A few years back when I still lived on the Palouse, Romeo and I were taking a walk on the trail at the edge of the University of Idaho. It was the time when my chapbook If A Sparrow had been selected as a finalist in the 2012 Open Poetry Chapbook Competition at Finishing Line Press. I was starting to do more art, and I felt like things were speeding up in my life. As we walked over a bridge to get back down onto the trail, the wind picked up my hat and lifted it off my head. It was as if the universe was replying, “yes, hold on to your hat!” I laughed at the symmetry between my thought process and how the wind corroborated with it.

When I first moved to the Palouse, it took me a long time to get used to the absence of ocean. In time, I began to realize that out there, the ever changing sky was actually my “ocean,” and the sound of the wind in the trees, the sound of the “waves.” That helped me settle into the slower shifting time of earth-oriented rhythms apart from the tides.

My visits to the beach this summer that preceded this amazing move cued me in again to that cycle of time tied so closely with the tides and the moon. It felt like the most authentic calendar possible, and I longed to measure the hours of my life by it.

When I first came to start living at the beach nearly a few weeks ago, I quickly discovered that to my dismay I had accidentally left the backpack behind I always use that was filled with essentials like Romeo’s collar and service dog regalia and my own favorite hat and head bands, things that were absolutely required for my city life. It was still sitting at the back door in Portland like it always does, waiting for me to pick it up. Only now I was 2 1/2 hours away.

At first I wrung my hands in anxiety and then I kept holding them palms up to shrug and giggle nervously each time I discovered that something else I always use and need in the city was indeed in that left-behind backpack. When it was time to drive to the next larger town to get some supplies at Fred Meyer, I wasn’t sure if they would let me in the store with Romeo. My son said let’s just go, and if they ask you to leave, we’ll do the shopping and you can wait outside in the car. And so we went. Apparently the universe no longer wanted me to “hold on to my hat” literally, but was asking I take a whole other kind of risk.

No one, but no one, said a word. The same thing happened the next day when we went to a time honored health food store in the town just to the north, so I could get some tempeh and a few other co-op style items. So several days later, when it was time to walk the 1/2 mile up to the nearest market for a few things I could carry without my backpack, I took a deep breath and said to Romeo “let’s take a walk and see what happens.”

Nothing. Well, actually the checker just said to me, “can I pet him or is he a service dog?” I told her he was working and that was that. She complimented him on his good looks and gentle demeanor. She almost resented the fact she couldn’t reach out to pet him, but also prided herself in knowing it’s not a good idea to to that with working dogs.

The ordinary here is not the ordinary I have been used to. It’s definitely a more relaxing ordinary than I’ve had in a long time. And what is more, the majestic is actually ordinary, at least in the sense that it happens all the time. There was the night I went out with Romeo into our new yard while he took care of business before bed. As always from my place, I could hear the waves crashing on the shore. The night was clear and crisp. I looked over the trees in the direction of the ocean, and there was the Big Dipper pouring itself into those waves. To the east a bit was Casseopea. Two old constellation friends I have hardly seen at all in the last year. It felt like a family reunion.

We have been able to walk twice a day on the beach, but a couple of times even after those walks, I have just felt like going down to our lookout bench for a few minutes to watch the sun set. Each time has been totally different. The first time the sky was clear, and the waves were calm. The tide was coming back in slowly. After sitting there for a few minutes and snapping a couple of photos to send to the kids or try to paint from, I turned around, grateful for my dose of sunset awe. There before me, at what had been my back, was the rising moon, with sky and scrub and path on the hillside backlit with the last bits of sun. I gasped. Here is what I made of those moments in pastel.

sunset-opposite-moonrise-photo-2

Moonrise at sunset, Depoe Bay, chalk pastel by Maria Theresa Maggi

There are two windows in my living room kitchen area through which I can see a patch of the ocean. So last night when I saw that the sunset was going to be unusually dramatic, I threw on my shoes and a jacket over my apron, left my cup of carob fudge and frozen blueberries on the table, and walked down the hill to our park’s lookout bench again. This time there were storm clouds with breaks for dramatic light, and a frothy sea shrouded in mist and shadowed by the clouds. As the tide receded the sand was backlit by the fading light. Just out of the mist were two figures, arms around each other. They were kissing. Here’s what I was able to capture from memory, which was the moment they pulled away from each other.

