"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, August 13, 2012


We sat outside the Tillamook Cheese Factory savoring rich ice cream and the perfect coast weather when Lisa asked if I'd ever been to Pacific City. We were on an adventure at the beach with the plan of continuing north to wander Manzanita and Cannon Beach. Pacific City was to the south, but the possible adventure of dune climbing at Cape Kiwanda made the change of plans an easy decision.

She knew of a place by the dune that stood above a crevasse where the ocean had cut through the sandstone. It had seemed magical to her, even in the fog of the day she was there—a place that might receive a hearts' desire and return it fulfilled beyond the asking. It was a perfect destination for two friends who hold each other's dreams as close as their own, whose times together are always gifts of discovery.

Our trudge up impossibly steep and loose sand in the sunny salt air was invigorating. Instead of arriving at the edge of the crevasse, we found ourselves at a fence with a sign warning us that to proceed was extremely dangerous. Even that far back from the edge, I felt the first stirrings of vertigo, my body's warning system warming up. We both held rocks gathered at a beach on the way intended to hold the wishes we were going to send into the crevasse and out into the universe. I decided that neither a fence nor my fear would interfere with our intentions.

I found a spot to duck under the heavy wire, leaving my shoes behind and proceeding carefully toward the edge. Each step was a bare foot connecting carefully with solid packed sand, until I saw the cut and the rush of compressed surf far below. Lisa was right, it was a magical place, even more powerful on this incredible cloudless, sun-filled day.

She joined me. After looking over the edge we stood back a bit, and held hands while she wished for both of us and flung her rock as far as she could. There was no sound beyond the surf and our breathing—no splash, no ricochet report of rock against rock, as if the wishes flew beyond. When it was my turn, we held hands again, I offered my wishes, one for Lisa, one for me, and hurled them with the perfect round stone over the edge. Again silence.

Satisfied, but not finished, we decided to proceed to the top of the dune. We watched people half our age climbing on hands and knees, rested with a young man whose face was geranium red, marveled at how tiny the people below appeared.

Finally standing atop the dune at Cape Kiwanda, my face stinging from the wind-blasted sand and the exertion of the climb, I took in the forever view of the rugged Oregon coastline. On one side, far below and spread out before me in a panorama of greens and blues with white lace trim, lay the Pacific Ocean. On the other, young people loped pell mell down the tawny mountain we had just climbed. I realized for the first time that high places no longer have the power to rob me of possibility.

Just a week later, on another part of the Oregon coast, with Sandi this time, I stood at the foot of a very long flight of stairs leading up from the beach. We were on the second day of our adventure which included antiquing and one long deeply satisfying conversation with roots in the ease of a common history and the sisterhood of shared tragedy. Our morning began with a slow meander up the beach picking the wrack line for rocks and shells accompanied by a lone pelican hunting in the surf.

Looking up the concrete stairs, I thought of the Maya pyramids I'd climbed with Walt earlier in the summer. I remembered the dune climb with Lisa. As Sandi and I moved upward, one slow step at a time, I considered how easy climbing felt when done in the company of connected hearts. We reached the top much faster than either of us anticipated, with much more wind remaining than we believed possible.

I'm going into my classroom this morning for the first time this year. It's time to begin setting up. To begin thinking like a teacher again. To begin trading the flowing gauzy freedom of summer for the more substantial crisp structure of school. Today represents the beginning of a different kind of climb, a metaphoric mountain looming above. In years past, last year in particular, the climb felt daunting—impossible even. Certainly not one whose summit I anticipated would hold a life-changing, soul-feeding view.

This summer has given me a new appreciation of heights and the often long and difficult climb to achieve them. As long as I'm not climbing alone, I have nothing to fear, and everything to hope for. And every step upward in the company of shared love is an adventure in itself. I'm ready for the next one: adventure, mountain, climb.


Retired English Teacher said...

"To begin trading the flowing gauzy freedom of summer for the more substantial crisp structure of school." This sentence captures so well what I used to feel every year as I approached the new school year. I realized that I needed both in my life, "flowing gauzy freedom" and "substantial crisp structure." Deb, you are the master at showing us juxtaposition with your writing.

