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Posts tagged: Oregon coast

Travel: Escape to the Oregon Coast


    During the years when my children were in school, when I was tied to their academic calendar, I wasn’t able to just pick up and go when the mood struck. That kind of freedom didn’t come for another decade. But once a year I would pack up the family, more often than not, just my two youngest daughters—the others had summer jobs and other commitments—and run away to the Oregon Coast. 


    With the girls and the dogs in the car, squeezed in beside coolers and lawn chairs, beach towels and a big bag of books, we would drive for hours until we arrived at our favorite spot, a small town with no mall, no fast food, no distractions. And we would stay for as long as I could afford to keep us there.     

     I took extra assignments during the year to pay for a cottage. I would work late into the night so that when summer came I could throw myself at the Pacific the way we fall on our mothers, desperate for the comfort of something bigger than the small petty worries that chased themselves around my mind morning, noon and night.


    Those were wonderful days. When the fickle weather allowed, we spent hours playing in the sand, but there was the greater luxury of time for myself. While the girls slept or read or worked a puzzle in whatever cottage I’d rented that year, I would make my way down to the water. I would close my ears to everything but the sound of the waves hitting the shore, close my eyes to everything but the search for shells and agates on the beach. I would walk for miles up and down the beach, my back bent, my mind wandering, letting the cold wind and stinging sand scour away the brittle crust that had formed around me. 


    Somehow, answers that eluded me everywhere else always seemed easier to catch and hold while I walked the beach.     Without the stress of keeping house, meeting work deadlines, volunteering at school and all the other matters that constantly distracted me, I could read my own mind and make sense of things. I could see people and issues more clearly. Words filled my head and sentences and paragraphs wrote themselves, and stayed where I could find them when I got back to the cottage and sat down to my computer.  Without the distraction of television or friends calling and coming over, I could reconnect with my children on a more intimate level. Keeping my eyes on the horizon, I made peace with what I could not change and  measured the distance to dreams I was chasing. 


    It’s no wonder those days at the beach, in the company of the wild Pacific Ocean and my own sweet daughters, have taken on such a warm glow in my memory. 


    Life has a way of chipping away at us at times: Old friends battle cancer. Work disappoints or becomes less fulfilling. Loved ones lose their way and our own ambitions shift and take new direction. To work through such matters requires equal measures of silence and solitude. 


    I can’t go back in time; the two young girls are grown now and no longer mine to put in my car and drive away. But I can go back to the place we were so happy. The sea is still there. The waves still crash against the rocks on the shore and the wind still blows. What I need is somewhere on that beach, half buried with the agates and bits of broken shells. All I have to do is put my head down and walk until I find it.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” (available at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane) and can be reached at

Swept away

     I was busy with other things. My mind was on early spring chores like clearing away the winter clutter of boots, shovels and mate-less mittens; sweeping last year’s bitter-end-of-autumn leaves and pine needles off the patio; tidying up the garden getting it ready to plant again, to fill with new green growth.
     I certainly had enough to think about.
    But, suddenly, when I wasn’t paying attention, while my back was turned, a longing for the ocean swept over me in a wave of pure desire. Scraps of memory, images of other trips to the coast, distracted me and tripped me up. I lost my forward momentum. I lost my place.
    I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was the basket of stones I’ve gathered on past trips that sits in a corner of the patio. They’re always there but I do forget to stop and look at them. Maybe it was the way the wind whipped at my hair and pulled at my clothes while I worked, the way it does at the shore.
    All I know is that in an instant, I didn’t want to putter around the house anymore.  I just wanted to get in the car and drive until I hit the edge of the continent.
    Now, all I can think of is getting to the wild and rugged Pacific coast.  I want to run away to a favorite cottage tucked into the hillside of a quiet little town. Just for for a few days.
    I didn’t realize I was so hungry for solitude. Now, I am craving time to myself to walk on the beach with the sound of the waves in my ears and the sting of the wind against my skin. I want the luxury of sitting by the fire, my hands wrapped around my coffee cup, beside a window that overlooks a wide horizon of endless water and sky. I want time to think. To solve problems. To make resolutions. To surrender to an ancient and inescapable rhythm.
    A long time ago, I fell in love with the Oregon coast. And like any true love, it never goes away for long.
    I was busy when I drifted into daydreams about the sand and the waves. My hands were occupied when my mind caught the current and was pulled out to sea. For days now, as I do all the things that are expected of me, as I work and drive and put meals on the table, my mind has been miles away watching clouds scuttle across the sky and sea birds wheel and dive.
    The idea of running away snuck up on me and wrapped its arms around me. Why should I resist? Why shouldn’t I turn around and return the kiss?
    So, my calendar is open with red circles around empty squares. The number of the rental agent is on my phone.
    The sea is calling me. And I never could play hard to get.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons,” and her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio as well as public radio stations across the country. She can be reached at

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Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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