Restoring My Soul on an Oregon Beach

We made our annual trek to Lincoln City, Oregon this week. It was good to get away for a few days and refill my consciousness with the briny smell of the ocean, the strangely soothing sounds of the seagulls, and the little bits of life living on the beaches. It’s always easy for me to feel connected to the universe when I’m standing on an ocean shore looking out towards the horizon.

(Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

“Nature voices natural, spiritual law and divine Love… Arctic regions, sunny tropics, giant hills, winged winds,  mighty billows, verdant vales, festive flowers,  and glorious heavens, – all point to Mind, the spiritual intelligence they reflect.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

Presence is needed to become aware of the beauty, the majesty, the sacredness of nature…You have to put down for a moment your personal baggage of problems, of past and future, as well as your knowledge; otherwise, you will see but not see, hear but not hear.  Your total presence is required.”
– 
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

 

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Lincoln City Memories

The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here.
– Robert Ingersoll, The Great Agnostic

Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and dreams of Time.
–  H.P. Lovecraft

I think it would be interesting if old people got anti-Alzheimer’s disease where they slowly began to recover other peoples’ memories.
– George Carlin

My husband and I just returned from our most recent trip to Lincoln City, Oregon. We’ve been going there since 1984 – when we discovered the magic of Lincoln City  on our honeymoon.  We were trying to figure out how many times we’ve been there in the last 29 years, and we figured we’ve made a pilgrimage to Lincoln City probably 27 times – every year, with one or two exceptions.

You know how photographers do time lapse photography to show Nature unfolding in quick time? Yeah, I’m thinking if we took the days my family has spent in Lincoln City and sort of condensed them into a time lapse photography kind of deal, we’d see something like this…

There we are in 1984 – young, confident, and hopeful – starting our life together – unaware of the challenges ahead, and unaware of the blessings, either – running on the beach – limbs strong and quick and joints well-oiled. My aunt Junie showed me the art of agate-hunting when I was a youngster, and now I’m teaching my new husband how to pick up the glow of an agate on the beach – how to discern the difference between a bona fide agate and a rough piece of quartz…

1992:  Introducing our firstborn to the ocean for the first time. His baby body rests on my knee, facing out to the sea. His eyes have locked onto the ocean and taken note of it – he’s chewing his lower lip, eyes moving back and forth along the sea’s horizon, taking in the sights and sounds and smells. It’s becoming a part of him.

1994: We have come to Lincoln City as parents of childREN. We are old hands at parenthood now. Today it is our youngest son’s turn to meet the ocean. We take off his booties and lower his toes into the water. It is a sort of ritual baptism of baby feet – a bonding with the Pacific.

1999: The sons are playing with the surf – letting the waves chase them up the beach. The ocean is their comfortable old friend now.

Jump to April, 2008: I am in crisis.   Struggling with severe depression. I am desperate to escape from myself and my constantly-churning thoughts. Oldest son knows I need to get away and asks me if I’d like him to go to Lincoln City with me for Spring Break. How many 16 year-old sons do you know who’d be willing to accompany their moms on a 14-hour (round trip) road trip? I am blest beyond words. On the way to Lincoln City we stop and visit my Aunt Junie, who shares our kinship with the ocean and lives in Depoe Bay, an hour north of Lincoln City.  I confide my struggles to Junie, and the feelings of guilt and unworthiness that seem to be a symptom of my illness. Junie is appalled at my feelings of worthlessness. “All her instincts” tell her that I am a good person, she says.  “There are no unrightable wrongs, no unforgiveable sins, no fatal mistakes, no fatal diseases, only the eternal now.” She is like Yoda.

July, 2008: Still struggling with the  depression. Lincoln City is my respite. I sit on the balcony in the sun and look down on the beach and watch the sons running and cavorting on the sand below.  There have been times lately when I’ve wished myself not born. But, watching my sons, it hits me that if I hadn’t been born, they wouldn’t have been born, either. They give me purpose. And the ocean gives me comfort. We stop in Tilamook on the way home and I am drawn to a garden plaque that quotes The Great Agnostic, Robert Ingersoll: “The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here.” On impulse, I buy it. It will sit in a place of honor on our mantel when we return home.

2009:  The family meets on the Oregon coast to celebrate Aunt Junie’s life, and spread her ashes on the ocean.  We will not get as far as Lincoln City this time, but the ocean that she is now a part of will touch the beaches that have provided such solace to me over the years.  And every time I’m near the ocean, I’ll think of Junie – her humor and wisdom and kindness to me.