I'm sure that reaching those heights of which you speak will require freedom and structure just as much as it will require determination, confidence, and the remembrance of what it felt like to reach other mountain tops.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

You have embarked on wonderful adventures this summer, and you have given us memorable descriptions and thoughtful interpretations of them. A summer well spent! I hope the school year brings you new satisfaction.

Barb said...

I've climbed the dune at Cape Kiwanda, Deb, and enjoyed that wonderful scenery. To climb to the pinnacle (of anything) is to know what's below and what price must be exacted to attain the height. Not to try the climb leaves us wondering what we're missing. I would always choose the climb. I'll be thinking of you and Sandi as you start another school year. Teach those kids how to climb both literally and metaphorically, Deb. Great pic of Sandi! Bob and I are in Beaver Creek for our 46th anniversary - it's pouring!

Barb said...

Sorry, Deb - hope you can remove some of these! I'm at a hotel and there seems to be a glitch.

yaya said...

Beautifully written. I read Sandi's post too about your adventure and it sounds like you both have had a wonderful summer full of travel and reaching new heights. Good luck with school this year..those kiddos are lucky to have you!

Stacy Crawford said...

I love these thoughts. The climb is always worth the knowledge gained at the end. I just need to remember that when I'm winded.

I agree it's easier with a connected heart.

I will have students in 1 week, good luck with the new summit.

jessica.babbitt said...

Oh Deb, you are a master storyteller! I loved reading the story of your climb with Lisa, even after hearing it told on our trip. Your written words are so powerfully chosen! I love the following thought you ended with, "every step upward in the company of shared love is an adventure in itself". So true!

I hope your first day back was everything you needed it to be. Mine will be tomorrow! Big love and hugs!

kario said...

I hope that you continue to surmount obstacles that once "robbed you of possibility." I love that you gather strength from within and share it without.


Linda Myers said...

I climbed a dune in Iceland and was greeted at the top by thousands of puffins and their nests. Worth the challenge, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Hey Deb! What beautiful writing you have shared with us, as usual. Thank you for being such a wonderful connected heart for me. Here's to each of our climbing days ahead, and the magic that we are sure to find there.



Anonymous said...

Hey Deb! Thank you for sharing your beautiful, insightful writing with us. Your words and images flow so vividly, I always feel that I have shared your travels - both internal and external. Thank you for being the wonderful connected heart who you are for me. Here's to each of our climbs ahead, and the magic that each will bring.



DJan said...

What a beautifully written post! I enjoyed it very much, and I've had my share of climbing up and up, feeling the wind and the air. For some reason I was reminded of climbing to the top of a Mayan ruin that had steps so steep that they disappeared from the top step! It was breathtaking.

Pam said...

Life's challenges are always easier when there are friends "who hold each other's dreams as close as their own".
Laughed when I read "we watched people half our age climbing on their hands and knees". Looking at the photos of the steep dune at Cape Kiwanda I probably couldn't tackle it any other way!!

Dee said...

Dear Deb, this clarion call to loving and supportive relationship is a paean to friendship. Your writing always moves me into reflection. You ease me into Presence and the present so that I come away from reading your postings enriched in mind and spirit. Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us.

One final thought. Last year's postings as you neared the school year--if I'm remembering correctly--were sad and filled with a longing to stay with your writing. And yet now, a year later, you look upon the classroom and the children you meet as an adventure. As a climbing up a mountain that will yield new vistas of enlightenment. I'm so happy that this has happened for you. And all remains Mystery. Peace.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"To begin trading the flowing gauzy freedom of summer for the more substantial crisp structure of school."
"I realized for the first time that high places no longer have the power to rob me of possibility."

I couldn't decide which quote was my favorite, so I put them both. I hear you on the first one - just got my first calls for subbing as teachers line up their days. Gives me pause to think of all the days this summer I relished the gauzy freedom. I must say, following and growing with you this summer has been delightful. You sound good. Cheers to the new school year.