Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday night on the Oregon Coast

It's been a whirlwind of a weekend so far and it's not over yet. Friday morning I drove down to Portland, stopping occasionally on the way to do a bit of shopping, have some lunch, and so on and checked into the Marriott City Center in time to clean up a bit, put my feet up, and prepare for a wedding rehearsal at 5:30. The young couple I'd been working with is charming; the groom is the son of longtime friends from Pacific UU Fellowship in Astoria and the bride a little dynamo who had planned every detail of this very beautiful wedding---even some of my part!

After a successful rehearsal, we enjoyed a sumptuous rehearsal dinner at a nearby restaurant, from which I decamped about 10 p.m. as I was getting orange and wrinkly (pumpkinhood was upon me---I am an early riser, which means I am an early wilter).

The next day, the wedding was at 2, followed by photos at the International Rose Garden, followed by reception and dinner at Kells. Again I decamped somewhat early in order to prepare for an early drive to Astoria OR to preach at PUUF. "Holy Fool" went over big for the congregation and the check was generous. They even took me out to lunch! Yum, gyros at the Farmers' Market.

As soon as it was decent to say goodbye, I went straight to my hotel in Seaside to check in, change clothes, and go to find the ocean. The Seaside ocean is not MY ocean, so south I went to Cannon Beach, a town where I spent many weeks in the summers of my childhood, with my parents at the Cannon Beach Bible Conference grounds. Just north of Cannon Beach (there's actually a cannon there which washed up on the shore and is where the beach got its name) is Ecola State Park, my favorite place in the world.

The drive up to Ecola is winding and narrow, tight corners, no shoulder, dappled light making visibility tenuous. But once you get to the top, the trees step back from the cliffs and all you can see is ocean. It fills every nook and cranny of my being, to stand on that cliffside and look at the ocean, the swells, the breakers, the foam against the rocks, the scalloped beach below.

I once almost died---or thought I might---on Crescent Beach below Ecola Head, scared of being caught by the tide and scrambling pell-mell up a sandy cliff face till I got stuck halfway up. My dad climbed up to rescue me, a six year old who thought of nothing but escaping the encroaching tide but found myself clinging desperately to hummocks of grass and loose rock. When he got us both up to the safety of the path, he was dangerously winded and faint and we discovered soon after that he had a serious heart condition.

But his heart was only for me at that moment and when I go to Ecola, I stand in reverence and awe that human love, the love of parent for child in this instance, is so strong that it disregards danger, bowls over common sense, and stands fast in the face of threat to the beloved, regardless of the consequences. My dad's love sustains me yet, though he has been gone for almost forty years.

For awhile, I tortured myself with the notion that I had caused the heart condition that eventually resulted in his early death. But when my son was born, I discovered that I would have done exactly the same thing, no matter what the cost to myself, and I let go of that guilt. There are plenty of real things I can feel guilty about if I wish, but this is not one of them. Instead I will always have the memory of my dad's willingness to do anything he had to do to save my life and I am dumbstruck by the enormity of that knowledge.


Earthbound Spirit said...

What a beautiful post - and what a beautiful day/evening you had. Peace to you...

Jan said...

Thank you. I love the Oregon Coast and am so glad you are there. Reading about your dad made me feel that bittersweet love for my father, who died five years ago.

Mile High Pixie said...

*sniff* Thank you for reminding me of a father's love--mine's been gone ten years.

LinguistFriend said...

Speaking as a father, that was a moving story. Fathers in general get mixed reviews, with different issues arising depending on the sex of the child. Since we do not beget girls on the male side of my family (at least not in the past century), my experience has mainly been with boys and young men. That may be why the young people that I keep an eye on (making sure that they can eat, etc.) tend mostly to be young women. A social worker (close friend) told my ex and myself that she considered our only venture into the daughter business, a teen-age foster child, a failure because when we left her area the foster daughter entered a marriage foredoomed to failure. But while living with us, she became the first person in her family to ever graduate from high school, and has had a rocky life subsequently but survived, unike her parents. The criteria of parental success are not fixed, and often can be seen accurately only across generations