2010:  Hoping, but not with high expectations, I ask my youngest son, who’s just turned 16, if he’d like to make the same road trip that I made with his older brother two years ago. To my surprise and delight, he says he would! We spend two days at the ocean – flying a kite, looking for agates, running (well, okay, he’s doing most of the running now) along the beach.  Before we leave on our trip I ask Xander if he’s remembered his swimsuit, long pants, shorts, sweatshirt, sneakers, toothbrush, and sandals. He assures me he has. When we arrive at Lincoln City, I realize that am the one who’s left her clothes, laptop, and toothbrush back home. It is all very humbling. But there’s a certain freedom in the forgetting, too. I’m scraped down to the bare essentials. Having no laptop is a good thing.  I have become big into photography in the last couple years, and I have, at least, remembered my camera. Camera, son, ocean, and the clothes on my back – what else does a person really need? 🙂

2013: The sons are all grown-up now. They have jobs and things to do.  For the first time since we became parents, we will be making our Lincoln City pilgrimage alone.  We eat at our favorite eatery there – The Lighthouse Brew Pub – take long walks together, hunt for agates, and remember together who we were when we first found Lincoln City.  Young, strong, confident, hopeful. Our lives stretched out ahead of us.  And we think about all that’s happened in the 29 years since. And it’s all been good. All of it. Even the bad stuff has been good, really. Just like those blossoms unfolding in time lapse photography – our life together has unfolded most wonderfully.

(originally posted in 2013)

 

 

The Junie-Moz Memorial Agate

We just got back from our annual trip to Lincoln City, Oregon. We’ve been making this trip pretty much every year since our honeymoon in 1984. I wrote about what this annual vacation has meant to us in a previous blog.

This year’s trip was the first trip we’ve made to Lincoln City since Mom passed at the end of February, and she was often in my thoughts. Two or three times during the day I’d find myself thinking, “I should call Moz and tell her about this!” And then I’d remember I can’t do that anymore.

One of the things my husband and I do on our trips to Lincoln City is look for agates. It was my beloved Aunt Junie, who’d lived for years on the Oregon coast, who first introduced me to the joys of agate-hunting. She’d shown me how to face towards the sun and follow the rock beds, scanning for those pebbles that glow in the sunlight. Those of you who are agate-hunters know the thrill that comes when you see an agate glowing up at you from the beach – that moment when you see the blue or gold or red of an agate peeking out from behind its fellow pebbles and beckoning to you. It’s like being on a treasure hunt.

After years of agate-hunting my husband and I have come to know the most likely rock beds to find agates in – we look for strands of rocks that are about the size of a fifty-cent piece. There are rarely agates that are much bigger than that, and often my eyes just skim over the too-big ones.

But on our first full day in Lincoln City, my eyes caught a glimmer of tell-tale blue in a big old fist-sized rock at the edge of a rock bed. I almost walked right past it – but that blue glow made me stop. I heard myself asking, “Are you kidding me?!” I hefted up the rock – this was no “pebble” – and realized that, although it was encased in a layer of sandstone, inside the sandstone was the biggest chunk of agate I’d ever found on an ocean beach.

We were at the beginning of a six-mile walk when I found this agate, but there was no way I wasn’t going to bring it with me. So, periodically shifting its weight from my right hand to my left, I forged on. After a couple miles my husband took over the burden of The Rock for a bit. Then it was my turn again. Then his. At one point he asked, “What are we going to do with this thing?”

I thought about his question for a moment, and then I told him, “It feels like Moz and Aunt Junie were in cahoots on this one. Like they led me to this big ol’ agate – and knew I couldn’t walk past it without picking it up. I can imagine them chuckling about this one. I think we’ll get it polished and call it The Junie-Moz Memorial Agate.”

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An Agate Addict Speaks Out

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,

And Eternity in an hour.

– William Blake

When I was in fourth grade my teacher, Mr. Whittle, loaded us all up on a bus and took us to a hill near Tenino, Washington, where we took out shovels and proceeded to dig for agates. I knew a little something about agates before we went to Tenino – my dad’s a geologist and he introduced me to Rock Basics – obsidian, pumice, quartz, granite, petrified wood, and agates. But actually having the opportunity to get out a shovel and dig for my own agate-treasure kindled in me the beginnings of an agate addiction.

Later – when I was in my early twenties – I would now and then visit my beloved Aunt Junie on the Oregon coast. Junie taught me the art of beach agate-hunting. The trick, she showed me, is to scan over the beach while you’re facing towards the sun – the agates glow as the sun shines through them, and they pop out at you. When I married my husband, I showed him the art of agate-hunting, too, and on our annual pilgrimages to the Oregon coast agate-hunting became one of our favorite pastimes.

After I became a middle school teacher I used the agates we found as Christmas gifts for my students. I’d call my students up one-by-one, and tell them to pick out one agate from my agate bowl that “spoke to them” – this was their “magic agate” and they were to keep their agates forever and every time they looked at them remember how much I loved them. Then I’d take a moment while my students were holding their agates in front of their classmates to tell each of them what I loved about them. Every now and then I run into students I had years ago who make a point of letting me know they still have their “magic agates.” That means a lot to me.

This week my husband and I once again made our annual pilgrimage to the Oregon coast – and lookee what I found… 🙂