A while back there was a meeting called. It required one free day without rain, a semi organized plan, and the motivation to not chicken out.
Location: Where the Pacific Meets the Shore
Participants: Sovereign Creator God and Me
I. Sitting Still
II. A Little Nostalgia
If you are familiar with western Oregon and its coastal towns then you will have heard of Florence. It is due west from where I’ve lived in Eugene for the last decade-and-a-half by 60-something miles. When you hit Florence you must go left or right, south or north, on Hwy 101 or take your chances swimming in the Pacific straight ahead. The Siuslaw River meets the ocean in Florence. Here’s a nice 11:00 a.m. shot from a bench in the sun. Oh, and a note about the above mentioned river . . . think you know how to pronounce it? Well, maybe you do. But it took me a while after we moved here to be comfortable with Sy-OOOS-law, emphasis on the OOO. It’s a pretty spot lined with boats and not just a few clam chowder restaurants.
Leaving Florence and choosing to travel north with a goal in mind, I passed up a bunch of chances to stop at various beaches along the route, all lovely in their own ways and many specializing in treasured memories of friends and family outings, but still not what my mental GPS was honed in on. If you know Hwy 101 you are nodding when I say it only gets curvier and more exciting as you proceed north. There are turnouts where you can whip in while avoiding oncoming traffic and spend a little time gazing across the waves to see who’s first to spot a sea lion, or if your timing’s right during migration season and you don’t mind winter bluster and rain, a whale. I did pop over to the side of the road once for a few minutes but the agenda beckoned . . .
Next stop, Sea Lion Caves. Yes. Me, Myself, and I went to this blast-from-the-past tourist spot alone. It was (I think) the fourth time in my life, two as a child, one as a family on our son’s 16th birthday, and today. What can I say? I like the place. The elevator was carved into the wall of the mountain the year I was born. We share that generation. So it speaks to me.
If you’ve been by here, you know there is additional parking across the busy highway from the building. And yes, that’s a fairly blind curve. In a daredevil sort of way it’s part of the fun to get in the starting blocks and make a dash for it before a semi rounds the corner. (Don’t tell my kids or grand kids I said that.) I don’t dash like I used to and you’ll notice there’s no picture of said dashing, but let’s just say we got the job done.
The fun of Sea Lion Caves (apart from the gift shop and the penny smashing machine) is the mammoth-sized natural cave to which you take an elevator. They say the descent down inside the mountain is an equivalent of about 20 stories. It’s cool and wet and dark-ish down there and they’ve got it all fixed up with displays and dim lighting. When you come to the end of the ramp going down from the elevator and emerge out into the room with an observation deck, it is then that the sea lion cave becomes visible to your left. I just love this place. During the late April season, however, all the sea lion folk are mainly outside on the rocks busily making more baby sea lions so there’s not as much population inside the cave to be seen on the rock formations or swimming around and hollering in their distinctive voices. I stood there for a long time though, just taking in the smell (not bad, just “fishy”), the coolness, the fact that it hadn’t changed since the first time I was there 50 years prior, and watching two intrepid animals on the biggest rock who did indeed decide to get a table for two inside that day.
And here’s a pretty poor but well-intentioned homemade video from my outdated (according to my kids) phone. The couple on the rock was behaving politely and only one other sea lion was visible in the water. On a good day of viewing, that rock is literally crawling with the creatures, the water teeming with the swimmers, the noise deafening. This was more of a private party. Discreet. Exclusive if you will.
When I finally took the elevator back up into the sunlight (that’s it in the photo below) it was time to hit the gift shop, smash a couple pennies for the grand kids, and purchase a Chinese-made fridge magnet to remember the day. And then we called it good.
Next on the mission agenda was to hustle up to Yachats.
Okay, pause for a moment and give that a try out loud. No fair if you’re from here and know how. That regional name took me a bit longer to get mastered than Sy-OOOS-law. Just FYI, it’s not “YAK-ats.” People laugh and laugh and laugh when you say it that way. I kid you not, the way you pronounce this Oregon coastal town is YAW-hots.
In Yachats (You said it out loud, didn’t you?) is a little sincere seafood place called Luna Sea. I love that. Lunacy. Get it?
So a quick stop there for some fantastic halibut & chips in a plastic bag and I was off back down 101 to find a place to pull off, look at the ocean and eat my fish. I had made a plan or two of possibilities as I passed them by on the way north to Lunacy.
I mean Luna Sea.
And it wasn’t long on my drive back south on 101 before I came upon The Ideal Picnic Spot of the Universe.
Strawberry Hill is a turnoff that’s easy to miss. And don’t be fooled by the name — nary a strawberry to be found. It’s as rocky a coastline as you’ll find anywhere along this stretch of road and that’s saying something. The parking lot holds about four cars. There’s one picnic table. On a gorgeous sunny spring day I was there all alone, got the table and had a front row dining seat at the Pacific Ocean. Now that, friends, is living.
It wasn’t long before I started feeling bad for taking up the only table at Strawberry Hill so I cleared off and let . . . um no one have it. Seriously. It was like a little time out all by myself at this place of beauty. I stashed my fish trash in the back of my car because no trash can (yes, regretted that later) and moved my little red blanket down closer to the water. And then I sat.
And moved around a minute because my legs were going numb.
And then sat some more.
