A world away
One of the thing I wanted to do while here in Oregon was to visit the coast.
Heck there is an entire magazine dedicated to the scenery of this state’s coastline — “Oregon Coast” no less as its name. Nice, eh?
Lebanon, my folks’ city of choice for the moment (remember we’re a Navy family, retired as it were, but still prone to moving) is nestled in a valley between the Cascades and Rocky Mountains. It’s a neat venue, seeing the peaks and ridge lines in the distances all around and still having relative flatness in the immediate foreground.
One of the things that a soldier home from war will notice is that life continues apart from war. While in Iraq, everything is embroiled in conflict — burned out cars, trash, smoke, glares from our hosts. After a while, you don’t think about anything other than “the war.”
But life goes on back here. Duh, some might say, but we’re soldiers which means were a little slow.
Passing through some towns on the way to the coast, I noticed a normal Saturday. There were families walking down the sidewalks. On a field there was a soccer game going on, cars parked along the grass, parents pulling out coolers with chairs, smiles all around. Some kids waited at the traffic light to cross the street.
Going farther, we started to climb the small slice of mountains that stood between us and the Pacific. Weaving through the forested, winding country roads, we darted in and out of the sunlight, passing cliff and draws full of trees. Moss-covered branches held the shade over the road and darkened the interior of the woods. Fern and underbrush poked out from the shadow of the canopy — the whole wood plush and engorged with things not Iraq.
It was calming to be so far from there.
Up and down, winding around, cutting through the roads like some sort of downhill skier, we finally started to push through the surrounding columns of black until blue began to show in vertical stripes between the trees. The sky was beyond, just around this last bend until we crested the final hill and broke through the forest into a clear patch of descending road.
There was the ocean, a huge blue-green wind capped sheet, stretching north to south as far as we could see from our gusty vantage. The strong winds whipped the approaching seas into marbled waves, foam frothing at the crags and rocks.
The retreating glaciers from a prior age carved the hell out of the land here in Oregon, leaving amazing cliffs and cutouts along the coasts. The Pacific — damn cold this far north, is hardly suitable for unsuited swimming, leaving the wide swaths of wet-sand beaches devoid of cancer-seeking sunbathers and ripe for the wandering romantic.
The brisk chill of wind and surf makes Oregon beaches a sort of standoff-ish beauty. Humans don’t just strip off all abandon and occupy its beaches. They are a thing to visit and marvel, but hardly to invade or tarnish.
Miles later we had found a place to leave the car and walk down to the water. I looked hard — again, no Iraq. A few dozen beach-goers were making sand sculptures or playing with their children. Laughs and the smells of chowder from beach-front eateries lilted over the waves and wind.
This was it, my piece of America. There was no trash, no grime, no hidden bombs, no wreckage. It was hard-fought and cherished, at least by my part.