Sunset 2 Lincoln Beach chalk pastel by Maria Theresa Maggi

A long time I wrote a poem about the apron I happened to be wearing, one that a friend from high school and college had made for me. I wrote of it protecting me years after my youth, helping me find what I called “the shine.” I had thought about taking it off before I went down, but really I didn’t want to miss a second of the orange and blue and yellow light before it disappeared behind the purple-gray of the clouds, so I kept it on.

I’m much older now than I was when I wrote this poem. My hair is now silver, like the rivulets of water carving the sand from the small creek that feeds down onto the beach at the bottom of our hill when last light casts its magic for a few moments. And I’m much, much older than I was when I first began to learn how to paint in watercolor, when one of my constant themes to learn horizon and reflection was a sunset over the water. I painted this scene again and again, miles from the ocean, not knowing I would live near one in my twenties and again, much later, in my sixties. These sunsets I am honored to witness each night have brought back the memory of those small, careful watercolors, and how as a teenager, I was captivated with it, and I lost myself in the reflection of the light on the water. I didn’t paint these scenes over and over from a photograph or a trip we’d taken. I don’t know where the desire to paint them came from. As I look out on the ocean here, now, I am reminded of them. Could it be that I was painting myself forward several decades so as to recognize when I had landed where my soul needed to be?

Here, unlike in the poem, the shine is not buried so deep. In fact it dances on the surface of things,  right at hand, in the passing of the day, the rising and falling of the tide, the sun and moon. “Always never the same,” as one of my new neighbors likes to say. I told him he’d gotten it just right.

Maria (moonwatcher)

{ 14 comments }

I Wonder. . .

by Maria Theresa Maggi on September 5, 2016

 

sun on oceanDuring an astrological reading, I used to be fond of telling my clients that to access a particularly destiny-oriented point in their charts, they had to be willing to take a leap. The way I illustrated what that leap might feel like was to use Cinderella as an example. She had to be willing to believe that somehow, even though she couldn’t see how, a pumpkin could be come a coach, and white mice become white horses? If she refused to at least wonder how it might be so, she’d never have ended up at the ball.

In other fairy tales, we often see the scenario of the 3 Wishes. All of these stories are about how we must be present with our wishes, and generous, too, with what the implications might involve. Often, wishing is too tightly bound to the agitation of the moment, and then expansion of view is what must be learned.

I think fairy tales have these lessons in them for a reason. Just a day less than a month ago, I was walking back to the beach house my daughter-in-law’s cousin owns, where we were guests for the weekend, and I happened to look up beyond the beach and see a trailer park nestled above the rocks with what seemed like a spectacular view of the ocean, which that day teemed with seals playing in the waves just beyond our reach. Everywhere I looked there was magic.

As my eyes made out the trailer park, I had the fleeting but full-hearted thought, “I wonder what it would be like to live there.” Then, of course, I promptly forgot.

But I didn’t forget how well I slept at the ocean, how even recovering from deep dental cleaning I’d had the previous week I had no hot flashes, and my nervous system seemed to settle down into a relaxed groove. It was so obvious that my family and I began to discuss the possibility of what it might be like for me to relocate in that direction. We were thinking perhaps next summer. The trip home was filled with the discussion of this possibility.

With all this in mind the next night, I thought I’d do some internet “dreaming” and google what might be available in the general area we had spent that weekend. I was thinking “house” and “next year” but just wanted to see price ranges, layouts and beach access. The very first thing Zillow coughed up was a single wide trailer in a place I’ll call Holiday Home. I was unmistakably drawn to it, though it took me a while to realize it, because it wasn’t in my register of what I thought I was looking to discover, and when. But I had somehow forgotten to close that first page, so every time I clicked on something else it was still there. Finally I looked at it again. I saw it had a good yard with a fence that would safely enclose two dogs. I saw it had a lovely and sturdy front porch. I saw it had a light and airy kitchen. I saw that from the living room and kitchen you could see a piece of the ocean out the window. I saw that it had been substantially remodeled in its fundamental structures like roof, wiring, siding. And I saw, that I could almost, perhaps, somehow, buy it right now.

