Let me tell you about romance. It is a tiny room on the north side of Hallmark Resort with a peek-a-boo view of the blustery Pacific in Cannon Beach, OR. I’m sitting at a round table, not two feet wide, perched on one of two elfin chairs writing against the ever-changing drama and steady rhythm of the surf. I open a window knowing the air blowing in would be heavy with moisture. I roll a towel and place it on the windowsill and move papers that will feel like soaked sponges by morning.
Air that is thick with salt and seaweed and other marine mysteries I know nothing of dampens my face as I press closer to the window for a better look. Here on the horizon clouds billow in a palette of colors that I want to paint our new condo back home in Montana: the browns that are troublesome to me at home blend perfectly here with greys and blues. I want, these hues chosen by the Master Creator himself.
Everything here is in motion: fat droplets of rain splat against the window; sand is blowing to the north, waves coming in from the west, clouds blowing to the south, jacketed couples and families in parkas leaning into the wind from the east, each a pilgrim to Haystack Rock and the secrets it keeps. Sea gulls dance and ride the waves of wind from any direction they please, calling out in this thin place where the waters of heaven and earth meet.
I watch while the autumn sky deepens, the sun, a veiled orb sinking low behind its frothy pink and grey horizon, bowing its goodnight before the cosmic curtain falls. I am getting drunk on lemon poppy seed layer cake that I bought earlier at the Sleepy Monk coffee shop. I meant to save half….but I am now licking the cellophane between sips of fresh brewed Sleepy Monk coffee, pungent and dark.
The room is now dark as the coffee, save the soft glow of one small lamp, the primary light source provided with this miniature room. It’s not an oversight. I sit cross-legged in front of the hobbit-sized fireplace, the secondary source of light with a rounded metal grate and let my mind wrap around all that it took in today. I breathe deep and pray the Lord’s prayer, picking over each detail of the day and relinquishing it back to God, memorizing the harmony of images and pressing them together with those from prior visits. My soul thirsts for this expansive quiet with its constant roar of pounding and rolling surf.
Earlier, I wasn’t so still. Donned in my capris and jacket that is not waterproofed, I was my typical restless self, making long fast strides at a steady clip. Why do I always feel it necessary to make my steps count? To make everything count? I clipped along the surf while the wind whipped my hair all about my face, my coffee steaming and sloshing out of the lid with each quick, efficient foot print; as if my task, my speed is somehow more urgent or important than all that is around me—nature’s perfect cadence, held in place by the moon and the gravity of the earth.
It was then that I saw a man on the beach, a visage of David Nixon, our spiritual director with an indelible imprint of the Trappist monks with whom he’s shared life and been formed. Impervious to the wind, this man was barefoot, and like David wore blue jeans and a western styled shirt rolled up at the knees and sleeves. He was as still as I feel right now, only he was sitting in the sand, leaning against a huge log of driftwood, his hands cradled the back of his head.
I slowed and slipped out of my shoes and wriggled my toes down into the cold moist sand, paused to attend to the wind as it sandblasted any exposed skin and the sting of salty air bit at my face. I breathed deep, filling my lungs and heart with the taste of the ocean so I would not forget it when I return home to the mountains. Remembering who I am, I twirled and leaned into the wind, I am merely one player in the rise and fall of this carefully timed orchestration: this sand being blown along the hard, wide surface of this remarkably flat beach where the surf stands higher than the sand itself. Where mini dunes form art along the middle stretch just below the berm of yellow grasses bending low. Closer to the water the wet hard pack mirrors the billowing sky overhead and the geese flying in formation between honk their autumn song.
Layer upon lazy layer of low waves break crisp and white, frothy, whipped up into the air from the grey green depths below like a crinoline petticoat, layers of billowing lace and satin mimicked by the simple shift I just bought at a boutique down on Main, and I, I too am in the song.
At the north end, where the current and course of the sand shift, I watched gulls fluffed and resting or splashing and primping in the gulfstream. They too are fulfilling their God-given DNA, their design. Theirs is high worship. They merely go where the stream goes. When the sand crumbles and falls in on itself, they remain nonplussed and adjust their course. They are our teachers for today for those who are willing to be students.
Young lovers tease and chase and play in the wind, every bit as willing to move and flex as the waterfowl. Ah, the glory. Theirs is testimony of the Divine Dance, of God’s unfathomable love. A twinge of ache ripples through my chest for my husband who boarded a plane at PDX last night, the evening of our 29th anniversary. But as I sit here in front of orange glow of the fireplace, with the pitter-patter of rain on the window and the call of gulls on the wind, I know my need to be here… alone and still.