A Mini-Break to Ocean Shores

Every once in a while it’s nice to have a change of scenery. It’s like a palate cleanser for the soul. I could definitely use one of those every now and again. And since I had yet to experience the Washington coast, we decided to take a little overnight trip to Ocean Shores, which is only about 2 1/2 hours from Seattle.

I have only seen the Pacific three times in my life, and never toward the end of December, so I was braced for drama, and it didn’t disappoint. Stormy, rough, ice cold, it isn’t a place for sunbathing or swimming. And yet it was beautiful. I always manage to breathe more deeply when embraced by the salty sea air.

What I wasn’t expecting was the town of Ocean Shores itself. It may be clinging to the coast of the Pacific Northwest, but if you subtract the cold rain, it could have just as easily been a Florida beach town. The kitschy little souvenir shops (one of which you entered through the mouth of a shark), and the delightful little restaurants (one of which was in a mini lighthouse), could have easily been overlooking the Atlantic Southeast.

Given the time of year, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, but I could easily close my eyes and imagine it in the height of summer, chock full of guys in board shorts and children wearing water wings and making sand castles. It almost made me homesick for Florida. Almost.

Another weird connection is that Pat Boone lived in Ocean Shores for many years, and he was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where I lived for decades. So there’s that, too.

If ever I feel the need to reconnect with Florida, now I know it’s only a few hours away. That’s kind of comforting. I suspect I’ll be back.

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Water Clarity

The other day I wrote Epiphanies of the Obvious, and today I had one. I was looking at an artist’s rendering of some sort of ocean-based dinosaur, and I noticed that the water was crystal clear. And then I thought, “Yes, I bet the water was crystal clear for the dinosaurs. We weren’t around to eff it up yet.”

Yeah, I know. That’s obvious. But I swear to you that it was the first time I had really thought of this on a grand, all encompassing scale. Pollution is us. It’s all because of us. Those islands of floating plastic in the middle of the Pacific weren’t caused by the lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my.

The PCBs and the Mercury and all the other nastiness in the food chain, that’s us. The deformed fish? Us. Oil spills? Us, us, us. No other creature on the planet is even 1/10th as destructive. And yet we think we’re superior.

And in that superiority, we’ve given ourselves a free pass to avoid taking any sort of responsibility for our actions. Many of us even try to push legislation to sidestep cleaning up after ourselves. Many others refuse to even see that there’s a problem.

That meteor that wiped out all the dinosaurs may have been the worst thing that could have happened to this planet. But I say that only because it paved the way for us and the selfish choices that we make. Shame on us.

mosasaur__from_armasaurios_collection__2011__by_augustopatino-d8uc6p6

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Exploring Oregon: Shore Acres State Park

I just got back from a week’s vacation on the Oregon Coast, and there is much to talk about, indeed. It’s gorgeous there in so many unexpected and delightful ways that I’ll be writing quite a bit about it. But I wanted to one of my very first Oregon entries to be about one of the last places I visited, because it was the highlight of my trip.

There are tons of state parks along the coast. So many, in fact, that I barely scratched the surface. But Shore Acres State Park is a gem. Just south of Coos Bay, it used to be the grand estate of a rich timber baron. Thank goodness it now belongs to the people, because it should be seen by all of us.

Not only does it include a lush botanical garden full of such rich floral colors that it practically hurts your eyes, but if you exit from the garden gate you are treated to some of the most stunning cliffside views of the pacific that you’ll ever see. It was hard for me to leave, to be honest. And all of this for a single fee of 5 dollars per car. Not bad.

My pictures barely do this amazing place justice, but if they encourage you to check this beautiful place out, then my work here is done.

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A Global Perspective. Get One.

Well, it is looking more and more like they’re going to do away with full time positions where I work so they won’t have to provide us with health care. If that happens, I am in deep trouble. I honestly don’t know how I’ll make it. And I’m hearing that same story from more and more of my friends. It feels like we Americans are on the threshold of a brand new way of living, and it may take decades for it all to settle into a routine that can be characterized in any formal way.

But I refuse to panic, because I’ve traveled. I have seen what people do to survive, and I know that I’ve yet to tap in to even one percent of my survival skills. I may feel like I’m falling, but I have a LONG way to fall before I get to where most of the planet is. I’m still in fantastic shape, relatively speaking. And I think the fact that most Americans do not travel internationally is what makes them so closed minded and nervous about their future. A global perspective will demonstrate to you that human beings can survive under the harshest of circumstances. We are a hardy breed. And even the poorest American is so much better off than the vast majority of the world that it kind of makes me blush that we complain at all.

Here are some statistics from the Global Issues website that will certainly make you think.

  • Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls. And these are regarded as optimistic numbers.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  • Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%.
  • There are 2.2 billion children in the world. 1 billion of them live in poverty.
  • In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%.
  • Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.

It’s a brutal world in which we live. No matter how far I may fall, I know that I can always look over my shoulder and see billions of people who are worse off than I am. And if you have the leisure time and the ability to sit and read this blog, you are in the same position that I am. This position does not make me proud, but it does give me perspective. And as more and more things start to unravel, I’m grateful for that perspective.

PlanetEarth

Fantasy Island

I just got through reading an article on the NPR website entitled, “Pacific Island, Bigger Than Manhattan, Vanishes.” I assumed it was going to be about global warming, and that maybe it had sunk below the rising sea level, but no. Based upon studies of the sea floor, this island never existed in the first place. Apparently this “island” has been on maps and charts since around 1772. And now they’re looking at other questionable islands in other parts of the world in order to update maps.

fantasy_island_by_tessig-d4w7qz5 (Credit: Tessig.deviantart.com)

Can we just take a second to absorb this? In this day and age, with all our global whosawhatsis, how does this happen? It makes you realize how vast the world is, and how much we want to believe what we’re told. But I still find it vaguely unsettling. If we can’t count on our geography, what can we count on?

Here’s the thing. When my mother died when I was 26, I felt as though there was no longer any solid foundation beneath my feet, as though everything that I counted on had suddenly vanished and I was adrift. It took me a long time to get over that. A very long time. I will never forget that feeling.

Without getting into a debate about quantum physics, we count on things to be solid, to have substance. And we expect islands the size of Manhattan to stick around. This is why I could never live in an earthquake zone. To have something solid suddenly start rippling like water? I’d have a nervous breakdown.

There has to be some fundamental…thing that you can hang your hat on, and build from there. Without that, how do you know what’s real? It reminds me of a quote from the Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca, which translates as, “Life is a dream, and even the dreams are dreams.”