Tag Archives: cannon beach

#FineArtFriday: the Monarch of the Beach, Haystack Rock

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).


Filed under writing

#FineArtFriday: Two Photographs, Two Years Apart

As I mentioned in my last post, The Summer Retreat, I am enjoying the last days of summer in Cannon Beach, Oregon. We will go back north to our home tomorrow. This has been a strange year, with unusual heat and a thick, smoky haze that marred the first three days.

This is the view of Tillamook Head as seen from Ecola Creek on August 13, 2016. That was a year of fabulous sunsets, deep blue skies and perfect kite flying winds.

This following image is the shot I took of  sunset three days ago on the same beach, with a more southern angle–the sea stacks are to the right, just out of the frame. At the time the photo was taken, the sun was still an hour above the horizon, and it should have been full daylight instead of twilight.

The brown haze is so thick, it looks as as if the image is grainy and overexposed, but as you can see by the red sun, it is just smoke obscuring the view of the ocean, hiding the rocks, and nearly hiding the sun. That was a difficult day for those of us with asthma, as the sun was obscured for most of the day, despite the intense humidity and 90 degree heat. The surf looks unreal, as if it were a badly composed painting.

Today the brown haze cleared and the temperatures dropped to the normal high 60’s to mid 70’s–which is perfectly comfortable. Not breathing the smoke from the West Coast Wildfires is a relief, although I suspect we will return to that misery once we return to our own inland valley.

Nevertheless, it will be good to be home. We love this place and this beach and return every year. And every sojourn here is  so different, so unique, always with something new to enjoy. Even when, as it was this year, it is a strange, nearly post apocalyptic year.

Credits and Attributions:

Images and text © 2018 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under #FineArtFriday, writing

#amwriting: mind wandering


Sea Stacks at Tillamook Head © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson

We have long known that creative people are often guilty of daydreaming, but researchers have shown that daydreaming makes you more creative. Right now I am on vacation, and my output of writing has been sporadic–it comes in bursts. Here by the sea I find myself thinking about…nothing.

Sometimes I realize I’ve been gazing at the scenery with no conscious awareness of thought for long stretches of time. This means my mind is completely at rest. With this relaxing of conscious thought, I become rested, and my mind is cleared of the white-noise that hinders my creative process.

Eugenio M. Rothe, a psychiatrist at Florida International University, says:  “Many times the ‘dialogue’ that occurs when the daydreaming mind cycles through different parts of the brain accesses information that was dormant or out of reach. Likewise, the daydreaming mind may make an association between bits of information that the person had never considered in that particular way.”

Intriguingly, the physiology of the brain itself, and not the “mind” controls our daydreams. Anthony Jack, a cognitive scientist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio says,

“How we daydream and think depends on the brain’s structure. …(That) structure is constantly changing in small ways—as we learn new things the connections between nerve cells change.” (Read “Beyond the Brain” in National Geographic magazine.)

I usually work 10-16 hour days. I don’t do it intentionally, but it happens. Thus, taking a complete break away from my desk is critical. At home, I might go out to my back porch and observe the neighborhood. It’s peaceful out there, but here, where Ecola Creek meets the Pacific Ocean, I am away from my usual tasks. I have no schedule, and my editing work is on hold. I am writing this post via the stream-of-conscious method rather than preparing it ahead on Sunday as I usually do.

My mind has been defragging this week. I can feel my spirit growing lighter, less concerned about the small annoyances. I don’t need sunshine to free my subconscious thoughts–I just need the sea.

My husband is relaxing too. He has only called his office once, and on finding the small problem there was easily settled, he is relaxing and enjoying the peace of the moment.


Sea Stacks in the Mist at Tillmook Head © Connie J. Jasperson 2016

The ocean right now at 5:57 am is shrouded in fog. The sea stacks are islands in the mist. For an hour or so more, the gulls and other sea birds will own the beach, and they are making the most of their time.

Soon early risers like me will be up, some letting the dogs go for a run, others just wandering the shore, thinking about nothing in particular.

Today we will go down to Haystack Rock with a picnic lunch and if the wind is right we’ll fly the kite. That is all the plans we have for the day. I may write when I get back, or I may continue reading. Whichever I do, it will be interspersed with long moments of staring out at those amazing rock formations where Ecola meets the sea.


