[posted by risa]
A little away time, they say, is a good thing, so Beloved and I took Last Son to Daughter's place in the Big City To The North, so they could go see the major fireworks there together, and headed for our favorite hideaway, a tiny trailer (but sited on its own lot) belonging to friends of ours, in a tiny town on the edge of the not-tiny Pacific Ocean. A stone's throw from our own place by air, but by road, it seems far -- and it is. All the approaches are along hair-raising turns of road with sun-drenched dropoffs to one side and fern-clad, perpetually shaded cliffs looming on the other, and the occasional tunnel -- one finds oneself continually putting on and taking off sunglasses, and then at the end there are leaden grey skies and a booming salt wind, cold in July, cold in any month -- really February, when things sometimes calm down mysteriously, can be the easiest month, between hammering storms out of the Gulf of Alaska. Not an easy place to live, it's a good one to visit, if you can find it.
Yet people do, and the few streets are clogged with traffic, much of it surely boorish beyond the patience of the townies, and yet they are unfailingly welcoming, not just of the tourist dollars, but of the company of so many strangers. There's a tiny airport right in the middle of it all, and families walking to the bridge to amble along the five miles of beach sometimes duck, hardly breaking off conversation, as a Cessna roars in at little more than head-height.
There's a brew-pub by the Cape -- their award-winning India Pale Ale has a taste that reminds one a bit of fresh pine and fir needles -- and yet is really very good -- and by the pub runs a corduroy road of fifteen-ton concrete blocks down onto the beach, where the shelter of the Cape and the Rock led settlers to devise a fishing fleet of dories launched directly into the surf. The dories have fallen upon hard times -- no salmon. No salmon fishing allowed at all this year, as a species once numbered into the billions slips into near oblivion, trawled, long-lined, seined, dammed, and fed a steady diet of agricultural chemicals, leaving the dorymen -- rod-and-reel people -- high and all too dry.
Those Who Know Better Than We have resorted to the usual -- fish farming and hatcheries -- but the hatchery fish deplete the gene pool and the sea lice from the hatcheries have become an epidemic among the sea-run fish, both those from the wild and those -- now the vast majority of those still alive -- from the hatcheries. It's a Situation, like many others around the over-humaned globe.
Tuna, which have throughout most of this coast's known history lived farther south, have moved in as the globe warms, but they are shore-shy and live well out of reach of many of the boats. Those that can travel safely the twelve or more miles to get at them are now beached by the five-dollar-a-gallon diesel prices.
Considering these prices, and the way our own driving adds its tiny but measurable fillip to the Situation, Beloved and I wonder if this might be our last time here. We're drawn, yet again, by the mind-numbing beauty, and by memories.
The kids practically grew up in this town, living for weeks at a time in the sand, wind, and stinging parallel-to-the-ground rains, picking up sand dollars, curious round stones and bits of driftwood, gull feathers, and such, trading shy glances with the dolphins, sea lions, harbor seals and pelicans, and poking their snub noses into shore-pine thickets, caves and lighthouses.
Today I went over to the beach and walked south for three miles and then north for three miles. Nothing happened of any particular interest to tell you about -- just that my heart sang the whole way.
It's no good beachcombing in July; the sand was so cleanly that any broken bit of mussel shell to flip over with a toe was a relief to the monotony. I found one rock of any interest at all. There was a flight of pelicans. I was observed by a sea lion. A whole lot of dead sand crabs lay belly up on the margin of the tide line, to be picked over by fastidious crows..
I brought the rock to Beloved, whose feet have been bothering her and who had reluctantly elected to stay behind. She turned it in her hands. It was smooth rounded and elongated, gray with brown patches, pointed at one end and flat at the other. She stood it on end on a side table.
"Look," she said. "It's a sea lion."
And it was.