The Time Espen and I Came Back to Life at Thanksgiving

The day before COVID-Thanksgiving, Espen and I decided to take a spontaneous road trip to Winema Beach to visit the legendary "Pirate Cave" we had heard about from friends. I checked the tide tables and discovered that we would arrive on the outgoing tide so we decided to head out.

0.8 of a mile before our turnoff, traffic suddenly came to a complete standstill...and remained so for an hour. Espen was remarkably patient, but eventually he reached his limit and wailed, "THIS IS SO FREAKING BORRRRIIIINNNGGG!" 

"Let's give it 10 more minutes and if it's not moving we'll find a different route." 

The clock read 2:10pm. Low tide was at 3:44 so I reasoned it might give us our best chance of making it through the narrow beach spit to the beach with the cave. 3 minutes later, cars started moving and within 0.1 of a mile, we passed the wreckage of two SUVs that were completely obliterated. I said a silent prayer of gratitude and we finished the last leg of our journey to the beach uneventfully.

We arrived at Winema with a balmy wind and no rain to speak of so we jumped into our jackets and sand suits and headed towards the rocky outcropping that would lead us to the cave. The rain picked up a bit as we climbed the low rocks and peered through the sandy alley-way between a monolithic rock jutting towards the sea and the mainland cliff. 

The winter waves, even at low tide are very impressive as you look out to the break. I watched carefully as the water swirled around the sea-facing rock, noting how long the path was clear before the tide came swifting through. Espen was giddy with excitement and I gauged that we would have more than enough time to get to high ground before the tides swirled through the gap. 

When the tide had receded, we ran and timed it just perfectly. We laughed and felt exhilarated to be in the wind with the sea thundering in the background...and then we saw the pirate cave. It was very magical and worth spending time in, but my mom brain was thinking, "If you had to time it well to get over here and it's about low tide now, you should be getting back so you don't get trapped on this side."

I listened to that voice and Espen and I started back down to our entry point through the sand alley. Rocks stuck up here and there through the path and I could see the widening where we would have some wiggle room to be safe if the tide was extra high. 

My usual tendency with the sea is to observe the tidal patterns closely and ALWAYS have an escape route planned in case you get surprised. Today I watched the return path for awhile, but Espen was raring to go so we started running before I had watched at least 5 sets of waves come in.

Halfway through the alley, I saw the water starting to come around the rock in front of us. I looked back and saw it coming from behind us too, so I picked the closest rock and scrambled up it, pulling Espen up with me. It wasn't nearly as tall as I would have liked, but I estimated that as long as we didn't loose our balance, we would be above the water.

As I watched the water pour around the rock in front of us and start climbing the rock I suddenly realized that it was going to get our feet wet. Ok, that's manageable, I thought. But then a swell rolled in behind it and in a split second I knew we we were about to be lifted off the rock. 

The sea water, broken by the sea-facing monolith, slid around us at chest level and swept us off the rock. The cold was breath-taking and I felt my breath deepen in my chest, years of yogic breathing snapping into place. 

I held onto Espen and looked him in the eye. Time sat in my belly as I repeated over and over to him, "It's ok. It's alright. It's ok."

Inside my body was a flame, flickering, radiating warmth into a bubble surrounding us. It made the water feel gentle somehow, sentient and alive, listening. "Let this be soft." I breathed inside, calm and peaceful.

And then our feet were on the sand. A path opened up before us, I pulled Espen forward to a huge boulder and we scrambled up until we stood sopping wet above the waves. 

"I thought we were going to drown." said Espen

"Me too, Boo."

"But we didn't." we both said.

We watched the waves swirl in around the bottom of our sturdy and very tall boulder. Espen laughed for a moment and then said, "The sea is very powerful."

"Yes, she is, Boo." 

We hugged each other.

"You did so good." I told him. "You were calm, you stayed looking at mommy, and we made it."

"We still need to run around the last part." he said. 

But after escaping the alley, we practically flew around the last bit of headland to the safety of the broad and high sandy beach leading back to the car.

Our shoes squelched all the way back, our clothes clung to our bodies like limp seaweed but who cared? We were alive for another day.

Once back to the car we peeled our sea salt soaked clothes off and put on our extra set that I had ferociously insisted on bringing this time.

"We have to go back to her and give her an offering for being merciful today." I said to Espen.

I grew up around horses and have been thrown off enough times to know that in order to save relationships, you have to circle right back and get in the saddle before you can be talked out of it.

Reluctantly, Espen selected an agate out of the mobile geology collection I keep in the car and we headed back to the beach.

Sea foam slid, rolled, and drifted all over the beach like clouds on a stormy sky. Espen and I approached the sea and said our thanks for mercy, for life, and for beauty. 

Then we cast handfuls of salt into the waves, threw our agate and obsidian into her depths as an offering and kept an eye on her as we walked back to the car. 

"The important thing about oceans, is that they are powerful." said Espen as we drove off. "You have to keep your eyes on them or they might gobble you up, but the important thing is that they are powerful."


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