Filed under Adventure, writing

#amwriting: finding paradise

Amaranthus and Savvy at the needles by haystack rock cannon beach 2012My annual visit to the sunless Oregon Coast is upon us. For the next week I’ll be reading and gazing out the window at the ghostly rocks of Tillamook Head rising from the mist. Terrible Tilly, the most infamous lighthouse on the West Coast rises a mile out to sea, but is shrouded in fog and mist–I can’t see her today.  It is supposed to rain most of the week here–and that is what we come to this place for.

The many moods of the stormy waters, the seabirds–this place inspires me and clears my head like no other place.

I will be writing whenever the muse seizes me. Our condo is one we often stay at, and is perfect for us with a fully outfitted kitchen. I will cook many meals for my family, as being vegan, I can’t really eat in too many restaurants, although there are a few beginning to offer vegan options here.

As I write this at 06:15 a.m., the rain-slick streets are nearly empty, making this my town, my personal paradise. Despite the bad weather, people will soon be out, and it won’t be mine any more, but the hum and bustle of the streets brings a different vibe of excitement.

Walking along the beach in this sort of weather, one finds so many more things. The wave deposit sand dollars and the seabirds dine on them, leaving behind the hollowed shell for me.

The author goes kite flying in the fog, Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock , August 2013I may not have the chance to fly my kite until later in the week, but then again, some years I find myself kite-flying in the fog. Rather like my normal life, I suppose–with so many stories whirling in my head I’m always in a fog, so to speak.

Sun or no, this is my writing and reading paradise. I have the opportunity to do both here, in undisputed peace. Today, my husband and I will stroll along the beach, or visit the small shops, or just chill on the deck, observing the sea in all her many moods.

This is my piece of Heaven. Have you found yours?


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Filed under Adventure, writing

R & R for the soul

the goonies posterAs of this week I am on vacation. Yay for the burning heat or foggy chill of the Oregon Coast! As always we are in Cannon Beach, where the weather is random and as many of our large family as can make it come to kick off our shoes and play in the surf. This year several great-grandchildren I have never met are visiting from the east coast.

We are engineers and designers as well as artists and musicians–we will build a monument to sandcastles!

Or hang out at grandma’s condo and assemble a jigsaw-puzzle if it should suddenly turn cold and rainy.

Or we’ll watch TV on my son-in-law’s portable outdoor theater, which I find intriguing–I rarely watch TV at home. But we have to watch The Goonies, since we are in Cannon Beach–it’s a family tradition and a rule.

Tenth_of_DecemberFor reading material, I have my kindle loaded with Tenth of December by George Saunders. I listened to the Audible book, and I was so impressed with Saunders’ narration that I have to read it with my own eyes. Yep–this will be an awesome, relaxing reading-for-pleasure kind of vacation.

By virtue of past experience with Cannon Beach cuisine, I know I can eat in several cafes that offer vegan/vegetarian options–they are good, but limited.

But we always rent a condo, and I am doing most of my own cooking, as no one really gets that vegans eat vegetables–go figure! (oh god, a vegan–what will I cook?) I am the queen of barbecue tofu sliders, and all food homemade, not just vegan.

We always stay down by Ecola, and love that end of the beach. Watching the grand-kids and great-grand-kids play in the sun and surf is awesome. Making vegan smores is a total treat. The others are not vegan but I use vegan chocolate and if I can’t find any Dandies, I just won’t eat the marshmallows. The simplicity of sitting around the fire at night listening to my kids talk about their work, their ambitions, and their parenting lives inspires a sense of pride in me that is hard to explain.

The little ones are building memories that will bind them closer together, cousins with a common history of one particular place they went, a week-long family party, and a summer that seemed endless.

Amaranthus and Savvy at the needles by haystack rock cannon beach 2012Kite-flying is my big down-time hobby. I keep it simple, and have found through experience that flying a kite in the fog is not always as easy as it sounds. In many ways writing is a lot like flying a kite–it takes a little effort, but wow, once you’re aloft it’s mesmerizing.

