I went to the beach on an early Sunday morning. The sun rose over the Coast Range and lit up the sand at low tide.
To walk north or south? How does one decide? Then I remembered what a beered-up sage once told me in a six-stool tavern overlooking the Rogue River: “You’ve go to go south to go north.”
He was right.
I started walking south. Here’s what happened:
• An old crabber stopped his old crab truck and took a belt from a half pint of brown liquor. He got out, staggered around with his clam gun, poked the sand a few times, and then returned to the truck for another belt. He drove away and was careful to avoid five species of birds getting along perfectly well with one another. Try that with five Americans from five different parts of the country.
• A lone gull feasted on my offering of a chocolate chip cookie. He had it all to himself.
• I added to the driftwood fort I’m building in memory of Sonny, my dearly departed husky. I’ll never stop building it.
• A pile of kelp rotted at the wrack line.
• Two horses approached and the wind began to howl.
• I conjured an image of Rachel Carson on a unit of currency for a new nation.
• A shrimper bobbed in the blue distance.
• I found my first hairy triton shell in four years. I always consider it good luck when I find Oregon’s official state shell. They make great lucky charms in hidden pockets of coats or jackets.
• A beach ranger blew by me at double the speed limit.
• I felt an invitation from the sea’s crooked little finger.
• Clouds enveloped a headland.
• I wished HBO would produce a miniseries from the 1975 novel “Ecotopia” and throw in as much sex and peace as possible.
• A bald eagle circled overhead.
• I thought I needed some macramé in my life.
• Three feathers formed a triangle in a drift.
• I pondered a magnificent sentence John McPhee wrote about geology: “The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.” In other words, when climbers challenge Everest, they are ascending to the bottom of an antediluvian ocean. Maybe the beered-up sage was wrong. Maybe you have to go north to go south.
• A black spider crawled into the shadow of a massive drift log older than the United States. I counted 271 rings. The log will last longer than our democracy.
• I found a discarded CD. Sony Music released it in 1993. No other information. I took it back to the truck and slid it into the player, knowing it couldn’t possibly work. Track 1 booted up and started playing. I’d never heard the song before — but the genre sounded familiar — slicked-up, grunge. One of those phony hair Nirvanas from the MTV corporate 1990s. Track 1 is the only song that played. How did that CD ever end up on a beach? There was a rock and roll mystery in the grunge. Did I want to solve it? Not really.
Matt Love is the author/editor of 14 books, including Of Walking in Rain and The Great Birthright. His books are available at coastal bookstores or his web site, nestuccaspitpress.com