I sat down with a cup of cinnamon hazelnut fudge mocha to read a book I recently purchased, but realized after the first sentence that I did not want to read, but write. And so I picked up my little cup of sugar-coma and moved into the office.
Yesterday I assuaged another trip to the eye doctor - the typical "Your eye is looking better" relief combined with the "but it may never heal completely" panic - by following the appointment with a Grand N Glorious Adventure in Coos Bay, biggest city on the Oregon Coast. Using only the phone book map, I plotted a novel route through the city, basing it mostly on street names that I liked and roads that looked, by their location, as though they might be less travelled.
First I stopped for supplies, since the hearty traveller should always be prepared for the inevitable getting-lost-for-many-hours part of the adventure. My watering hole was a sushi bar that I had never tried. I ordered up one of their "featured" rolls - crab/salmon/spinach - and a hand roll of eel, which turned out to be essentially an ice cream cone of seaweed jammed with a fistfull of eel, chunks of eel sticking out all over the place. Good eel, or "Wonderf-eel" as I call it, is the most delicious substance known to man. Bad eel, or "Dreadf-eel", I suppose, is the equivalent of a mash of cat food and substitute egg product. (You know. That liquid "egg" in boxes. Where does that stuff even come from?) This ice cream cone a'bustin' with eel was in a strange middle-ground. I'll call it "Acceptab-eel."
En route to my plotted destination I found myself in the dreaded territory of the DMV, where horrors of age circa 16 came rushing back to me. I have not driven this part of town since that time, and felt a little vindicated that now, as a well-travelled adult, those roads still don't make any sense. They include such beauties as no stop intersections, one stop four-way intersections (that don't indicate who has the right of way), and ghostly all-way stop intersections where apparently everyone knows to stop but there are only two actual signs (meaning that I sat for a long time trying to figure out why the "right of way" traffic was stopping.) Yes, the Coos Bay DMV region is a vortex of traffic nightmares, a sort of "Twilight Zone" where the stop signs come and go like shapes in the fog. It is the equivalent of placing a pilot's school in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.
But nevermind that. My ultimate goal was Shore Acres, a botanical garden farther south that was once the private estate of some rich fellow, I forget his name. He picked the most beautiful coastal cliffs he could find to build his house, and then donated the land to the state upon his death. The original grand house burned or fell off the cliff into the sea, I forget which. Now the park consists of a beautiful garden, the caretaker's house, and a series of cliff-top trails. In all the time I have lived here, I have never visited the park other than for the holiday light show, when the gardens are decorated with fantastic light displays.
The first thing that struck me on seeing it in daylight for the first time was how precariously the entire park sits atop the cliffs. It is supposed to be one of the best places in the state for watching giant waves break, and this is much due to the fact that below the observation area, the cliff cuts in, scooped out by the violent wave action, so that you are staring straight down at the jagged rocks below. I took a walk along the cliff top trail and chuckled at a sign which read "Stay in Front of Sign," which was quite clever, since about an inch behind where the sign post met the ground was nothing but air and a two hundred foot drop. In parts of the trail, the fence leaned outward towards the sea, the waves below pounding and pounding and calling "Fall in! Fall in!" like the voice of a temptress. Ah shoot, I should have taken some good precarious pictures, but my camera's batteries were dying.
The sea lions were out of sight on the rocks, but their voices were loud, carrying above the waves, the crows, and the seagulls. I leaned back on a rock wall and ate a donut, listening to the deep hoarse voice of the bulls punctuate the constant "Oor! Oor!" of the cows. That sound, ringing and melodic, continued to follow me throughout my visit, whether I was in forest or garden, a background noise much like the wind in the treetops, only more belchy.
I took a stroll in the woods, stopping to watch a Douglas tree squirrel who sat brazenly a few feet from my head, munching a pine cone with one eye turned towards me. The light in the forest was dim, and the whole of it was bathed in a mist, whether from the fog or a light rain, or perhaps even the spray of the waves being carried up by the wind. The weather is nothing like when you were here, TSO. It's gone all cold and gray like autumn, long pants weather. Melancholy weather. Hot chocolate and fires weather. I do love it.
The botanical garden itself was still covered in blooms, although their bright colors were muted by the gray light. Everything was dripping, the grass, the statues, the fountain in the middle, and fat drops of water made the roses bend down. I hopped the wet hedges to smell roses with names like "Sheila's Perfume" and "Just Joey." The only other people in the garden were elderly couples, husbands and wives holding hands and stopping to gaze together at a flower, shuffling around at an easy pace, the most pleasant little scenes to watch.
"This is good for the soul," I thought. Dripping flowers and old people bundled up against the chill and the sound of sea lions barking over the top of everything. Chicken soup for the soul, I would say, but that line's already been taken.