Yaquina Head Lighthouse

South Beach Reflection

Some of the weather was nice on the Oregon coast. I gather it’s not normally like this west of the Cascade ranges, but we had good weather. The sea was starting to act up, of course, surging onto the rocks and presaging the more rainy weather that dumped on us the whole way to the airport. 

In two coastal days, though, we saw quite a large amount of the Devil’s work: The Devil’s Lake, the Devil’s Tower, the Devil’s Punchbowl, the Devil’s Creek, the Devil’s Rock. The unified theme seemed to be features of the landscape that either were dangerous and looked it; or features that weren’t dangerous but looked dangerous; or feature that were dangerous but didn’t look like it. Collectively untrustworthy, individually potentially safe — keep a weather eye open for the sea, the land, and the spirits. 

The Devil’s Punchbowl

Cleft in colony island

So how do we work with a landscape that’s nominally America from sea to shining sea, yet has enormous variety in landscape, geology, bioregion, weather, and spirituality? Here, the sacredness clusters around gray whales and cedar trees; the latter are almost literally totem poles (along with cordage, basketry, tool handles, housing and travel {canoes}.  But fiberglass is also a sacred material, judging by the RVs and mobile homes, power boats and surfboards. And the new herb of the land is cannabis — there’s a medical dispensary about every two miles along the Oregon Coastal Highway. 

This is not a landscape of high-end bars and restaurants overlooking the water, skyscraper hotels and sprawling golf courses. There’s some of that, to be sure. It’s more Hampton Beach, NH than The Hamptons at the tip of Long Island.  I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing; it’s probably good that the local weather of stunning landscapes and nigh-constant rain hasn’t been turned into the playground of the super rich. 

Yet. 

But there is deviltry lurking here — there’s signs of tsunami warning evacuation routes , none of which appear to reach high-enough ground in enough time. On the Pacific side are steep cliffs… that slope down to bays and inlets on the landward side. Water in a geophysical upheaval event, an earthquake or a seaquake, will flow into the bays, rake over the towns tucked behind the cliffs, and the zone of devastation will sweep long distances inland over farm and wine country. It’s difficult to imagine, but the Devil has a trick or two still on the table when his Punchbowl overturns. 

Of course the land is beautiful. Rugged cliffs, broad beaches with such fine sand that the beach reflects the sky. Seals and sea lions, gulls and guillemots, bald eagles and bivalves. Western Oregon, the green coast, is as thoroughly adorned with beauty as a place can be, I think. There’s a party going on around the Punchbowl, the riotous interaction of land and sea and life, until such time as the dance cracks Earth and shatters Sea, and melts the land like wax. 

An eternity away yet. 

And tomorrow.