The taste of salt

Camp Westwind. Lincoln City, OR

Camp Westwind. Lincoln City, OR

Much of the writing I have time to do these days is in the context of short writing workshops, producing small pieces caught between the parentheses of five minutes, eight minutes, maybe twelve. Just recently, I looked over two years of these short writings, collecting the best ones into a list. To my surprise, which happens often when reviewing writing, many pieces seemed to follow distinct themes. I pulled out pieces having to do with home life, descriptions of loved ones, and walks along the beach. I hope to share some of these short pieces with you over time, and am starting with thoughts about the endless depths of the ocean. Today, the sky outside my window is cloudy, reminiscent of winter weekends spent at the Oregon Coast. The fog is everpresent, and holds our profound dream-like thoughts so close throughout the day. Our thoughts are often fleeting, hard to grasp and contain. But when the clouds come in, it seems as thought we have a chance to reach out and grasp them, as they are caught in the mist.

“She often could not articulate her thoughts; they seemed like objects glimpsed peripherally, skittish and ungraspable, splinters and fragments that would not add up to much if bundled together; they refused to stand still for examination. For this reason, she was largely silent.”
-Katherine Min-

*     *     *     *

Cascade Head, Oregon Coast. Taken from Camp Westwind.

Cascade Head, Oregon Coast. Taken from Camp Westwind.

Walking on sand is like walking on history, years upon years of the Earth caving in, breaking off, tumbling down, blowing about, until it arrives, safe and sound on the beach. Miniscule pieces of rock, which spent years cooking itself under the pressure of all those feet and mountains pressing down upon it, was once disparate but now covers the Earth in a giant sheet. Feet of mastodons, feet of saber toothed cats, feet of dinosaurs, large T-rex, feet of monkeys, feet of lions, feet of elephants, and now seven billion feet of homeo sapiens, stepping one footprint at a time onto the beautiful Earth, sometimes crushing the backs of countless insects, underrepresented in court but running everywhere on Earth. Walking on sand is like caressing history, remembering the Earth’s struggles and how it continues to struggle. We caress the Earth when we walk- why don’t we caress more often?

*     *     *     *

Camp Westwind. Lincoln City, OR

Camp Westwind. Lincoln City, OR

They walked along the windswept beach together, hand in hand, step by step, leaving behind the soles of their shoes like stamps in a trail behind them. Expanses of grass shifted like waves to their left, or did they wave their leaves like hands in greeting? Either way, they shimmered green and white, reflecting the light of the sun back to them. To their right, there were more waves, these more violent in the way they reared up, pausing for a brief moment at their peak before crashing down to the ground and dissolving in defeat. As they walked, she imagined this beach as it had aged. Rocks once attached to the menacing cliff ahead of them surely detached one day, teetering precariously before falling to the ground and flattening everything in its wake. And then year by year, growing smaller and smaller, maybe even traveling to foreign countries. The cliff may have scattered itself into a million tiny pieces, shards of its once solid self, now a tiny piece of glass, one of millions they walked on now. Together the tiny pieces held them up on their walk. Like her thoughts, scattered and rolling around in her head like sand blowing up in the wind. But in beautiful, cogent moments, sometimes on the cloudiest days, the sand seems to settle into ideas she could grasp, hold onto, write down…

She felt a squeeze on her hand and looked up, startled, into his face. “You’re thinking again, aren’t you?” he asked. She smiled, admitting herself guilty. “Have you ever thought about this ocean?” she asked, failing with language to describe her thoughts. “Have you ever thought about how vast it is, how old?” He looked at her, a puzzled look on his forehead.

*     *     *     *

When the tide goes out, it brings with it the peaceful lapping of waves and leaves behind straggly seaweed in browns and greens and reds which will soon be left crusty and brittle to the touch in the sun. They walked along the beach in summer, glasses of wine in hand, sun warm and browning their necks. They found themselves two nice rocks, flat and round and already warm, smelling salt and carcasses of deceased sea snails brineing between rocks. Their words were of dinner plans and a night spent cuddled under a blanket. He thought of the beauty of days of beach walking ahead. She thought of the agelessness of the sea. Just below their bare feet was a peaceful, deep pool, ripples rising from the surface as a small fish came to investigate. Soon the waves would return, but for now, there were the tidepools.

*     *     *     *

Camp Westwind. Lincoln City, OR

Camp Westwind. Lincoln City, OR

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5 thoughts on “The taste of salt

  1. Hi Katie…Did you ever climb over into the cove south of Camp Westwind? And have you ever read anything by Brian Doyle or Anthony Doerr? I think you might enjoy them.

    • Dan! No I haven’t. Though I believe I hiked up right above that cove. Can you climb over to it from the beach? And YES I love Brian Doyle (I’ve blogged about his book Mink River before) but haven’t heard of Anthony Doerr. I’ll check him out…thanks!

  2. Pingback: An act of patriotism | in the midst

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