The last 4 months in 5 quick photos

(top to bottom: Marveling at Fort Feline, a Gold Beach Oregon community for feral cats; trying to see possibility vs a lost cause; hiking the gorgeous (Columbia River) Gorge; prepping for an upcoming, multi-event family wedding; taking time to notice a blue and gold fall)

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Creatures

The last few months have seen too many of those in my circle checking their horoscopes in hopes the stars’ forecast calls for something besides more-serious-than-usual sickness, job woes, financial worries, and/or family issues.

Despite the astrological status quo, however, I’ve had a terrible time getting the independent types to obey Bill Withers’ now-classic lines:

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend / I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long / ‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”

Others have it worse, they protest stoically—and depressingly, news article after news article supports their claim. Refraining from pointing out that others have it better seems the least I can do, but I hate to stop there.

Fortunately my independent types will usually accept a meal, joke, hug, distraction, or even a heartfelt sentiment or two. Compared to what I’ve received from them over the years it doesn’t seem like much. But when I’m in their shoes, even momentary access to my more carefree self means everything.

…after a run of bad news, it can be tough to remember that life is full of surprises that leave us contemplative, curious, delighted, or bemused versus on high alert…

(top to bottom: In Bandon Oregon, a majestic seahorse is just one of the boardwalk’s unexpected pleasures; thanks to one family’s tree stump and the calendar, a neighborhood sports a quite literal interpretation of the lion in winter; Vancouver BC’s VanDusen Botanical Garden manages to find room for a dragon sculpture amidst the water lily leaves; it’s hard to resist a closer look when front yard decor is the bee’s knees; being outnumbered by dandelions is cause for one critter’s celebration—or surrender)

Landmark

As the extent of Hurricane Sandy’s damage becomes even clearer, I continue to wish individuals and communities strength as they recover and rebuild.

…because navigational markers orient our hearts as well as our heads, we feel their presence or loss—which is why we’ll never stop creating, reacting to, protecting, and cherishing them…

(top to bottom: On Long Beach Washington’s Discovery Trail, a basalt monolith offers up quotations from William Clark’s 1805 exploration of the area; a driftwood sculpture helps mark the way along an oceanside pathway; a 1925 covered bridge rides out another Central Oregon storm; in southern Oregon’s Lithia Park, a heartfelt (if destructive) message; sculpture provides a sense of stability in Vancouver BC’s English Bay)

Gratuitous Color Shot #17: Ladybug, ladybug fly away home

History has repeatedly made its for-better-or-worse mark on lovely Long Beach, Washington. The Chinook were displaced by early settlers, the once-remote seascape beset by summer visitors, the abundant clams and salmon over-harvested.

By 1980 the lodgings and amusements created to support tourism from the 1880s on—including warm saltwater swimming pools and sport fishing—weren’t enough to support a town worn down by gas/energy crises and changes in the commercial fishing industry.

[Contributing factors to the decline in for-profit fishing: Pollution, climate shifts, and a controversial legal ruling giving Native tribes the right to half the region’s harvestable fish.]

Since then, a place named for 28 miles of sandy shoreline has added new chapters to its story while keeping oceanfront development minimal.

Today’s Long Beach offers a rehabilitated main street heavy on the classic seaside mix of treats and trinkets. It’s a place where taffy, burgers, and arcade games co-exist with souvenirs of Jake the Alligator Man, bumper cars, and ziploc’d bags of fresh cranberries handed over with a smile.

When warm weather ends, the Long Beach Washington ladybugs lose an antenna but keep their smiles

Kites star in museum exhibits and multiple festivals. A boardwalk winds through decades-old dune grass that both stabilizes and enchants. And down the road a ways, fans of nature and history will find Cape Disappointment anything but.

Compared to other PNW spots, the region hasn’t changed terribly much since the days when rumor (and Coast Country: A History of Southwest Washington) has it a woman dropped a ball of yarn from a train window and “the conductor halted the train, got out, retrieved the wool, and rolled it.”

For those who dream of life beyond a small coastal town, it’s likely the tourists, unhurried pace and relative isolation chafe. Luckily for the community’s economic security, though, making nostalgia the town’s dominant currency seems to be a gamble that’s paying off.

Curiosities on Oregon’s Central Coast

Though I placed a very different order with the universe, my summer calendar has been filled with tedious, mildly dramatic events instead of invigorating adventures. While recalibrating from zombie to human has required scaling back the more extraverted of my commitments and activities, it’s also had an upside: lots of low-key moments with very wonderful others.

