spot along the coast that called to me, I told myself I’d stop on my way back, because it wasn’t sunny yet, and it felt good to drive, to see the scenery glide by. I just kept heading up the 101 until I found myself in Coos Bay, where the sun was shining. I puttered around the two stores there, finding most of what I needed at the Natural Grocers, and then just wandering through the co-op because it felt like my co-op back home. Champaign home. Familiar and comfortable. Looking at my map in the parking lot of the co-op when I was finished inside, I opted to take the route heading to the coast from Coos Bay to see the sun on the water. I pointed the car west and made for a string of three state parks along the coast and directly west of Coos Bay.
I’d been here before. I camped at the Sunset Beach State Park Campgrounds, which is a lovely place to stay, and I’d explored the tide pools in Cape Arago State Park. Yesterday, I drove to Cape Arago and stopped at an overlook. Stepping out of the car, I was greeted by the throaty barks of sea lions and the thunderous roars of waves crashing against rock. Seals and sea lions mingled, lounged, fed, and played on the rocks and in the waters below. My timing couldn’t have been better, since this is a stopover for them heading south to warmer waters for the winter. It was a gift. A joy. A kindness offered up by Mother Nature. I walked a trail through the forest, marching to the sounds of the sea lions’ drums. I met an elderly couple who had lived there for 32 years before moving away and were just passing through on a trip back down memory lane. She grew up in the area and he grew up in Arkansas. They shared with me what it was like to live nearby, hearing these very sounds from their home every fall and every spring. They shared with me their love of this place, and she told me how homesick she still was, though they’d been gone for several years now. They shared with me their stories, a piece of their hearts, and, in doing so, gave me yet another gift for the day.
We parted, and I headed down to where a trail from the Cape led to tide pools. As I descended, I realized that though I’d been to the tide pools in this state park, where I was did not look familiar. It didn’t seem right, and I'd find out later that the pools I'd previously visited were on the other side of the cape. I explored anyways, watching as the sun started to sink lower in the sky, casting long reflections of its light across the water and silhouetting rocks and seals and sea birds I did not know the name of. I watched a heron watching me and watching for food. I hopped across wet sand and rocks, avoiding pools of water with the remnants of anemones, shriveled up and lifeless, empty crab and oyster shells, and decaying sea kelp. All the while, the sea lions barked from rocks not far from my explorations. They only stopped when I wandered the beach closer to where their rocky safe place was located. Then they silenced the serenades. I was still far enough away that my phone would not capture them too well, especially with the sun’s light sending the face of the rocks into darkness. So, instead, I captured the moment with my mind’s lens.
As I was preparing to leave the seals and sea lions to make their music again, the air was pierced with music of a different sort, though still a call of the wild. A high-pitched, yet melodic, chirping sound erupted. I turned in the direction of the sound and looked up in time to see the grace of dark wings and a white tail spread out behind the white head of a bald eagle, gliding in to make a landing at a nest, where a female awaited her supper. The male settled in next to the female, both of their heads barely discernable above the fronds of tree needles. If you zoom in on the photo below, you can just make out their heads in the upper left segment of the tree.
I had just received my third gift for the day. Three gifts in a few short hours. It was time to head back home, chasing the last of the day’s light, sealing my gifts in my soul to call up again when worries and vulnerabilities seek to take over. It is then that I can recall that I have been given these golden moments in the sun. Not just the three gifts from yesterday, but…this…my life, and all that I have to be grateful for every single day. Every day has its golden moments if you look for them. And the more you look for them, the more you will find them.
I woke up today feeling the peace of this place. Feeling a peace in what I’m doing here. And a desire to go back out to the coast to explore one of the places I’d seen yesterday but didn’t have time to stop for on the way home because it was getting dark. And today, was a cloudless sky day, it screamed for exploring…but I’ll save that for the next post.