I always return completely revitalized, and ready to get back into publishing and writing. Who knows what amazing revelations regarding my work will have occurred to me while I am enjoying the views and salt-sea air that Ursula K. Le Guin frequently enjoys?

Le Guin’s work was one of the many that inspired me to think I might be able to write–her way of telling a story was so compelling I couldn’t get enough of it. The first book of hers that I read,  A Wizard of Earthsea is set in the fictional archipelago of Earthsea. I loved how she painted that world with words, and brought it to life in my mind. And it was just my cup of tea–the story follows the education of a young mage named Ged who joins a school of wizardry—and is my favorite fantasy book of all time. She knows how to write great prose, and how to keep it moving so that even picky-wannabe-critics forget they are reading great prose.

Now, if only some of that  gift for word-bending will rub off on me while I am building sandcastles and flying kites in her old stomping grounds!


Filed under Humor, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Stormy Weather

Amaranthus and Savvy at the needles by haystack rock cannon beach Haystack Rock Cannon Beach ©cjjasp 2012

Amaranthus and Savvy at the needles by haystack rock cannon beach Haystack Rock Cannon Beach ©cjjasp 2012

We are on holiday in Oregon, at a little town called Cannon Beach. This is a wonderful place, famous for the rock formations and caves, and the scenery was featured in the film, The Goonies.

Even in August, the northeastern Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Coast is cold and frequently cloudy and rainy. But when the sun shines, it is amazing.

Watching the storms roll in from the safety of the porch of the condo is nothing less than awesome. The beach is uncrowded, and Amaranthus and Savvy can play to their heart’s content, running wild the way cousins have always done since time began.

Amaranthus digs bunkers, and wades waist deep in Ecola Creek where it runs into the ocean. He rides his skim-board along the edge of the ocean like a pro, using his skate-boarding skills to the max. When he steps onto the porch, he is chilled to the bone, and his 6 foot tall, 14 year-old frame is shivering. His lips are blue from the cold, and he doesn’t even have to be told to take a shower–he’s a man now. He knows what to do.

Leah and Christy Cannon Beach 2012 © cjjasp 2012

Leah and Christy Cannon Beach 2012 © cjjasp 2012

Savvy is bright-eyed and deeply interested in creating marvelous sculptures of sand, just like her mother, my daughter Christy and her Aunty Leah. All our children were keen sandcastle engineers! The girl also rides her skim-board and stays out until she is blue from the cold.

It’s a family tradition.

Savannah is 11 and she’s a girl, so she also doesn’t have to be told to warm up. She wants only to sit in the Jacuzzi when she finally has to abandon her sand castles.

Sandcastle Sam 2010

Sandcastle Sam 2010

Nephew Samuel is 16, and is fixated on riding his bike the length of the beach, from Rockaway Point to Ecola Creek as many times as he can fit into the vacation. He is also a sand castle excavator, bringing spades, a pick-axe and many other large implements for proper excavation. No matter how cold, blue and near death from hypothermia Sam is, he won’t take any advice on how to get warmed up, preferring to sit in a corner looking like death-warmed-over. Did I mention Sam is 16?

Rockaway Beach © cjjasp 2013

Rockaway Beach © cjjasp 2013

This year I’m here resting up, recovering from my surgery, and writing intense scenes for the revised version of Julian Lackland’s story. This is the perfect environment for me, and with everyone else checking out the caves on Rockaway Beach and trudging down to Haystack Rock, I have the perfect combination of peace, quiet and beautiful scenery to motivate me. Throughout the rest of the year I live for this week of writer’s paradise.

Local legend says Ursula K. Le Guin spends time writing here in Cannon Beach, which seems right since she lives in Portland, 1 hour and 45 minutes away. I know that this place inspires me more than any other place we go.

The Needles at Cannon Beach ©cjjasp 2013

The Needles at Cannon Beach ©cjjasp 2013

The weather is frequently awful, but we know it, and we plan for it. But there will be two days of glorious skies of a blue impossible to adequately describe.

The moods of the Pacific Ocean are anything but peaceful. It is a wild, beautiful thing, that is never the same two days running.  The waves crashing against the sea stacks and  the cries of the sea birds combine with the wind to clear my mind, and at last I am free to just write.



Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Literature, Uncategorized, Vegan, writer, writing