Searching for a Trail to Follow Again

 

What is the meaning of life? A simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.

–Virginia Woolf, "To The Lighthouse"

 
 

For the past month or so, I've been thinking about moving again. I'm not sure what exactly triggered such thoughts. Maybe it was my gut reaction to the misfortunes I experienced as winter came to a close. Maybe it was nothing more than the severe lack of sunlight. But I've been consumed by the desire to run. I've been yearning for something fresh and new – perhaps a place with a little more sun. Little did I know that a day trip to the Oregon Coast on a rainy Wednesday would change my mind.

When I moved to Portland, I promised myself that no matter how tough things got, I'd stick it out for a full year before moving on. When I got here, everything seemed to fall into place so quickly that it felt too good to be true, but there was lurking feeling in the corner of my mind that at some point, something was bound to happen. Things went wrong and they went wrong again and again and as hard as it was to keep my head up and trudge through the mud, I persisted. And I'm glad I did, because otherwise, I never would've opted to embark on the adventure that made me remember why I moved here in the first place.

Before this little excursion, I'd spent months itching to go to the coast. However, the weather was never nice enough to justify the drive. It was no different on this day – it was cold and rainy and windy and my jeans were completely soaked within an hour of wandering about. But there was something particularly enchanting about the dreariness that makes me wonder if the presence of the sun would've taken away from that magic. And for the first time in over a year, I felt like I was able to capture images that tell a story; I felt like these photos were more than just photos of things I happened to stumble upon. It was the kind of day that reminded me of why I love photography so much.

If I learned anything from this dreamy day trip, it's that spending 170 miles in a car with someone is a great way to get to know them. I was only slightly apprehensive about the idea of spending several hours in a car with a person I'd only recently met, but I figured that if all failed, we could fill any awkward silences with loud music. However, to my surprise, we listened to almost no music at all. Our 170 miles were filled with chatter and laughter (and periodic road rage on my part) and it was the kind of experience that reminded me of how wonderful it is to open yourself up to others.

After an hour and half of driving through the rain, Sam and I made it to Tillamook, where we decided to grab a bite to eat at a quirky, 1950s inspired diner. We sat, we ate, and we laughed about my uncanny ability to perpetually overestimate my hunger. Our first coastal stop was a town called Netarts. We climbed on some rocks, I captured some photos, and we watched with glee as a couple of dogs ran around on the beach. I also nearly lost my brand new iPhone, and we spent nearly an hour retracing our steps in the rain to find it. I was about to give up and move on with my day when I found it laying in the grass, miraculously unharmed. 

Our next stop was Oceanside, Oregon. We wandered around the town a bit before meandering down toward the rocky shore and watching the tide come in. The sun made a brief appearance while we were there and because it was still hiding behind a thick layer of clouds, it turned the sky a blinding white. I was all smiles as I erratically ran up and down the coast, photographing everything in sight. Sometimes, I feel strange taking my non-photographer friends on my photographic adventures. When I'm in a new place, I become overwhelmed by the new sights and sounds and smells and I can't help but wonder if I seem a bit nutty to the casual observer. Nevertheless, Sam trailed close behind the entire afternoon, despite my unpredictable and whimsical way of exploring my surroundings.

Before heading back east, we visited Cape Meares with the intention of seeing the lighthouse there. If I'm being honest, it was the most underwhelming lighthouse I've ever seen and we couldn't stop laughing about it. But we took a walk through the forest and it was everything I dreamed it would be and more. I grew up seeing photos of the Pacific Northwest and yearning to walk among those very trees and suddenly, those trees were standing before me. I could hardly believe it at the time because I was so in awe of what surrounded me. It was eerily quiet; so much so that we could hear nothing but the sound of our breaths, the tapping of the rain, and the leaves rustling in the gentle wind. It was magic. I have no other words to describe it.

After a blissful afternoon of adventuring, Sam and I decided to call it a day and mosey our way back to Portland. On our return journey, the sun came out from behind the clouds and everything around us radiated with that golden hour glow. It felt symbolic somehow. It felt like the universe was telling me that all I needed to do was learn to be happy in the rain before I could feel the warmth of the sun once again. It was the perfect end to a perfect day, and so we rolled our windows down, blasted some happy songs, and we reveled in it.