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Posts tagged: oregon

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 catmillsap@gmail.com

The First Flush of Fall

   I don’t need a calendar to tell me what’s happening, and it doesn't matter where I am. I just have to open my eyes to see the change of seasons.

    The light has, for weeks now, had a golden cast as it slopes down over the tops of the fir, pine, chestnut and oak trees in my neighborhood. The air is cool and sweet in the morning, tinged with traces of rain the night before.

      The roses in my backyard and in the park are all in bloom, one last exuberant burst of color with flowers so large and heavy they bend the thin stems that hold them to the bush.

    Everywhere I go, I am surrounded by the flush of energy and impatience that comes with autumn.

     Recently, I climbed into the saddle of a trail-savvy horse on a ranch in Montana. But the moment I put my feet in the stirrups I could feel the vibration. The horse couldn’t stand still. He pranced and danced, shaking his head at every tug of the reins. Finally, surrendering to the knowledge that I was no match for him, I turned around and headed back to the stable.
    “What gotten into him?” I asked the cowgirl who took the frisky horse from me.
    “Oh, he can feel the changes coming,” she told me as she pulled him in. “They can get like that this time of year.”

    Then, last week, standing in an Oregon meadow just as the late afternoon sun washed across the clover, I stopped to watch a pair of Flickers as they moved back and forth between trees, perching and calling before moving on to hunt more insects. Robins, young adolescents still staying close to their mothers, always ready for an easy meal, flew low overhead, swooping across the field like a chorus of dancers on stage. Every creature was busy.

   When my flight landed and pulled into my own driveway, home at last, I dropped my bags in the house and took a minute to breathe, strolling around the flower beds, settling in before catching up on work and housework.

   I stopped to admire a rose I’d transplanted in June and noticed a twig, with three curling and drying leaves, blown from a nearby tree, draped around it like roses around the neck of the derby winner. It was the last of summer and the first of fall in a race - a dead heat - to mark the change of seasons.

   No calendar page can pinpoint when it begins. But the soft, subtle, signs are everywhere I look.
    

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

Stepping back to Portland

I’m planning another trip by train to Portland. It’s one of my favorite vacations. I don’t mind the late departure, I don’t even mind riding in coach. There is plenty of room to stretch out and I usually find someone interesting to talk to along the way. Planning the trip brought this 2008 column to mind:

Moments in time quickly pass us by

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review
Originally published: April 7, 2008

I stood on one corner of a busy street in Portland with my daughter and a young family stood on the other. The mother carried a diaper bag and the father carried their daughter. The spring day was unexpectedly wintry and sleet had slickened the streets. The baby was bundled in her coat with a soft pink fleece cap covering her head.

I glanced over at them and then looked away.

“No!”

It was the sound of the man’s voice that made me look back. As he stepped off the curb, he lost his footing on the uneven pavement. He went down hard. What I had heard was his cry as he began to fall.

I knew that sound. Every parent knows it.

 

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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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