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To: Friends and Family
Subject: Roots

Continued from #22 and #23:

Something drew me back today to Bayocean and the road not taken—that road from the parking lot that stretches along Tillamook Bay. While Netarts Bay is smaller, with the more intimate feeling of a lagoon, Tillamook Bay is a wide expanse of water, perfect for the kind of holidays the town of Bayocean offered. For several hundred yards, the road from the parking lot ran straight and open to the sky, flanked on the east by the bay and on the west by a tangle of weathered pines and grasses. The air felt gray and heavy with the memory of last night’s rain and reflections on the town that fell into the ocean. A lone heron stood in the shallows, a hieroglyph of the distant but perpetual question of human existence.

Why did the Army Corps of Engineers agree to build only a single jetty at the mouth of Tillamook Bay when they knew the plan would fail without the second jetty to channel the water away from Bayocean?
Why do school personnel continue to implement policies that we all know are failing to give students the education they need and deserve? 
And why do We the People permit and peretuate such folly?

As a forested dune rose up to my left, the road narrowed into the understory. 

A town fell into the sea—and for no other reason than political and economic expediencies. 
For forty years, school policies have been based more on political and economic expediencies than on sound pedagogy and the well being of children. 
It would seem that in the ecology of human nature, as in the natural world, all is one.

Wandering deeper into the forest, I came upon a spruce tree that once stood on the four-foot-high bank that ran alongside the trail. With erosion of the bank, the tree fell, exposing a root system wider than my arm span. What was once a branch had become a standing tree. And the fallen trunk was now a bed for colonies of new plant life. Such a trunk is called a nurse log. As the nurse log decays, the new life within it grows.

23—Vanishing Point

Continued from #22—”The Town That Fell into the Sea”

There I sat, alone on a thin strip of sand where the town of Bayocean had fallen from a dream through folly into the sea. Behind me, the country of everything that had brought me to this place. Before me, only a mottled sky and the sea, the coastline curving like a thin margin of error out of a mist moving in from the south

I’d hoped that my month by the sea might give me some new perspective on life, possibly even help me shape new questions to the same old answers about the bureaucratic absurdities and injustices of the education system. But here there were no questions or answers—just sky and sea with nothing in between to give me any perspective whatsoever. 

Suddenly, to my right, something was coming at me out of thin air     a barage of rocks     Oh, wait, birds     a neat oval ball of birds wheeling this way then that, changing from dark to light to dark then light again as they swooped and turned     like one of those optical illusions, appearing alternately as flying rocks and bits of sea foam.

I got out my binocs: small birds     not much bigger than sparrows     brownish gray with white breasts. They lighted about fifteen yards in front of me along the waterline and began scurrying around on their twiggy black legs, pecking madly at the sand with their pointy black bills.

I checked the bird book.
Yep. About a hundred of them, I estimated, as a foamy wave sent the birds running back toward me. And I mean running    running with their heads down     the most intense running I'd ever seen. These birds even seemed to have shoulders. Man, they were fast. I began humming "Chariots of Fire."

As the water withdrew, the birds darted about again, pecking the sand like bargain hunters at a sidewalk sale. Then back came the sea, and they were off and running again. Fly, you birdbrains, I thought, immediately realizing the absurdity of this as these birds definitely knew what they were doing. 

The sea withdrew, as if taking a deep breath, and the flock darted about until the big water exhaled with a big white whoosh. And off the birds flew dipping and wheeling this way and that. I took off after them. The bird ball swooped and looped before me, not a bird out of order. How do they do that? 

Then the bird ball flew off, faster than I could run, and—just as suddenly as it had appeared—vanished back into the air. 

22—The Town That Fell Into the Sea

To: Friends and Family
Subject: The Town That Fell into the Sea

I just got back from what was once the town of Bayocean, also known around here as the town that fell into the sea. Bayocean was the dream of Thomas Benton Potter who planned to create “the Atlantic City of the West” on a six hundred acre peninsula between Tillamook Bay and the Pacific. By 1914, the forested spit had been stripped of vegetation and six hundred lots sold.

In time, Bayocean became home to two thousand people, offered travelers a three-story hotel, and supported a variety of businesses that included a bakery, dance hall, bowling alley, general store, and a natatorium with a large heated pool and bandstand. The town had four miles of pavement, a narrow gauge railroad, telephone service, and water pumped in by steam. As so frequently happens, the dream of Bayocean fell prey to the very things that had inspired it—Tillamook Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Although, as also has been known to happen, the handmaiden to disaster was human folly.

Because of poor roads, most visitors came to Bayocean by boat from Portland. Crossing the Tillamook Bay bar was not only bumpy but dangerous. The Army Corps of Engineers concluded that the problem could be solved by building jetties on the north and south sides of the mouth of the bay at a cost of $2.2 million, with local residents paying half. Taxpayers pressured authorities to approve a plan for a single jetty on the north side—across from Bayocean. Anyone familiar with the movement of water should have known that a single jetty would divert the current across the bay. Nevertheless, authorities approved the plan for the single jetty, and Army Corps of Engineers acquiesced, completing the project for a cost of $800 thousand. 

While crossing the bar was less harrowing, the Corps’ predictions proved right. In 1932, major storm action swept the natatorium into the sea. By 1949, more than 20 homes were under water. Then in 1952, the sea cut right through the spit. In 1960, the last house fell into the sea. 

Since then, the forest has reclaimed the spit which is now home to deer, raccoons, coyotes, and birds. I encountered them all on my drive across the dike between Lake Meares and Tillamook Bay to the parking lot for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. I appeared to be alone with the animals on this dank gray day, with the option of walking on an unpaved road along the bay or following a sandy path to the ocean. I took the path of lost dreams to the sea. 

