On a magnificent sunny morning in July, Rose and I hiked to roiling foam at Hart's Cove on the Cascade Head trail. When we reached the end of the trail, which overlooks perhaps the best untainted (i.e., development-free) view on the Oregon Coast, we found two young women climbing a Sitka spruce.
Rose and I hadn't seen each other for over a year, but it took all of 10 seconds to find our groove and start talking the good candid talk of great friends. We exchanged recent breakup stories and tales from our respective employment fronts: mine, teaching; hers, nursing. We also occasionally reminisced about our former relationship and the magical times we experienced: inside Fort Clatsop, atop Mount Hebo, on Drift Creek Bridge, at the Matt Kramer Memorial, in the dunes of Nestucca Spit. I've never met anyone in my life as hard-core Oregonian as Rose.
We conversed with the tree climbers, who were clearly a couple. They had traveled from San Diego and grown up in Eugene. Both were blonde and they had met at the University of Oregon. They exhibited superb energy together, and Rose and I got the feeling they prized sensual mischief in nature and undoubtedly belonged to some kind of secret imp society.
Rose had brought along lunch: PB&Js and fruit. I ate a candy bar for dessert. She forgot the whisky, so I settled for tap water instead. We took some photos with my cheap toy cameras and discussed the benefits of living as a seal. Several of them were hauled out on a patch of sand a thousand feet below us, sound asleep. It looked pretty damn sweet to me.
My eyes scanned the landscape and the penetrating greens and blues of the water and woods screamed out for a romantic poem worthy of John Keats or sensual mischief worthy of D.H. Lawrence. How about combining the two? It was hard to believe that 12 hours earlier I had wasted nine dollars and three hours watching The Dark Knight Rises, the final loud, politically infantile installment of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. I really don't even know why I went. I mentioned the movie to Rose and she hadn't seen it, nor did she have any intention of seeing it. She would rather hike, raft, garden, and listen to short stories, and that's why we always got along so well.
What hypnotic noises Hart's Cove orchestrates inside me.I don't know what it is, but something about this place keeps calling me home, as in, I want to return to the sea here when I finally come to the end of my sentient life. I knew that the moment I saw Hart's Cove 15 years ago, and it was one of the most uplifting feelings I've ever experienced because I finally grasped the simple beauty and corporeal spirituality of the everlasting water cycle. No burial or cremation or service. Not much of an original story in that for me, just unnecessary energy and money expended.
It was time to go. We headed into the tall grass and encountered another couple; they were in their 60s and made a remark about the fine day. One of them hadn't seen the cove in over 30 years. A lot has happened in America since then. Some of it even good.
In the woods, Rose and I came upon a couple striding hard to the cove. A hulking man with a crew cut led the way, followed by a woman wearing a blue T-shirt emblazoned with “I Love My Husband” in bold, and I mean bold, red and white lettering.
We all exchanged greetings, and after they passed, I turned to Rose and she gave me a silent what the...? shrug.
A few yards later, we began speculating about the couple:
- They were newlyweds on a honeymoon, because no one married for five years would own such a shirt, much less wear it in public.
- It was a fashionable scarlet letter that her church shamed her into wearing.
- They were having an affair and loved the irony.
- It was some kind of kinky role-playing game that originated online.
It didn't matter what their story really was. They appeared happy and moved in nature with intense alacrity, which contrasts with my Walt Whitmanesque “loaf and invite your soul” ethos, but, hey, they weren't sitting at home updating their mood swings and bowel movements on Facebook.
A few minutes later, Rose and I passed another couple, an elderly man and woman employing ski poles for balance. Then came a young man and woman, and they just oozed a first-date vibe. Back at the parking lot, we saw another couple gearing up. They looked a little surly and weren't talking. Perhaps they'd had an argument.
No doubt, Hart's Cove would surely smooth it over.
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Matt Love is the author/editor of 10 books about Oregon. He lives in South Beach and teaches creative writing and journalism at Newport High School. His latest book is Of Walking in Rain.
Books mentioned in this post
Matt Love is the author of Of Walking in Rain