Cascade Head Serenade

I stood at the summit of Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast, watching mist roll back from the cliffs and water thousands of feet below me. This place was important to the First People of this land. Huge Sitka spruce held court at my back, cradling ancient stumps and a steady drip of moisture rolling off their branches. Nature’s medicine is potent, and my skin steamed with the effort of climbing. I imagined the entire headland alight with fire, welcoming ancient runs of salmon home like a pyrotechnic lighthouse set ablaze by human hands. To climb, to sweat, to call out to our relatives, “Come home!” requires effort.

How many times have I leaned into Life’s challenges? How exhilarating and exhausting is it to put one foot in front of the other with a vision calling me forward? A place I have never visited, a relationship I have yet to build, a world still incubating.

Rain drenched the entire first section of the trail. Water cascaded down the path beneath my feet, my body sodden when we finally broke from the trees onto the headland. We paused, looking up the steep incline and saw antlers piercing the fog in a silent salute. An entire herd of elk gazed through us to the sea.

Mist folded upon itself and lifted away from the land, showing the way forward. One step, then another. Sometimes it is good to only see what is right in front of you. My body was tired and wet, I needed assurance that I was on the path and nothing more.

Doubt and grief weighted each step, relationships with family and friends that had died, my place and work in a world so burdened with challenge and degradation dogged my progress. It is heavy work, mourning what we have destroyed and inherited.

I stripped layers off as I climbed, working through the outer shells until I stood atop the head in shirt sleeves in the chill autumn afternoon. Sometimes the only way forward it to peel yourself bare in the presence of something bigger, something beautiful.

I held out my arms while the wind soared and whistled around me, waves tiny lines of white far below. Out to sea, sunlight lanced clouds and burnished water golden.

What do I do with all this grief? Where do I bury the bones of what I have loved and watched pass away?

Here. Leave it here. I am big enough to hold you.

Mist curled, trees bowed, I cried.
We speak with each other, the trees, the seas, the skies. It is advance and retreat, rise and fall, cradle and rock.

When it is time to return to the river, to give thanks to the life she brings, I sing her songs and hold my friend’s hand. We watch the sun begin its bedtime routine and sit in wonder-filled silence. She listens, lapping at our feet and we return full.


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