Now, the experiences that were both mellow and a departure from the work-home-work-home landscape may have thrilled me a bit more by dint of their rarity.

And the ones that came with a fair amount of visual interest were possibly extra-rejuvenating.

But really—I couldn’t assign wellness values to each interaction; cumulatively, they all provided a lift. I will say that 24 hours on an underappreciated part of Oregon’s coast did seem to shift a lot of internal ballast. Perhaps it was startled into moving when it encountered large-scale Jang Seung carvings in Lincoln City instead of Seoul?

Artist Yoosuk Bang’s Jang Seungs carvings lived a jet setter’s life before their rather unexpected installation in front of Lincoln City’s Palace Inn

Or lightened by blue sky, broad expanses of empty sand, and the soothing rhythm of the waves?

It may be a gorgeous summer weekend, but Lincoln City’s underappreciated oceanfront has far more barnacles than beachcombers

Holding onto tension in such a setting is futile, especially when given random reminders to seek harmony. [Though technically the message came once-removed via Mr Vix.]

When the beach yields a yin-yangesque reminder to find balance, surely one should listen?

Clearly we were to continue following our no-plan plan!

Having tapped out our interest in wandering the beach, we turned to the streets, streets which happily led us to the city’s farmers market. More judgmental types might have been fazed by the abundance of deep-fried and sugary items, but as someone left underwhelmed by swiss chard when strawberry doughnuts beckon, I was in heaven.

Feeling both festive and vaguely ill from the aforementioned deep-fried items, the next move was up in the air. With no interest in Lincoln City’s casino and outlet mall—two reasons many avoid the area, for which I thank them—we hopped in the car and headed north. North turned out to be an excellent choice, as we stumbled onto one of Oregon’s most unusual headlands: Cape Kiwanda.

Expecting to see the charcoal-hued cliffs sported by most of the state’s coastline, I was a bit thrown by the warm rust and ochre tones I spotted across the beach. Why, except for the whole ocean element I could be hiking in Palm Springs!

Cape Kiwanda’s sandstone headland, with its beautifully colored cliffs, stands out amongst the coast’s more common basalt landmarks

Fortunately the terribly Oregonian “hey man, we’re just chilling and doing a photo shoot of outdoor wear but you’re welcome to be underfoot” thing helped tether me to geographic reality.

Despite geological oddities and a nearby fashion shoot (complete with stylist and makeup artist), an intrepid young bystander keeps her eyes on the ocean

Even if the rows of indentations along portions of the cliff walls suggested a reality that existed long, long before mine…

Wandering along Pacific City’s beach toward Cape Kiwanda brings one to honeycomb-like hollows

and the accepted practice of mixing dory boats + surfers + swimmers made me fear I might see a placid setting turn into a triage set-up should a boat clip an adorable waterbug during its incredibly fast transition from ocean to beach.

Consider yourself warned: near Cape Kiwanda, surfers and swimmers best keep an eye out for dory boats that swoop to a standstill

Luckily for my nerves we were headed to the calmer pastures of Tillamook County, where an impressive cow population along with a steady tourist influx allows dairy farmers to churn money along with butter.

Tillamook’s long-standing position as an Oregon dairy center goes back 100+ years. Today, dairy tourists have two main temples: the Blue Heron French Cheese Company (brie, booze, and lots of glass-packaged gourmet items) and the Tillamook Cheese Factory (ice cream, cheese, and swarms of families).

Despite an unfortunate genetic mis-wiring that leaves me unable to stuff gobs of dairy into my system, I do my best to support local businesses when visiting. And those working in the dairy industry tend to be so friendly, damn them. I felt a civic duty to stop at both companies, and Mr Vix was easily persuaded—though I think it was more a case of “you had me at ‘free samples'” than anything more soul-stirring.

I’d like to point out that stopping at the Factory isn’t just about gluttony, however: it’s also about EDUCATION.

Between the ability to watch factory workers and the relatively lively interpretive exhibit, a detour there is a social studies lesson come to life. Naturally the vintage marketing materials drew me like a curd to whey.

While the Tillamook Cheese Factory is a tourist mecca, its exhibitions (and practically free ice cream) are worth a pit stop

Now of course the central coast has oodles of natural beauty I didn’t document, along with any number of ways to get up close and personal with marine life, history, and/or delicious eats/drinks. Which I’d say is reason enough to go….