At first I resisted. That isn’t what the plan was. Still, there it was, even though I slept on it, even though I told myself you have to wait until next year. Finally I asked my son and daughter-in-law if they thought I should call. Perhaps just humoring me, they said, sure, why not. Kelly looked it up and discovered it was on the same beach we had walked and sunned and sanded on, that we had in fact walked past it. And then I knew. It was in the very same trailer park I had looked up and wondered about, my heart open with the wonder of possibility.

I decided it was important to at least go see it. My kids, being the great kids they are, humored me once again and drove me back out to the coast to do so. None of us expected to like it as much as we did, but somehow it was even more cute and more sound and better than the photos.

I couldn’t really quite afford the asking price, but the realtor had told us the seller was wiling to come down on it. She lived very far away and could not afford to come out to the Oregon Coast any longer.

So on the way home we came up with a low ball offer that I could afford, not knowing whether it would be too insulting to be accepted, or whether I’d actually have a chance. Imagine my sense of wonder expanding when we were able to agree on a purchase price just $500 above what I offered. We closed on August 31.

Like the fishermen and the petulant princesses in the fairy tales, I had to be willing to expand my view, both of what I could afford, and how I ought to do it. In the end, it will be a slow miracle process. It will cost me a little bit of my retirement to do so, but I will keep both my place in Portland and this one until next summer. I’ll have the turn of the seasons to decide if this is where I want to be, and if it is, then I can sell my place in the city and live at the ocean full time.

Some people say I won’t like the winter. But the people who live in the park that I’ve met so far all say I’ll love it here any time of the year. The best part is I’ve given myself time to find out for myself.

This morning Romeo and I walked on the beach together, the first morning after the kids returned to the city, leaving us to stayin our new place for a while. The water was several different shades of blue, and the waves were breaking in dramatic bursts of foam. We headed north on the beach because I wanted to retrace the steps back to where I’d first seen this stretch of ocean, where I’d made some simple charcoal sketches looking down at the beach.

 

More than seeing what I’d sketched again, I wanted to meet up with that alternate self and thank her–the one that walked over to stand at the top of the staircase down to the sand, just minutes before heading back to the city, the one who blew a kiss out to the waves and said “I’ll be back.” Little did I know how soon it would be, how the spirits of the seaside heard my wish and helped the universe provide just the right place. I just wanted to loop back in wonder and thank that part of myself for opening up the possibility which now is quite real indeed. I traced that energetic trajectory in the physical by picking up a rock, a piece of shell made into an angel’s wing and a tinier rock much closer on its way to becoming sand: the large one at the place where I looked up, the angel’s wing about half way back to where my beach access is now, and the tiny one in the course muddy sand that leads up the hill to the park. Each of them literally shouted at me to bring them with me as evidence of a wish come true. They remind me our wishes and wonderings have “weight,” that it takes some ethereal “lift” to set them in motion, and finally a willingness to trust that large magnificence can manifest from what is seemingly tiny.

