41 years married, 45 years of love. Not always gorgeous and graceful, but dogged and tender, remembering what’s important, which is the love under everything. We’ve mostly worked hard and sometimes worked smart, and I’ve been undeniably lucky. We’re a long way off from that far off beginning, and I feel the stereotypical feels – my youthful inside self, where are those hippie kids, how time has gone so fast, all that – but mostly just feeling blessed and amazed.
When I saw that Portland weather was going to hover at 100 degrees for our anniversary week, I turned my thoughts from an inland trip to a coast visit instead, and found a last minute crappy but clean beachfront room in the central coast town of Neskowin, complete with a balcony overlooking the beach.
The tiny town has nothing much except the beach, famous for Proposal Rock and the Ghost Forest. What it does have was mostly closed mid-week, but that was fine, we weren’t there for shopping or restaurants. We only had 48 hours between commitments on either end, but that was perfect: we were happy to arrive, wore ourselves out, and happy to go home again since massage appointments were waiting for us.
Proposal Rock was named for a 1900s couple who got engaged there, and it now draws (or pressures) lovers from all around. It’s an island actually, accessible at low tide, but easy to get trapped on by the tides, and sneaker waves take lives. Also, it’s a gnarly climb, and I’m old. We viewed it from below the first afternoon, reacquainted ourselves with the ocean on the soft, steeply slanted shoreline, wild-waved and infinite, and watched the sunset from our balcony.
The Pacific Ocean is a lifelong happy place for us both. While some stretches are more familiar and storied, any piece of the Pacific coast thrills me to the core, the enormity of it, the ghostly shapes in the fog, foaming waves, salty breeze, continually shifting shoreline, watery paths and patterns carved in the sand, cries of seagulls, diving pelicans, and skittering shorebirds.
The next morning we set out at low tide, and waded through the now shallow Neskowin Creek that bisects the beach in front of our condo. A heron fished and gulls bathed, and the fog rolled in and out several times as we walked. Passing the Rock, we headed south to check out the Ghost Forest.
This 2000 year old stand of Sitka spruce was drowned and buried by an earthquake in 1700, which we know because of a tsunami recorded in Japan at the time. The Northwest coast probably dropped about six feet, leaving the forest buried under sand and water, where it remained hidden until 1997-98 when king tides, combined with El Nino, ripped away layers of sand to reveal a forest of stumps.
The forest is a reminder of how violent the Cascadian Subduction Zone can be, and how we are overdue for the “Big One,” a 10.0 earthquake that’s feared, predicted and analyzed in everything from New Yorker magazine to every small local paper.
Nowadays the sand is stripped away during the winter king tides to reveal about 100 stumps rising about 12 feet high (and rooted far deeper below). This being summer, we saw a few dozen stumps at about waist height, covered in barnacles and mussels, delightfully mysterious. One hollowed stump held a mini-tidepool of starfish and anemones. (As I write this I keep getting distracted by looking up places to stay for next winter’s king tides, or summer low lows!)
Continuing our walk south, we were delighted to find a broad rocky tidal area at the far cliff. There we discovered dripping mossy caves and layers of rock covered in tidepool life, glorious as the sun filtered through trees high above on the cliff, while seagulls breakfasted on crabs and mussels, and wild waves crashed beyond.