I stood in a downpour on my deck and looked across the street. The sun was throwing a narrow spotlight on my neighbor's dry roof. This meant it was raining like the Battle of Stalingrad: moving block by block, house to house.
Normally, I would venture to my local beach near Newport and watch the rain collide with the ocean, one of the more serene applications of nature and completely unavailable to download to any phone or computer.
But in recent months, visits to my beach had enraged me, and I absolutely loathed returning from my walks in such a vitriolic state. I let go at the beach, never take up. I didn't like this unpleasant reversal.
A six-letter dirty word, the most profane word on the Oregon Coast, was the culprit: riprap — or revetment, as it's officially called. A new riprap project near my home approved by the somnolent stewards of Oregon's unique legacy of publicly owned beaches had tainted my walks, because I couldn't stop photographing the desecration. Documenting the desecration of Oregon's quintessence is hardly uplifting. Indeed, it makes the soul sick.
Never heard of riprap? Allow me to define it: the placing of large boulders on beaches to protect ill-conceived structures from collapsing into the sea where they rightfully belong. Limited editorial space prevents a full disquisition on the ecologically unsound and downright-ugly practice of riprap. Find me on Facebook if you want to see some shocking photos and read my tirades.
No, today I couldn't bear seeing the new, hideous riprap, so I loaded Sonny, my husky, into the truck, and we went to meet the rain at Ona Beach in the Beaver Creek State Natural Area. Emily Dickinson fashion — slant-wise.Some unexpected and soothing act of magic always occurs at Ona, and I can never predict what source will generate it. Could be Russian Old Believers playing golf. Could be salmon riding a freshet up Beaver Creek. Could be a teal wave breaking in
We hit the beach and saw no other humans. About a hundred gulls sat in the estuary debating something. The sky hovered like a jagged gray-black cake and showers blew lightly from south to north. Then there was light. It was still raining.
And then, a quarter of dim rainbow emerged from the cake and sunk into the ocean. I extracted a cheap digital camera from the pocket of my corduroy coat and started shooting away. More light manifested and better illuminated the rainbow. The cake dissolved and out jumped a full rainbow. Then a double rainbow faded into view and reflections of rainbows appeared everywhere on the sand. Have you ever walked on a rainbow? I have now.
Sonny and I started running to the rainbow, which arced so huge I couldn't capture it entirely in the frame. Yes, we ran in the rain because we knew of the rainbow's elusive, transient nature. At some point, when the light seemed perfect, I halted, set the camera on self-timer, anchored it in the sand, and took more photographs.
The rainbow festival lasted 20 minutes, and several cars pulled off Highway 101 to witness the spectacle. As Sonny and I left the beach in the rain, I felt invigorated after documenting beauty once again. On the drive home listening to Led Zeppelin, the greatest rain band of all time, I formulated an interesting new existential axiom: in the long run, rainbows disintegrate the riprap of people's minds.
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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