The Writer’s Holiday

This week we are in Cannon Beach, Oregon, for our annual family pilgrimage. It is the place where sand and sea meet grandchildren and dogs. This year, no toddlers, but one of the older grandchildren is here with his friend.

Sunset_Cannon_Beach_05_August_2019We booked in January, so we got our favorite condo on the beach. Some years we don’t get it, but we always have fun. My sister-in-law and her husband are in a small house a bit further toward the other end of town. The daughter with the teenagers is staying in the neighboring town of Seaside, which is more oriented to teenagers and caters to their idea of fun.

Cannon Beach is a pleasant village, with flowers in every public place, gardens that are maintained by the city. It’s an attractive tourist town, easily walkable, and with a free transit system.

There is a brewery, several coffee roasters, numerous art galleries, and bookstores. On the main street we find a fabulous wine shop, my all-time favorite bakery, and an old-fashioned candy factory that is to die for.

Most important of all, on the corner near our condo is the grandchildren’s favorite toy store of all time, Geppetto’s. No one can walk past it without stopping in. (Shh – don’t tell anyone, but I’m getting the youngest ones their Christmas presents today.) This store has the most amazing variety of board games and puzzles.

Our condo is in the thick of things, so pizza night is easy to arrange, and a great pub is just around the corner.

We usually stay at the north end of town in the same area every year. I have a full kitchen, essential for the vegan on the road, and can walk out my door to where Ecola Creek enters the sea. The creek is wide here at the estuary but so shallow we can wade across.

Amaranthus and Savvy at the needles by haystack rock cannon beach 2012

The best part of this condo is the lovely gas fireplace for when the teenagers come in dripping seawater and sand, with blue lips and chilled to the bone.

They never listen to Grandma. “Come in before you get hypothermia!”

Just sayin’.

The view from our condo is one that never fails to soothe me. Tillamook Head is just off to the north. A mile out to sea, resting atop a sea stack of basalt, the notorious Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, nicknamed “Terrible Tilly,” has had a long history of strife and tragedy. Although long closed to the public, she still stands today, battered and bruised. Her continued existence is a testament to the quality of construction, as she is much stouter than the rock she was built upon.

About Terrible Tilly, from Wikipedia:

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Cannon Beach Aughust 2014In September 1879, a third survey was ordered, this time headed by John Trewavas, whose experience included the Wolf Rock lighthouse in England. Trewavas was overtaken by large swells and was swept into the sea while attempting a landing, and his body was never recovered. His replacement, Charles A. Ballantyne, had a difficult assignment recruiting workers due to the widespread negative reaction to Trewavas’ death, and a general desire by the public to end the project. Ballantyne was eventually able to secure a group of quarrymen who knew nothing of the tragedy, and was able to resume work on the rock. Transportation to and from the rock involved the use of a derrick line attached with a breeches buoy, and in May 1880, they were able to completely blast the top of the rock to allow the construction of the lighthouse’s foundation.

On October 21, 1934, the original lens was destroyed by a large storm that also leveled parts of the tower railing and greatly damaged the landing platform. Winds had reached 109 miles per hour (175 km/h), launching boulders and debris into the tower, damaging the lantern room and destroying the lens. The derrick and phone lines were destroyed as well. After the storm subsided, communication with the lighthouse was severed until keeper Henry Jenkins built a makeshift radio from the damaged foghorn and telephone to alert officials.

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1957 and replaced with a whistle buoy, having become the most expensive U.S. lighthouse to operate. During the next twenty years, the lighthouse changed ownership several times; in 1980 a group of realtors purchased the lighthouse and created the Eternity at Sea Columbarium, which opened in June of that year. After interring about 30 urns, the columbarium‘s license was revoked in 1999 by the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board and was rejected upon reapplication in 2005.

Access to the lighthouse is severely limited, with a helicopter landing the only practical way to access the rock, and it is off-limits even to the owners during the seabird nesting season. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981 and is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. [1]

I spend a lot of time on the porch, looking out to sea at Terrible Tilly. The view is soothing, although the Northern Pacific waters are wild and untamed.

The lighthouse that I think of as a friend stubbornly clings to life, providing a home for seabirds. I watch it, sitting in solitude and letting my mind go free, and then I write.

KiteFlying2018When I feel need to clear my mind, I go to the water’s edge and fly my kite. While I do that, my husband roams the beach, watching the seabirds nesting on the God-rock of Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock.

I will admit, we overindulge in treats reserved only for holidays. On days when we have no grandchildren, we visit our favorite restaurants and pubs. Often we go to a play at the community theater.

Each year, when we return home, my thoughts are clearer for having come to this place of wildness and beauty. I feel invigorated for having spent a week in the company of our loved ones.

Winters on this coast are notoriously awful, as witness the battering of Terrible Tilly, but August is peaceful, with mists rising at dawn, sun all afternoon, and stars falling over the vast ocean.

Every year, the moment we arrive back in our inland valley, I long for this place, my spiritual home. In the days and months to come, this week will shine in my memories, a sliver of paradise outside of the pandemic, a quiet time of rest and rejuvenation.

Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Tillamook Rock Light,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 14, 2021).

All images used in this post are the author’s own work and are copyrighted.


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3 responses to “The Writer’s Holiday

  1. Johanna Flynn

    So glad!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Looks like the perfect place!

    Liked by 2 people