There can be trouble in sitting. It causes us to stop moving our limbs and instead exercise our thoughts. Maybe dust off our spirits to see if they’re still in there. And with the vastness of the largest ocean on earth looming out in front of me on a beautiful April day, it wasn’t long before I zoned out to the rhythm of the waves and took a little nostalgic tour of memories to go along with the “excursion” theme of the day.
Out on the rocks sat a dozen birds. I’m not a birder so don’t ask me what kind. Not robins. Or ostriches. Gangly things with big beaks. And around them bobbed and weaved a few sea lions. A bald eagle cruised by acting like he owned the joint. This day was full of serious nature. The horizon could’ve been as far as Tokyo but maybe it just seemed that way as my tiny dot of humanity squinted to take it all in. I felt small. Super small. So small that my existence quite possibly did not matter. Those long-legged birds and sea lions and eagles would go on about their business whether I was there or not. The waves would do their wave thing . . . there’s nothing so monotonous or beautiful as waves. They didn’t give one whit if I was up there on my red blanket. And if I got too close to that beautiful ocean it would do as nature does and look the other way if I drowned in it. And then continue to wave.
In my mind, behind my sunglasses as I perched on that hillside facing into the vastness, I visited years gone by. There has been an abundance of sweet preciousness, memories to “hang my hat on” and sit in for a while, enjoying the warmth that enfolds me when I recall them, the ones that bring an unintentional upturn to my smile or a contented sigh . . . and then also a few I could’ve done without. There’s the rub however; no one gets a bye from the second variety. Not me. Not you. Not my loved ones. Not yours.
Are you familiar with scripture? Do the same verses pop into your mind that pop into mine at this point? Or was it the influence of my perspective as an infinitesimal dot peering out at the ocean, the Creator’s creation, that brought it to mind?
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
One of my goals in aging is to not transfix myself on the past and talk about it all the time. Both the good and the bad. That’s not a pleasant party trick.
We do the younger people around us a disservice by dwelling on how things were so much better “back when” or “in my day.” This IS my day! It’s easy to slip into letting a person or persons decades younger make you feel as though your worth has diminished as each birthday passes . . . dear ones, that is not so and don’t give that thought the time of day. There are wonders and newness and experiences and thrills yet to come! Nothing is gained by looking back . . . well, maybe some caution before doing dumb stuff, but that’s the glory of age . . . “I’m not doin’ that again!”
Two thoughts before I leave my ocean view:
- Small does not equal insignificant. Comparing myself to the Pacific Ocean, the waves crashing on the shore, and all the animals of nature is just plain misguided (I was going to say dumb but that’s not good self talk. Ha!) The God of the universe, the Creator of all we can see or imagine from our perches on the hillsides across the world, knows us by name. He is omnipresent, meaning He is capable of being everywhere at the same time. He inhabits every moment, every thought, every need and every cry for help. And He created the oceans. And sea lions. And those gangly birds. You may be small. You are not insignificant to Him.
- Perspective does not equal minimization. If you ever get the chance, sit on a hillside overlooking the ocean. It sort of snaps you out of it. I guess I should be careful to speak of myself here, but my day along the shoreline brought a comforting kind of perspective that God is fully alive and active in this world whether we feel it or not, whether our outcomes are as we wish, whether our prayers are answered in the way we had in mind, or if our memories are pleasant to recall. I’m not asking myself or you to “get over” whatever it is you may be walking through. That is a minimization of pain or trouble. Perspective comes in trusting Him and living out your faith through it and in it. Stand on the shore and study the horizon a while. He knows you and sees you.
So I headed home. It took me a minute to get my legs under me after sitting on the ground that long. No wisecracks, please. I’m enjoying new thrills.
To get back to Eugene from the coast north of Florence, typically you would take Hwy 126 which takes off to the right at Mapleton. As my radio had mysteriously tuned in to some country station (somebody’s been fiddling with it, ahem, Bob) the announcer in Eugene was telling his listeners that if they were expecting anyone to be driving in from Florence that afternoon to plan on them being late. A wreck was stopping traffic big time. So, I hung a quick left and took Hwy 36 which I had always meant to do but never had an excuse. And boy was I glad!
The Siuslaw River (you said it again, didn’t you) runs right along that curvy old highway way off up through the woods and
I enjoyed this part of my day almost as much as the Pacific Ocean. Almost. It’s a curvy little highway, let me tell you. Kinda narrow. Seems like ODOT could’ve opened their purse strings a bit more and given us another 6-8 inches but avoiding head-ons added to the fun. I’d never been through Swisshome, Tide, Deadwood, and Greenleaf. That’s country living, my dears. And clearly I was driving the tourist speed of 55 or so around some of the death-inducing curves because a big brown UPS truck flew around me on a double yellow doing about 75. He’s clearly used to the route. And has a quota. Yikes.
I wound up back in familiar territory, picked up my little dog from her day-long adventure with her dog cousins and got home thoroughly happy and pleasingly a bit sunburned. Now there’s a new memory in my data bank to look back on and thank Him for bringing my way.
Here’s a song. Maybe some of you were predicting I was going to stick this one in here. There are numerous videos of this well-known worship song out there. You may notice that I try to choose videos with lyrics for our deaf and hard of hearing friends. It may not be the most riveting video but I know you’ll understand. The music stands for itself.
If you’re feeling small, remember that it doesn’t translate to insignificant.
He sees you.
He knows you.
He parts waters for you.
Call upon His name.
The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens
And has founded His vaulted dome over the earth,
He who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the face of the earth,
The Lord is His name.
Amos 9:6 NASB