The narrow trail wound through gnarled conifers and across a wild sweep of sand and tangles of grass. As the trail crested toward the melancholy sky, the sea took possession of the air like the sound of a train never quite 

At the top of the dune, the trail disappeared into sand sloping down into a panoramic curve of the coastline. The tide was out, the surf lacy and white. A mist hover under the heavy gray sky weighed upon my senses. I skied down the dune to the beach.

No one knew where I was. Sitting there on a log on the far edge of my country, everything I’d ever been or cared about was behind me. My follies became indistinguishable from my dreams. My misdirections, like my dreams, just paths through wild tangles of grass to the sea. I wandered down the beach to a gigantic tree stump bleached by salt and sun into an abstraction no longer resembling anything within the realms of the arboreal. Wanting nothing but to succumb to an overpowering fatigue, I sat down and leaned back against the abstraction. 

21—The Great Blue Question

To: Friends and Family
Subject: The Great Blue Question

I’ve been pondering the question that appears during every low tide in the shallows at the foot of my hill. in the past, I’ve called this question a great blue heron and admired the stately bird’s grace and elegance. However, for the last several days, G. B. Heron of Netarts Bay has led me through my spotting scope into an adventure of of mind and soul. 

I first began to notice G. B. as something more than a study in grace and elegance when I saw him coming in for a landing, his six-foot wing span ballooning him into the shallows as if he’d been engineered by an aeronautical engineer on downers. He then shook himself into a still and solitary figure gliding through the melancholy of the fading winter-white light like a Chopin nocturne. 

I’d been looking into the distance for whales but turned the spotting scope on him. And that’s when the question began to take shape—the yellow, rapier-like beak widening into a small white head, roughly the size and shape of a driving iron, curving down through a long narrow gray neck into a feathery blue-gray body supported by two long spindly black legs. 

Heron by Walter Van Campen
When I began looking into the question, it was G. B.‘s eye that caught mine. If the eyes are the windows of the soul, G. B.‘s is a large black pupil ringed with a bright yellow iris. This expressionless eye lies right above the throat-end of the yellow beak. Above the eye, an indigo streak slashes backward, across the temple and around the head into a jaunty twine of feathers that dangle part way down the bird’s long thin neck in a kind of regal insouciance. 

Initially drawn to G. B.’s saucy charm, I also marveled at the speed and precision with which he could nab a small fish—all the more remarkable when I considered the size of his brain relative to his comparatively large body.
There were no extraneous movements. Just stillness allowing the opportunity to create itself clear and whole.

“Stillness,” Master Lao always says, “is the most important part of motion.”

One day, I noticed G. B. standing with his long neck tucked between the indigo epaulets on his gray wings. The huge wings were rounded about him like a cloak so that he might easily have been take for the spy from MAD Magazine. After waiting impatiently for Heron to move, I decided to be still and see who would move first. When G.B. finally turned his head, I thought I’d won but then realized that all the while I’d been watching, he had fully and extended his neck but so slowly as to be imperceptible. It was at this moment that Heron became my guru.  

20—Slack Tide

To: Friends and Family
Subject: Slack Tide
It’s slack tide—the hour or so of transition between high and low tides, a time when tidal currents are in balance. The rhythms of the place have slowed to a mediative stillness. The gliding of the heron through the shallows, the squawk of a gull, the riffle of a breeze, each just a passing thought through the Great Mind of it All.

I’ve been enjoying my afternoon tea and sharing reflections on changing tides with four of my traveling companions: Rachel Carson, Albert Einstein, Itzhak Bentov, and Lao-tzu. 
You’re undoubtedly familiar with Rachel, Einstein, and Master Lao but perhaps not Bentov, a scientist, inventor, mystic, and author of Stalking the Wild Pendulum: On the Mechanics of Consciousness

Bentov got the whole conversation started by recounting the experiment conducted by Dr. Frank Brown, Jr. at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Brown had live oysters shipped from Long Island to Evanston in a tightly sealed container filled with sea water. Oysters open and close their valves in rhythm with the tides, and initially Brown’s oysters remained in sync with the tides in Long Island Sound. Within two weeks, however, they were opening and closing in sync with the moon as it passed over Evanston.

“There were tides in the new earth,” says Rachel, “long before there was an ocean. In response to the pull of the sun the molten liquids of the earth’s whole surface rose in tides that rolled unhindered around the globe and only gradually slackened and diminished as the earthly shell cooled, congealed, and hardened.”

I leafed through the tide table calculated for Tillamook. Even in this uncertain existence, the daily cycle of tides has been calculated to the tenth of a foot and exact minute. 

Spring tides, the highest, occur not just in spring but twice a month when the sun and moon are either opposite one another or aligned.
Neap tides, the lowest, occur when the sun and moon are at right angles.

“Mathematics are well and good,” interjects Einstein, “but nature keeps dragging us around by the nose.”

Unperturbed, Bentov goes on about wave energy and how all movement, including smell and sound, expresses itself in waves. The way waves interact can heighten, alter, or flatten them. 
A roomful of pendulum clocks out of sync with one another will eventually fall into sync, something called sympathetic vibration.

18.1—Field Trip to the North Sea

Today, dear followers, our writer could say there's no official posting due to a respiratory ailment and a sore foot that required several exhausting trips into Portland this last week...or that the cat walked across the keyboard and deleted her homework. But let's just say that for a variety of reasons, some of them true, we're going on a one-minute field trip off the coast of Northumberland via an online Italian newspaper. The headline: The scuba diver and the seal: sweet caresses in the North Sea.