Confronting the Sea

Seattle, Washington

I wonder if there is some symbolic reality in the fact that I can’t finish any of my stories. And yet I dream and dream of a completed manuscript. I even dream of being turned down; laughed away by a editor/publisher, because that’s how its supposed to be. I’m supposed to dream, and have my dream challenged.

My life is made up of a happy family, a fulfilling job, good health, supportive friends, explosive romances, more adventure than the average person is allowed to have. When I choose to descend from my lofty imagination, I know definitively that I am not unhappy, just dramatic.

November 15th I flew into Seattle. Followed the signs and walked miles to the link rail, which I took into Downtown Seattle (Westlake) and met my old friend (Definition: people who stay in your life despite almost a decade of separation; people who pick you up at the airport after 8 years & welcome you into their home; people whose homes you feel so comfortable in, that you shower, change into pajamas and sink into their plush couch offering to cuddle their wives you’ve only just met; people who make you breakfast and you say goodbye to in the morning not knowing if you will see them in a day or another decade.)

November 16th I rented a car early Monday morning. I left my old friend with the promise of having dinner/drinks in the next couple of days. The uber dropped me off at the Dollar Rent-a-car office a couple of blocks from the hotel I will make my home for the next 4 days. That doesn’t matter to this story. The point is I rented a car in the morning.

I also rented a GPS device. Without much of a plan I looked at a map of Seattle and picked the most Westerly point possible. Olympic National Park. It was raining and gloomy. But it was Seattle, it was meant to be raining and gloomy.

As I started driving west, following the GPS, I listened to NPR. Learned as much as it was possible to learn about: the Syrian Refugees, the Paris terror attacks, Al Qaeda, ISIS, the strategy to battle Al Qaeda, the lack of strategy to battle ISIS, the strategy to battle Al Qaeda not working to battle ISIS; Yoga is not bad for Pregnant women, the fetal heart rate told us so. Then I listened to it all over again (there wasn’t much new material on the NPR station in Seattle and it was the only constant radio station accessible in the bad weather and the rural areas I was passing through.)

Other times I drove in silence.

Or I spoke out loud to myself.

When I felt like it I pulled over, took pictures.

Or I pulled over and just looked.

I pulled over and contemplated quitting my job, never going back. I took out a notebook and calculated my debt, my savings (the math didn’t add up.) I calculated my responsibilities, obligations, desires (that math didn’t add up either.) After deciding it didn’t make sense, I got back in the car, damp from the dew & drizzle.

When I left the house, my old friend told me a storm was coming in, don’t go. When I listened to the radio, the weather man told me a storm was coming in, don’t go. When I got to Olympic National Park Visitor center, the ranger told me a storm was coming in, don’t go.

So I kept going. Further and further west I drove, determined to find the end of the continent. The storm got angrier, the sky got brown, the road was not slick, it was soaked. Massive trucks crashed past me at 70 mph carrying heavy loads of chopped down forrest.

The drive along Lake Crescent was windy and fun. The road was bordered on one side with a cliff face, and the other side the lake. The blue steel lake. I sped recklessly along at times, stepping daringly on the gas pedal, the windshield wipers matching the adrenaline pump of my heart. When I pulled into the parking lot for the Merymere waterfall trail the rain had stopped. It was a sign I knew.

Being alone is something I do often. Having meals, going to the movies, travelling, exploring, visiting museums, going for concerts, you name it I’ve done it by myself. I’m quite proud of this. I’m so good at being by myself. Just as good as being with people. But most of my aloneness happens in cities. Being alone in a car, in the woods, in an unknown city certainly challenges one’s convictions that “ I’m good at being by myself.”

The hike was about 1.5miles. It wasn’t challenging. It was nice. Walking through woods that were here for thousands of years before me, and will continue to exist once I get back in my car and drive away. I’m convinced that while we humans preoccupy ourselves with “Saving the world” the world will be here long after human beings have exited; with a loud boom, or a sad trickle into nothingness. We’re not trying to save the world, we’re just trying to save the parts we need to survive as a species. Let that sit on you for a moment.

It was beautiful. The trees covered in lime green moss and my footfalls muffled by the leafy muddy path. I passed a few other people on the trail; other people like me who would rather pretend we were all alone, and were quick to smile and walk along. After seeing the waterfall I followed the signs to the Lodge. I sat in the covered patio, and listened to an old couple tell their travel companions (another old couple) about their grandson who will be attending Stanford in the fall. Their story included a unreasonable daughter, poisoned by an unreasonable son-in-law who were determined to send their children to Cal tech.

“But Scott wants to go to Stanford” said the grandfather, the Stanford alumni, gloatingly pretending not to gloat.

I left the Lodge with my coffee and got lost in the woods. It took me 45 minutes to find my way back to the main road, and back to the place I parked my car. I was soaked through and through.

The rain had started to fall heavily when I left the lodge and once I was back in the car I had to decide whether to continue on my initial journey to the end of the continent or turn back. It was a 5 hour drive back to Seattle with Monday night traffic, and dark roads to navigate. I calculated once more, may be I should just stay here forever?

Pretty soon I was back on the road driving further west into the storm that was darker and angrier, heading to Rialto Beach. The driving much the same as it was before. More NPR, more silence, snacking on Jalapeno Beef Jerky and potato chips.

 

When I took the turn off towards Rialto the wind was roaring against the car. I passed a minivan of frigid, damp, stoned teenagers going in the other direction. When I got to the beach, save a suspicious looking camper, there was no other sign of life. The entire time I spent at the beach, not a soul emerged from the camper. I couldn’t even tell if it was inhabited.

My clothes had dried on my drive from the Lake, but I stepped out again happily into the storm. I didn’t have a clear view of the ocean from the car park.

It was a pebble beach. As far as the eye could see the “beach” was strewn with felled trees in various stages of decomposition. In the midst of this chaos was a picnic table. I climbed further up to the ridge of the beach and there I encountered the ocean. If the storm was angry, the Pacific was furious. She was a woman, jilted, confronting the man she loved and hated. She roared and stamped and cried desperately. The fog hid the islands, and the sea spray stung my uncovered face. I smiled into the fury, understanding, acknowledging like a sister her emotions.

I opened my arms and stood there feeling free, grounded, infinitely aware of myself, so completely at peace, a contrast to the weather that surrounded me, enormously pleased to be a contradiction in the landscape (as I enjoy being a contradiction in all facet of life.) I felt real.

When I sat back in the car I took out my notebook and I wrote this one passage:

I don’t need to finish any of my stories. If I write my life, the way I live it, if I translate my lens of drama, symbolism, literary references, protagonists, antagonists, allegories, foreshadowing with which I live my day to day life into words and chapters; what better story could I write?

End Chapter.

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