angel wing between beach stones

Of course it will take a  while to fully sink in. But that’s what this next year is for. And while some my age and older are fashioning ways to “age in place,” I seem to be accessing an internal gypsy. I had to confess to a friend who is very much an advocate of aging in place, that although I’m an advocate too, too, at least in principle, in my particular case, it’s sort of cracking me up to realize I’m dong a terrible job of it. This mystified me at first, since I am not the one among my friends who globe-trots to swim with the dolphins or hike in the wilderness. It helped me feel a lot less strange, though, to discover the seaside I’ve chosen–or that chose me–is also considered the whale watching capital of the Oregon coast. The great gray whales themselves migrate up and down our shores, and come very close to let their babies sleep in the kelp beds off an underwater shelf. There’s even a resident pod, who for whatever reasons, some say because of fatigue and scars battling orcas and other rigors of the long journey from Alaska to Mexico, choose to stay off our shores year round. So whether I stay or go in the end, I have the example of these magnificent creatures, reminding me we are all on the move, always, however slowly, and home can be in each and every step of the way.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the significance of what my daydreams hold, and for how long they have lived as a part of me. I am particularly good at hiding such things from myself in the hustle–and sometimes struggle– of making the every day necessities work. But truth be told, long ago, as a graduate student driving up and down Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California, I would often pass a trailer park perched on the very edge of the sea and wonder what it would be like to live there. Many years later I heard it was removed to make room for oceanfront mansions, and I mourned that transition.  I laughed to myself that even before I got to graduate school, reruns of The Rockford Files showed me that James Garner’s character got away from it all by living and conducting business in a little seaside trailer, where he put up with his rather salty Dad. He got a lot of his best insights about solving cases out in that sea air.  I also spent a lot of time as a 20 something walking on the beach, or just staring out into the vastness of the water. So this is a slow motion miracle in more ways than taking the year to migrate back and forth before choosing.

The beach I walked on as a young woman in southern California had the shadow of Catalina Island out on the horizion. The Oregon coast has no such island or landmark out to sea. It is all rocky, sandy terrain, coves and trees along the edge and nothing but ocean and sky on the horizon. Forty years out from my 20’s, it seems fitting that at this stage of the game, I would want to look out on the completely open sea. I wonder what will come of that. . .

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

 

{ 28 comments }

“Tell Me Your Story”: SOS Radio

August 18, 2016

Life has been taking me back to remember my time as a young graduate student and then writing adjunct instructor in the English Department at the University of California, Irvine. During that time, the composition program was growing in leaps and bounds. When I started, it was all run by graduate students farther along into […]

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A Watched Pot (And A Shout Out To Straight Up Food)

August 4, 2016

  It was a hot and muggy day in northeast Portland. There was no way I could prepare our sweet potatoes the way I thought I like them best–roasted or baked in the oven. But Romeo and I needed some sweet potatoes, so I fell back on my blogger friend Cathy Fisher’s simple tried and […]

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It Takes a Vegan Village: A Compendium of Quick Vegan Ice Creams

July 24, 2016

If you’re as old as I am, you might have the memory of hanging out on a front porch on a sweltering summer day waiting for the ice cream truck to round the corner. The desultory arguments about how to spell “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” would melt in a milisecond as we all hit the pavement at top […]

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Easy Red Cabbage, Orange and Cilantro Chopped Salad

July 12, 2016

Back when I was a smart-ass teenager, I triumphantly told my mother one day that parents most often spoke in 3 word imperative sentences: clean your room, watch your mouth, don’t be late, ask your father, set the table, do your homework, and so on. She was a good sport, and she thought that was […]

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Cauliflower Popcorn

June 22, 2016

When I was growing up, my Dad didn’t do a lot of cooking. And when he did cook, he tended to burn things. I can remember a few rather mournful weekends sitting at the kitchen booth in the house I grew up in on Fernandez Drive, while my mother was away on a Catholic retreat, […]

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It’s A Snap (And Enchanted Places)

June 9, 2016

Some of you may remember that in my post Absent Minded Gardener I posted a photo of a planter with a home made “ladder” of sticks and twine protected from slugs by copper tape and pennies where I planted some sugar snap pea seeds and waited. I’m happy to share (although pea production has slowed […]

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Aqua Fava Carob Pieces (Vegan, Gluten and Oil Free)

May 17, 2016

Though I’ve gotten a lot less fussy (or maybe lazy) in my cooking habits, from time to time I still can’t resist my proclivity for vegan adaptations of things I know I should never eat in their original form. This experiment is that a couple times over, since most of you can eat a few […]

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Lost and Found

May 9, 2016

When I was moving from the blue house on Asbury Street, there was a lot of downsizing and consolidating going on. You may recall how in the post The Right Stuff I looked back on my time at the house ensconced on my bed behind the old hardwood hospital table I had decided to sell at […]

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