Oregon: Dance Between Sea and Cliffs

Mounting a coastal mountain on the central Oregon coast, through clouds that wrap everything in humid scents.  A huge bigleaf maple stands on its hind legs, gaping roots forming a tunnel.  I pass under the roots, past giant lady ferns and flowering dogwoods, spilling out onto a magnificent headland.

The cliffside cloaked in flowers, ringed by bushes and carpeted in soft, seaside grasses.  I perch on an anguished headstone rusted by lichen.  Two tiers of mountains dip into the sea, cooled in Arthurian fog.  Below, jagged rocks pierce like broken bone through swirling waveform.  To the north, rain brews, dancing a witch’s dance.  To the south, the sun breaks through.

The headland peters out to a peninsula about a foot wide.  On either side, a 600 foot drop straight down to the breakers that gnaw caves and grottos through the cliffs.  The surf pounds so hard in winter storms, whole mountains tremble.  The waters gather, besieging the seastacks that stand sentry to the cove below.  A gull sweeps through the salt spray.

To the south, the sea has etched an arch through the cliff.  An exiled outcropping, surrendered by the continent, gathers rabid froth.

The waves, like unending packs of orca, surrounding the isolated beacon stone, taking turns in assault, dealing the stack slow death ‘til one day, in the final stages of an ancient hunt, the rock succumbs below the waterline.  Besieging, beseeching the land, the sea abides, waits, probes for structural weakness.  The waters claw and pray with pointed palms to erect pillars.  But the rock holds on, a fortress wall for dozens of miles, defining the shapelessness of sea by its unyielding overstructure.  What gives shape and boundary to the ocean but the land that cups it in its basins and shelves an abyssal plains  As the sea sculpts the coast in turn.

Since the singular era before all the geological epochs has this back and forth, the inundating sea and the uplifting exotic terrain, seesawed.  Then we came along and gave it name: sea and earth, ocean and continent, she and he, to endow our heaving dance with form.

© 2015 by Michael C. Just