Sarrah, Nissa and I explored the roads, trails, miles of beach and rolling dunes. We never tired of these journeys and the ever-changing collection of treasure discovered along the way. The ocean constantly changes the beach and gives back an endless amount of debris from the land. Some storms take away sand, others bring it back and then some. Those that come in the winter pile up logs and other assorted remains washed down streams.
Sadly, not all is wonderful. The ocean is always giving back the unwanted gifts of the human experience, garbage. I began to collect these ugly bits of proof and pieces of disrespect. The more we looked, the more we found and brought back with us. I began to take ownership, understanding what is called “stewardship” and feel like this was ‘our beach’ and wondered why so many other people were just walking past these ‘treasures’, do they not see the garbage? All of this reminds of when I was a kid in the early seventies, there was a television commercial with a stoic, once proud American Indian, standing with a tear in his eye watching garbage come to shore in the waves. Perhaps time has come to replay it for those who missed the message and do not recall pride. Or maybe a newer version to make us more aware of the long term affects of mishandling things like plastic. Regardless of the cause of garbage turned into litter in the wild, it belongs to all of us and it is not ok for me to walk on by.
Aside from the Ocean, the obvious main ingredient of this long beach is sand. Unlike the mostly barnacle covered rocky beaches of the Puget Sound, near home, this beach is sandy, miles… of fine tan-grey colored sand. Depending on the tide there is about twenty to one hundred yards of beach from the edge of the grass-covered dunes to the changing ocean line. Here the ocean licks the sand, packing it into a high-speed surface, making for a smooth run near the edge. Or where as Sarrah preferred it, sand piled loosely by the wind, storms and high tides up against the dunes where the grass grows and waves like wheat fields; catching the blowing sand into thick, fluffy unstable drifts for jumping and plowing through.
Sand is magical; it brings out playfulness in a dog, youth in the old and delight in a kid. Sand does not care how careful you are, it will get into everything. These little bits of ancient rock ground in the waves, spread by the wind, over time will get between your toes and everywhere else. Sarrah loved it! She did her part to share it. It seemed no matter how well I wiped her feet, she somehow smuggled some in.
Sarrah delighted in all aspects of going to the Peninsula. She usually sat up and looked out the windows the entire way there, to watch the world as it went on by. The journey from where we live starts with on average an hour of ‘freeway hell’, racing with the self absorbed rats on the paved necessary ugliness, known as Interstate 5. Then off onto Highway 101 where it gradually devolves from too much civilization and overpopulation into a sort of peaceful time travel back through the woods and near a few old small towns, too tough to die. This leg of the journey is packed with many little things that busy people miss or find “boring”. These things like mountains, forested land, rivers, cattle, wildlife; deer, coyotes, porcupines, elk, eagles, hawks and even bears were all noticed and points of interest mentally noted by my road wise companion.
Another perk around this area is the constant salted air and its medicinal affects. We knew it when we first explored Ocean Park and what remains of the historic town of Oysterville at the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula, this was the place. We came back a couple of times and narrowed the search to a community named Surfside Estates with a few rules (Covenants, Codes & Restrictions) to protect values from individual expressions. This little development of Two Thousand Eight Hundred subdivided lots is comprised of; about one-third with houses (mostly vacation, several retirement), one-quarter “seasonal camper lots” and the rest vacant, overgrown with dune grass and coastal pines. The community has approximately three miles of beachfront and a small lake (pond) with long canals that run the length of it. There are walking trails running East to West with foot bridges over the canals, creating easy access for all “members and guests” to the beach which extends as far as the eye can see… to the South and North.
We quickly found the one, close enough to the ocean to hear its methodical constant mumbling and an easy walk away. It was new enough to not only become a dreaded nest of repair projects. A cozy little two-bedroom house that would be greatly appreciated as-is, customized over time into “our place” and enjoyed along the journey through time.
September Two Thousand Five Nissa closed the deal, and we came out for our first three-day weekend and camped with Sarrah, in the empty one-year-old house. On this stay we personalized it by painting the garage floor, making it into more of a warm multipurpose room. This tan coating also has its share of the ever-present small black and white hairs permanently sealed into it.
Sarrah instantly liked the new little house and it quickly became her preferred home. She was delighted with being able to roam the whole place and sleep closer to me. Upon each arrival and inspection of the Beach House, her toys and the yard she would relax on her overstuffed bed and smile.
As a group we decided that the best spot for Sarrah’s bed was next to the sliding glass door, on the east end of the Great room. This gave a comfortable vantage point to guard the front door, see all that went on in the house and watch out for wildlife trespassers as they regularly strolled through ‘her yard’. One of the best perks of this spot was the morning sunshine, perfect for soaking up a little bright warmth.
The combined goal was to have a getaway. Our own place to escape from home; gather experiences to build on and collect layers of memories with family, friends (old and new), by ourselves and of course with Sarrah. We felt the need to have a destination to long for, when elsewhere and in need of a daydream. The kind where, when you close your eyes and turn off your ears, magically… you are there. A retreat in our world where time is put in its place; less measured and untracked, removing deadlines and the forces that push them, in order to simply enjoy moments. As well, to be our familial gathering site for holidays, birthdays and for the best event, no special reason at all.
One main requirement was for somewhere that had ‘enough’ so that boredom wouldn’t sneak in, but ‘much less’ than where we live and work. Another priority was for somewhere that other people would be interested in joining us, on occasion. We wanted and needed a better connection with nature and land, perhaps even where land meets water. Near enough for an after work escape and the occasional early morning return “Cannonball Runs” back to reality. A peaceful spot to let human springs unwind and recharge batteries, repair the mind, refresh the body and I suppose nurture the soul.
We frequently reviewed the pros and cons of making this kind of investment. All of the traditional points of retirement planning and age-old wisdom were mulled over. Was this a wise investment? Would there be resale value if the need came? Should the required funds be squirreled away instead for later in life? As living Life reminds us all too often, Death usually arrives uninvited and often earlier than envisioned, erasing long term plans. The constant tricky challenge of maintaining the balance between “Save for a rainy day” and “Seize the moment” will always persist, with only the benefit of time passed to judge.
As we leaned toward the decision to enjoy some of life’s rewards now and along the way, our belief that the dividends from these experiences would payoff for the rest of our lives became clearer. It felt like the right thing for us to do. We chose to enrich our lives and those important to us, Now. Who knows, a working life retreat may become a retirement haven packed with the comfort of fond memories.
After a couple of years of leisurely exploring the quiet coast, small lakes and rural mountains of Washington, we narrowed our focus to the Long Beach Peninsula. The miles of beach, quiet unlit roads and laid back locals enable this area to drip with comfortable solitude. This area is around one hundred fifty miles or more importantly measured with time, around four hours drive, each way from where we reside. This distance is greater than we had initially hoped for, but it also enabled affordability (Seattle/Distance=Price).