Today I am offering you two images instead of one. The first image was found on Wikimedia Commons, taken in 2013 on a spring day in Cannon Beach Oregon. It is a wonderful shot of what I think of as the Monarch of the Beach, the God-Rock dominating the shores of my favorite beach.
The sky is perfect; an amazing shade of blue with stratus clouds overhead and sea below, all converging on Haystack. The photographer did everything right to capture the beauty of this place.
This town is home to me, although I only live here one week out of the year. On Sundays, the streets of Cannon Beach are crowded with cars and throngs of people. The cafes, galleries, trinket shops, bookstores, wine shop, and bodega—all are jammed, alive with a seething mass of humanity.
On Mondays, it becomes walkable. It’s a place where temporary neighbors become good friends, knowing they will likely not see each other again, but glad to have shared this time, these sunsets.
When I leave our tiny rented cottage and turn to the right, I can walk the few steps to the seawall’s stairs. They are precipitous, and nowadays, they’re sometimes hard for me to negotiate gracefully.
But these stairs are familiar; old friends greeting me in their sand-encrusted steepness, bidding me, “Welcome back, Pilgrim! Welcome home.”
On sunny days here at the north end of the beach, the sandbar between Ecola Creek estuary and the sea is filled with people carrying chairs and chasing children. Excited dogs, all with leashes securely attached to their people, push along toward the waves, dragging tired humans faster than they can comfortably walk.
Other days, when it is cold, foggy, or rainy, I only have to share this beach with the few hardier folks who love the soul of this place as much as they do the sun and sand.
The beach stretches four miles from Ecola Creek to Arch Cape. It’s a sandy shoreline, dotted with sea stacks. Several smaller sea stacks surround the grand master, the Monarch of the Beach who sits near the center, the megalith known as Haystack Rock.
This is the annual Jasperson family pilgrimage to a hallowed place, one that assumes mythic proportions when we are away from it. It is a place of spiritual significance to each of us, reconnecting us to both sides of our extended family through the eternalness of giant rock, immeasurable sea, and large holes dug in the sand by free-range children under the watchful eyes of a multitude of adults.
This is where we each find serenity our own way and become a little less frantic, a little more Zen.
Some years, like this year, not every member of the family can make it. This year only two daughters and their children, and an aunt and uncle made the long journey. But like the seabirds nesting on the sea stacks, we old people return here every year. We come to regain the internal balance that we gradually lose over the course of the year, seeking connectedness.
We watch the sea while relaxing in inexpensive, wobbly chairs or on sand-dusted blankets. Picnic lunches and jugs of filtered water sustain us as we wait for the winds to be just right for Grandma’s kite to take off, soaring into the sky. Children squabble, flashes of toddler vs. pre-teen frustration that quickly pass if ignored—unless someone is bleeding. Digging large holes and raising the highest sandcastles requires teamwork, and teamwork forges bonds that stay with cousins forever.
The Needles, those acolyte sea stacks gathered around Haystack’s knees are slowly disintegrating. We see them diminished a little more every year, noticed especially when we compare pictures from one year to another. This next image is one I shot on Monday August 5, 2019. The sky has been this shade of gray for most of our stay and it has been cool. I particularly love the way the tidal pools came out, the green of the sea moss, and the reflection of the spires across the shallow sea.
Pelicans, puffins, terns, seagulls, and rare wide-winged wanderers from far out to sea nest on the Monarch of the Beach, Haystack Rock and his attendants. Tidal pools shelter starfish, anemones, and a multitude of other small creatures. As if enchanted, these tiny water-worlds beguile the children and remind the adults that we are part of something larger.
We come every summer to pay homage to the Monarch and his attendants, to enjoy the familiar sights and to see what has changed since the year before. This year the most visible change was in the Needles—one of the larger ones has been sundered into two spires rising from a common base.
Several large needle rocks and their smaller companions still gather around the Monarch of the Beach, attendants pointing the way to heaven. Or perhaps they mark the way westward to the far east, a sign directing us across the Wild Northern Pacific to Japan.
The sea is ever-changing. Untamed and dangerous one day, it is calm and serene the next. The waters reflect the sky; a sooty gray as the storms roll in or the silvery-blue-ish of a sunny day. This sea always dresses in shades of gray, some more blue than others.
If you are here for the sun, you’ve come to the wrong shore. Sunshine is an afternoon guest, usually staying four out of seven days a week along this rocky northern coast. If you want to be guaranteed sun, go elsewhere.
We humans are not islands—we are part of a world that extends below the surface and conceals secrets and lives we surface dwellers can only dimly imagine.
Above the eternal sea, on the strand below the Great Rock, we remember who we are, and we are made stronger.
Tomorrow after one final breakfast, we return to our ordinary homes. We will arrive tired and glad to be there. But we remain connected by the invisible bonds of sand and sea and family that we create here.
The bonds forged in this hallowed place bind us together. They won’t be broken no matter how far apart we are, or how long we are separated, not even after the Monarch of the Beach crumbles into the sea.
Credits and Attributions:
Haystack Rock, by Tiger635 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Sentinel, 05 August 2019 (One of the Needles, Cannon Beach) © 2019 by Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved (author’s own work).