I lived on the Big Island for the decade of the ‘70s and learned quickly why folks say, “Lucky you live Hawaii!” It’s a half-pidgin’ expression that’s the equivalent of location, location, location. Yup, just the eats were “primo”: lau lau pork (wrapped in a taro leaf), spam musubi (fried spam on rice wrapped in nori), loco moco (white rice, hamburger patty, egg and gravy in a bowl), lomi lomi salmon (Hawaiian-style ceviche), malasadas (basically round donuts rolled in sugar) — and so many more world-cuisine treats that crisscrossed the Pacific and landed, mishmash, in the islands. And this says nothing about living in shorts and flip flops, secret hot pools and surfing spots, lava tubes, and Madame Pele.
But however great Big Island living is, we’re not far behind. So here’s my Peninsula version of that sentiment — “Lucky you live the beach!”
Here’s what I’m talkin’ about. First there’s the ocean itself, its many fluid and ever-changing personalities. The way the white waves thrash and crash after a storm and can be heard all over the Peninsula no matter where you live. Then, perhaps the very next day, there’s the calm, quiet version: that smooth pellucid blue when the sea just creeps up on pitter-patter feet with only one slightly perturbing wave making a curving run at the shore. Or, on another day, a breeze that kicks up the spindrift off the curling wave edges.
And weren’t those dramatic and domineering king tides fantastic? One day I walked up the path, through the beach grasses, doubling up and down over the secondary then the primary dune and — la voila! — the ocean, but there wasn’t much beach to walk on, just a narrow band of sand skirting the edges of the dunes between the grasses and the tide line. (Even on these high tides, though, I saw crazy drivers trying to find a purchase on the high and dry sand — and, by the way, leaving deep tracks which were visible for days.)
My favorite times are the changing of the tides from high to low. Then the largest wave, that just moments ago covered the shore, pulls back against the smaller incoming waves; and a sandy colored ripple-wave stretches across the slick sand as the two wave forces argue and wrestle with each other. It’s a beautiful and exciting conversation.
What’s on the sea is another adventure. One late night near full moon, after a glorious dinner with friends, we walked out to the top of the primary dune — no flashlights needed — and counted over 30 crab boats close enough to shore that we could almost hear the crabbers’ conversations. Their big spotlights reflected on the water in long glimmering ripples. We blessed them all, “Carry on! Bring in those crab! Be safe!”
Stories in the sand and sky
On the beach itself are other wonderful tales/tails. First there are the people we meet: whether we know them or not, we nod or say hello if we meet eyeball-to-eyeball; and, if dogs are involved, this could begin a lingering chat. Sometimes we call out from a distance, “Is your dog friendly?” “Yes!”
Then the four-leggeds run at each other, sniff butts (a must), and sometimes take off in a magnificent large circular dash just for the joy of finding a potential, if temporary, new friend.
Sometimes we see old or medium-new friends. On one walk last week I happened upon a dog collar for “Rosie” lost on the trail through the dunes. I called Rosie’s owner and, lo and behold, now we have met on the beach for several days running. I know about her sons, about how she likes living on the Peninsula, about where she might move next. She even helped me round up Jackson after one of his 100-yard dashes after the local rabbits at Pacific Pines.
Even the sand itself tells stories. Here’s a trail of large boot prints, with a heavy tread, and two sets of dog prints circling, darting, pawing and spinning off. They stop at a pile of kelp and then traverse into the dunes, not to be seen again.
Here’s a place where the seagulls evidently took up folk dancing or had a hootenanny. Then there’s a set of tiny sandpiper footprints daintily circling, and — oops — they’re gone. The flights of pipers are another amazement; how they lift off together and fly in dynamic groups of three-dimensional shapes low to the sand. How they tip and turn together, now silver against the light, now dark. Watching them rise up, drift and swirl and land again is magical — it’s one of my all time favorite beach-movies.
Now we’re looking down, watching what passes under our feet. Is it still possible to find a whole sand dollar? Sometimes. Or I’ll spot a strangely shaped piece of driftwood that I mark to pick up on my way back. Or a holdfast, that intricately knotted structure that anchors seaweed to the substrate. Maybe Jackson and I will briefly sit on the green plastic chair at the top of the dune and just listen. Or watch the seagulls drift by or huddle together on the sand.
Often on gray days there’s no one else on the beach for miles. It’s probably a little misty, so sensible people are home by the fire. These days are my favorites, too — ideal for somber reflection — when the sounds of the ocean are muted by the clouds, close in, or the fog.
Sometimes on wet days Jackson and I walk on a path through the pines — the sound of the ocean sifting through the trees — where we may find, standing perfectly still, a couple of deer minding their own business. We stop and give them a chance to lift their slender graceful legs, point their toes, and prance slowly off like ballet dancers. (Jackson doesn’t seem to bother the deer — maybe he thinks they’re just too big to disturb; and they think he’s an odd-looking squirrel.) If I remember, I swing back to pick up my driftwood treasure.
The beauty is that all this phantasmagoria is minutes away for everyone. So may I repeat? — “Lucky you live the beach!”
In other perhaps more practical news, the South Pacific County Community Foundation (SPCCF) is providing a workshop for local non-profits to outline what is legal in terms of fundraising events and parties — specifically regarding liquor, cannabis, and gambling. The event takes place at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, Ilwaco, February, 6th, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The cost is $15 — sign up here https://spccf.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/list/ticket. Keep your board members informed. Just as a for instance: it’s illegal to serve alcohol at a fund-raising auction. Stay tuned for other SPCCF news and events soon.