Villanelle on the Oregon Coast
For Margaret Prentice
Many a time I’ve dreamed of such a place,
Where darkened headlands tumbled to the shore
And a white ocean blew against my face;
An inland valley gave a breathing space
Against the water’s overwhelming roar.
Many a time I’ve dreamed of such a place,
But the great wind of dream-time would erase
All human detail, leaving just a core
That the white ocean blew against my face;
Now, though, our footprints measure out our pace
Upon this homeland that I never saw
(Many a time I’ve dreamed of such a place);
The cypress-pins and huckleberry-lace
Had been invisible to me before
When the white ocean blew against my face:
Sister and stranger, you gave me the grace
To read the print upon the windblind shore.
Many a time I’ll dream of such a place,
Where that white ocean blows against my face.
The Pacific here
Once a vague postcard
Has taken on new meaning.
Once a blur,
An uncertain picture
A far away faint notion
Has come into focus clearly.
At first it was BEACH
And SHORE –
But now I have shared its breath
Its smell is on my fingertips still
I have stared for hours
Into crystal tide pools
To find treasures
Hidden from my first grainy impressions
Each little pool
Holding complex webs of organisms
Interacting with each other
Bright green sea anemones
Orange and purple sea stars
Tiny darting fish,
Limpets and snails
And so much more.
Each has its own story,
Its own cycle
And each fits perfectly
Into the balance
Then looking up and out
At the gulls and crows
And vultures and
Great blue herons
And curious sea lions
Spying on us
Now I am AWAKE
And there is this blend of
Mystical and scientific,
Magical and measurable,
Tangible and intangible.
Now it is truly beautiful.
Every animal here is
Perfect in its place
Every creature plays
An essential role.
And every creature
In every tide pool
Is part of that shoreline
An Evening with ‘Sometimes a Great Notion’
The coolest thing to ever happen on an Oregon Coast beach is when Paul Newman rode (and crashed) a motorcycle on Fogarty Beach. In fact, this image, which is part of the larger story of when Newman spent the summer of 1970 filming Ken Kesey’s epic Oregon novel “Sometimes A Great Notion,” is so cool, it’s one of the principal reasons I want to write a book on the making of the movie.
Just in my initial research, I have quickly discovered that what went down that summer is one great fun Oregon story, which was completely undocumented. Frankly, the stories that have reached me so far border on the incredible, including a sensational yet unconfirmed report that Newman walked into a Toledo bar and cut the legs off a pool table! (Which is totally believable if you’ve read up on Newman’s passion for drinking and practical jokes.) It seems almost everyone who was around Lincoln County in 1970 had some brush with Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, Richard Jaeckel, Michael Sarrazin or a member of the crew.
Matt Love is the publisher of Nestucca Spit Press. He lives in South Beach and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanking Rachel for a noisy spring
[Posted June 25, 2008]
Six thirty. The mist falls on one of the last spring mornings before summer begins. I hit the beach with the dogs needing the shot of salvation the beach routinely injects whenever the disease of depression infects me.
We cruise north to the south jetty. In the distance, a ship waits for calm seas before making the narrow run between the rocks toward the safety of Yaquina Bay. The dogs break off east to sniff at the wrack line and I turn my head and look the other way, to the water, where all life began.
Ahead, less than a football field away, I see two large raptor-like birds standing on the sand, unmoving, staring straight west, as the last inch of a wave trickles over their talons. What the hell? Hawks don’t surf.
Tacking at northwest angles, I move closer to investigate, employing all my senses as Henry David Thoreau once commanded me — all of us — to do.
Suddenly, it dawns on me: for the first time, I am watching bald eagles in Oregon not in flight. They now exist less than 50 yards away, on my beach, and not another human is around to pollute the moment.
Immediately, I don’t feel the disease of depression anymore because I know that without one woman, a scientist, a writer, a warrior in defense of nature, a hero, a goddess who should adorn our currency, I know that without her monumental effort, bald eagles would not exist in South Beach or anywhere else in America.
Her name is Rachel Carson, and in 1962 her landmark book “Silent Spring” launched the modern environmental movement by exposing the ecological disaster wrought by the indiscriminate aerial application of poisonous chemicals, namely DDT. It was an overnight bestseller around the world and attracted an astonishing variety of readers, including a President of the United States, John Kennedy, who convened a special panel to investigate the disastrous effects of pesticides on the natural world. Later, DDT was banned, and with the help of the Endangered Species Act and Richard Nixon, who signed it into law, the birds came back. The spring wasn’t so silent anymore.
Without Rachel Carson and “Silent Spring,” there wouldn’t be a pelican, peregrine falcon or bald eagle left in this county, even Alaska. DDT was wiping them out as the government and farmers sprayed oceans of this poison across the land and water. It was a modern-day industrial plague encouraged by chemical corporations and their hired men in white coats who apparently never listened to birds.
I feel better after seeing the eagles, but I want more. I want to see the eagles launch from Earth. I want to see something I’ve never seen before. Yes, it amounts to a rude hominid interruption but I’ll beg forgiveness later.
I sprint toward the eagles and they lift off the sand on course for Asia. They quickly bank east and fly toward the cliffs. From nowhere, a third eagle joins the formation and I watch all of this, annihilated yet saved, restored, ready to keep at it and get good work done, part of which is pulling all the weeds from my lawn by hand and not spraying herbicide.
Matt Love is the author of the Beaver State Trilogy and publisher of Nestucca Spit Press (www.nestuccaspitpress.com). He lives in South Beach and his books are available at bookstores along the coast.