Ocean Shores, Washington
March 26, 2007

Sandy and I stood at the edge of the United States and looked west across the roiling Pacific, drinking bottles of cold Sierra Nevada as a light rain fell on us. The briny air felt soothing inside of my lungs, calming. Salt water always brings a feeling of boundless hope to me, no matter what my mood; The smell of the ocean reminds me that there is always another place to go if I tire of this one.

For as long as humankind has existed, we have used the sea to escape the mundane for the Other. Even if we never leave, the idea that a New, perhaps better, world is out there provides a balm against the dreariness of every day, settled life. But I was in a good mood today, and the smell of the salt air was akin to eating a slice of chocolate cake, just after having a slice of carrot cake.

The rain died as we walked north along the coast, leaving behind the cars doing donuts in the sand, leaving the kite flyers behind, leaving the blocky resorts behind. We opened another set of bottles and strolled further, stopping to poke through crab shells and sand dollars, and other bits of seatrash. We had for companions only the gulls and sandpipers that flitted about looking for something to eat. The obesity of the gulls indicated that food was quite plentiful.

With the exception of a few trophy homes, the coast was remarkably undeveloped, something that struck both of us as rather odd. Perhaps there were zoning restrictions from the state, or the county. Perhaps there was a sensible development policy in place. Allow only so much ugliness.

We had come two, perhaps three, miles from Ocean Shores along, watching the clouds come in from the Pacific, ducking and running in the wind. The clouds brought a sense of power with them, a certain energy in the air, and when the sun broke through and showered us in a golden light, it was as if the energy was released and poured down upon us. When the sun was sealed up behind a wall of clouds once more, the energy began to build again.

The sky was getting progressively darker as a system made its way ashore. We turned around and headed back toward Ocean Shores, drinking the last of our beer, facing the wind instead of running from it. The wind howled past my ears making a distinct melody. Or harmony. I no not which, for I do not know which is which. But it sounded pleasant to me, and that was more important that the name that I called it.

As we neared Ocean Shores, we were both shocked by the sight of a large tree in the middle of the beach. Neither of us could remember it being here when we walked past earlier in the day. It was impossible not to have seen it and we must have walked right past it only a few hours earlier. Why, or how, did we not see such a massive, obvious, marking on the beach? Given that we had been poking about at everything we found on the beach, it seemed inconceivable that we would not have walked over to examine the dead tree. And yet we had done precisely that: Missed something that was hiding in the open.


Ocean Shores is located at the far end of Grays Harbor in Washington state. To get there from Lakewood, drive I-5 south to exit 104 and take US 101 west for a mile or two before exiting onto SR12 heading west toward Aberdeen, about 35 miles away. Drive through Aberdeen following the signs for US 101/SR 109 to the far side of Aberdeen, actually in Hoquiam. Dodge off on SR 109 and follow it toward Ocean Shores. You'll need to take SR 115 to the city itself. The city is fairly small and easy to navigate. You can drive onto the beach, but it is more pleasant to walk. Head north (right) and walk for as long as you like. If you head south (left), you'll eventually reach the end of land at the entrance to Grays Harbor.