Monday, June 8, 2009

Visiting The Pacific: Vancouver 1964

I really don't recall the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean, but it was the first ocean I saw.
We had moved from South Dakota--where I had reached the ripe age of 5 before we went west--and had only gone to places like the Black Hills and Iowa. Chicago once. But my parents took us out to see the ocean quite a few times (in fact, we traveled all over the west when we lived out there, mainly camping at National or State Parks). We went to beaches in Oregon, mostly--Tillamook a number of times, Cannon Beach, a place called Castle Rock where we could see sea lions (perhaps this was along the Columbia River and not the ocean). There was also a place called Beacon Rock, some huge boulder where you could hike up to the top--we'd get about half way until you reached a sign that said WARNING: Continue At Your Own Risk, but I finally one time had the courage to continue and make it to the top--but, again, maybe that was along the river. I know we went to some place on Washington's coast where we had a motel room. The motel was on the water, officially, and had glass sliding doors that opened to the beach; but the beach was huge and the actual ocean was waaaay down there, I mean, you had to walk and walk across empty flat sand to reach the water.
But the smells and creatures--the crabs and starfish and mussels and seaweed (deep green plants that had little air sacs to keep them afloat and you could pop them and these long walking stick-like things that had a bulbous end on them) and seals and sea lions, and the odors of the sea, sharp and smelly and salty--became a part of me when I was young. I used to collect the dead crabs and put them in jars of seawater to keep them as pets--even though I knew they were dead. The Pacific is often a rough ocean, but we swam in it. It's also a cold ocean, but--being kids--we swam in it. Sister, I recall, her very first time entering the ocean, was knocked flat by a big wave and she would not go back in for a long time. We would beachcomb it, usually with Mother, and found glass floats, a board with Japanese writing on it, many many shells of course, came across a small dead seal once. Trash. But, we did not live on the Pacific, only visited, and after we moved away--to Tennessee--I only saw the other ocean--the Atlantic, at Myrtle Beach, SC--a handful of times during my childhood.
I did come back to the Pacific--in California, in Seattle (Puget Sound, at least, was viewable everyday that I lived there), in Alaska--and camped along a rugged stretch of it with Matt and Brock in the Olympic Peninsula. Later, I spent part of my honeymoon in La Push, Washington: Fru and I drove out from Seattle and found this dirty little fish camp that was on the water and the fog horns blew and huge walls of waves came crashing in. I also viewed it, waded in it, in Mexico, in 1990, in a little town called San Blas . . . But after childhood, it was mainly the warm waters of the Atlantic--Florida's coast, the Keys and the Gulf of Mexico--which drew me near and--despite the honeymoon--I have lived next to Atlantic waters more than not. I have also spent many years in the Midwest, with only waves of corn and soybean fields to dream at.
But I miss the Pacific. I have not seen it--let alone swam in it--for many years: probably since 1990. I'm used to warm, usually calm ocean waters now. I'm not sure I'd have the temperament to brave the waters of Oregon or Washington (maybe not even Southern California, brrr), but I'd love to see and hear those big rollers of the north Pacific again. I'd love to walk the rocks at low tide with my boots on, smell everything, dip my hands into the tidal pools, climb the giant denuded blond logs that litter the beach, see the pines out on the sea stacks . . . But, I can't say when I will see it, smell it again. But, I can say, that I will. I'll be back someday.

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