A Walk in The Clouds on the Oregon Coast

When you know that you know who you love, you can’t deny it.
Or go back, or give up, or pretend that you don’t buy it.
When it’s clear this time you’ve found the one, you’ll never let him go
Cos you know and you know that you know.

When you feel in your skin in your bones and the hollow
Of your heart, there’s no way you can wait till tomorrow.
When there isn’t any doubt about it once you come this close
Cos you know and you know that you know.

You can feel love surround you like the sky ’round the moon.
This is how love has found you, now you know what to do.

 When You Know — Shawn Colvin

▲ click to hear the music ▲

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Susan and I on the Oregon Coast, 1987

On our first date we walked the beaches of Oregon. In was Valentine’s Day 1987 and we both instantly knew we had something special. I still remember the feel of the brisk salt air on my face, the sand blowing down the beach, the call of the gulls, and the smell of the sea that day. But most of all I remember her smile. It was like a walk in the clouds.

I am at heart a California boy. So in 1985 when I moved to Oregon to work on my PhD at Oregon State University it was a difficult transition. Goodbye sun, waves, clear seas; hello clouds, rain, and stormy weather. But then I meet Susan — at heart an Oregon girl — and we had three wonderful years living on the Oregon coast. And although we were barely surviving economically it was one of the richest times of our lives. It was a special time and one that we always cherish.

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Our small rustic place in Seal Rock, 1988.

It the fall of 1987 we moved in together in a tiny one bedroom studio in Seal Rock, right off highway 101 and several hundred feet from the beach. Seal Rock (pop.∼1,000) is a quaint town located along a gorgeous stretch of the central Oregon Coast between Newport and Waldport. It is one of those small coastal towns that you fly right past if you are not paying attention; but it is well worth a visit. Jagged rocks rise majestically offshore into the surf and create tidepools rich with marine life, the rocks teeming with birds and harbor seals. And south of the rocks where we lived there was an incredible beach that ran for 7 miles.

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Susan at our private spot overlooking the beach near Seal Rock, OR. 1989.

It was a magical place: we had early morning coffee at our private bench overlooking the ocean, endless walks down the beach, flying kites, playing with Susan’s dog Chelsea, watching for harbor seals, searching for shells. It was a simple, carefree place and a great retreat from the rigors of graduate school. The beach was mostly devoid of people and we both quickly fell in love with its moods: sunny and warm, clear but cold and windy, foggy and still, and at times a raging angry torrent of wind, waves and rain so strong you could barely walk down the beach. In 1989 the beach was covered with snow and ice for a week. Over time the beauty of the place won me over and I began to love the Oregon coast.

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Walking on the beach at Seal Rock, 1990.

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Susan and Chelsea on a rare snow day at the beach at Seal Rock, Oregon. Feb. 1989.

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Susan and I playing in the snow at Seal Rock, Feb. 1989.

As time passed we became engaged and then married and our little abode became the center of our world. From there we traveled to Año Nuevo Island and Santa Cruz Island in California where Susan helped me with my abalone research. Susan went back and forth to the OSU campus and the Hatfield Marine Science Center where she was working on her research on visitor behavior. We explored the coast and visited Boiler Bay, Strawberry Hill, Yaquina Head, Yachats, and Agate Beach. We visited her parents in Portland, mine in California. Friends came by to visit. Susan rode her horse Chism, I surfed, and there were the endless walks on the beach as the seasons passed by. We marveled at the pigeon guillemot’s burrowing into the cliffsides in the spring; took delight in the moist, foggy days in the summer; poked at the stranded bull kelp in the fall; and were humbled by the fierce storms in the winter. When a large storm slammed into the coast we could feel the pounding of the surf, the wailing of the wind, the roar of the forests then we’d sit in front of a blazing fire in our small house. Life was good.

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Susan with Chism, 1989.

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Me surfing near Seal Rock, 1989

But all good things must pass and after three wonderful years we both graduated from OSU and it was time to move. First inland to the forest around Wren, where we lived for 6 months in a rural wood-powered home, then back to Corvallis where we lived in a small two-bedroom house near campus. It was there in late 1991 that Susan became pregnant with our first child, Alexandra, and I received a job offer from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. By Jan. 1992 we had moved to Hilo to start the family phase of our life, then on to Ridgefield, Washington in 1998 and eventually to Trinidad, California in 2013 where we live now.

Part of the reason we love Trinidad so much is that its rocks and beaches, complete with shells and harbor seals, reminds us so much of our early days together on the Oregon coast but yet it feels like California — the perfect place for us both. And although we can never go back to those days on the Oregon coast, the seal covered rocks, the long empty beach, the sounds of the birds, and the waves crashing on the shore will forever be a part of who we are. And now, 29 years later, we remember those days on the Oregon Coast as the foundation of our life together, forged during those long walks on the beach.


Here’s a short video of those days:

 

 

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