Coming down the steep zigzag trail in the forest, terra firma is still underfoot, and though the stairstepped Pacific-coast pines are quite different than the cottonwoods of our midwestern plains, they are still trees and we are still ourselves, a family living in a slightly heightened but normal state, minds prone to distraction—cellphone texts, baggies of trail mix, yesterday’s quarrels.
On the beach, though, all distractions fall away. There are no deadlines or commitments. The waves come and go, come and go, hushing the internal racket. They chant an unfamiliar yet familiar mantra—say the same thing until it is everything: Be here, shshsh. Now, shshsh. Here, shshsh.
Even as we stand on the sand, gazing toward Asia, the waves take us out with them. We float away on the rhythmic, rise-and-fall breath-of-the-planet.
Earth, air, water, all come together here on the Oregon shore, chilly under gray hovering clouds. And those three primal elements conjure up the fourth, glowing in the soul. Near naked, we dive into the waves. They swallow us up, too frigid for thought. But when we step out, we are candle flames in our skin. Alight. Utterly alive. We are a united chorus singing the same glad old song.