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One Man’s Beach/Waves of Consciousness, Part Three

During the winter, I like watching anything undulating in motion with the ocean. That might be seals or surfers. That might be mermaids or drift logs. That might be skinny-dippers or coils of kelp.

My favorite day to watch is Sunday. Call it going to church. My favorite place to observe the winter undulations is sitting on a bench overlooking the roiling surf at Rocky Creek State Park, just north of Cape Foulweather. The bench, at the westernmost part of the park, is utterly alone and surely rests there because some closet poet in Oregon State Parks chose the site.

One Man's Beach

You will often find Sonny the husky and me leisurely doing our own thing near the bench. I stare at the undulations while she sniffs around a grassy kingdom of gopher holes.

One Man's Beach

Sometimes while sitting or reclining on the bench, I'll whip out a notebook, close my eyes, listen to the symphony of the incoming cannonades, and begin to write whatever comes to mind with the intent or non-intent of purging linearity because the various movements in concert with the surging sonic ocean defies narrative convention. All I can say is that if a person sits on the bench and can't escape a linearity of the mind, well, I feel sorry for that person.

My latest waves of consciousness:

Did you know that one of Napoleon's first acts as dictator was banning the teaching of creative writing in French schools? Albert Einstein once wrote, "A society's competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity." Einstein also wrote, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Before dropping out of Reed College, the late Steve Jobs of Apple fame took a course in calligraphy. It reportedly influenced his aesthetic sensibility and inspired his elegant ideas for the Macintosh's simple design.

As a fourth grader attending Mt. Pleasant Elementary in Oregon City during the 1970s, I took a required calligraphy course. It was the great modern era of American calligraphy, taught for no practical reason other than the fact that it was ancient, tactile, and the quintessence of understated beauty in black and whiteit was ancient, tactile, and the quintessence of understated beauty in black and white. Calligraphy certainly had nothing to do with standards or testing or preparing me to serve the country's global economic interests more efficiently. My Oregon public education had nothing to do with that — ever. Things have changed, as Bob Dylan once sang, and I see absolutely no evidence we are any better as a culture as a result.

So what if a high school boy spent half his day working in the auto or metal shop? Next year, that boy has to earn three credits in math at the Algebra 1 or higher level to graduate.

That requirement is totally insane. Who brooked that insanity?

My so-called mathless generation turned out okay. In fact, we led the way to America becoming the world's leading producer of creative media, easily our number-one commodity export. Interestingly enough, I did hear that there's a cool calligraphy app for my new iPhone. A couple of my artistic students rave about it.

Speaking of my new iPhone, after using it for two months, I have discovered that it has had no discernible positive effect on my life, which contradicts everything everyone who owns one told me. I have a mind to throw it in the ocean but don't want to bother the whales.

On the subject of whales, in the last three months, I've read about a dozen books on them. Apparently, they might be the most advanced creatures in existence. According to some researchers, whales practice true democracy, have organized religions, and compose orchestras for one another. They also had the good sense to abandon the land and continue their evolution in the sea. Moreover, in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the greatest whale movie of all time, aliens visited earth long before the advent of human beings and established first contact with humpback whales. They became friends and grooved on ecology together. The aliens returned millions of years later but discovered their cetacean friends had gone extinct. Thus the aliens... well, see the movie for yourself, at least for the memorable scene where Spock's mind melds with a whale.

One day, assuming any whales survive the Age of Man, they most likely will inherit the ocean because the meek will have nothing left to inherit of the land. Idea for bumper sticker: "Make Whales Not War." Would they sell that at the whale-watching shops?

I gave a literary presentation at the West Linn Library a month ago. After the event, an elderly woman came up and asked, "Do you recognize me?" I looked at her for exactly one second and remembered. How can you ever forget one of your best teachers? Ms. Katie Sauber, sixth grade. Here she was, some 40 years later, supporting her former student.

What an editor! She taught us art every day! She was the queen of teaching with tactile methods. Some days, recess lasted for hours and she went back inside. She demanded utter excellence in everything and never accepted any response from students that smacked of the dreaded malaise known today as "whatever."

I asked what she recalled of my 12-year-old self.

"Very opinionated," she said, smiling. She bought three books and I warned her of some profanity. She smiled about that too.

Tom McCall's 100th birthday is Friday, March 22. Have you laid in enough Cutty Sark for the occasion? We're celebrating in grand style at the Jack London Bar in Portland on Saturday, March 23, at 8:00 p.m. I'm teaming with the Dill Pickle Club and Kiss Ass Oregon History to take this celebration over the top. I hope to see you there for an unforgettable lesson in Oregon history. I plan on making it tactile.

Idea for bumper sticker: "Make Tom Not War."

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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

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