I May Live on the Prairie…But my Heart is on the Beach

4 Jun

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So I’ve been thinking about Orcas Island lately, and it dawned on me that I never posted a whole lot of photos that I took there last summer. There are many things I love about Orcas, but the beach and the view of the ocean is definitely one of the biggest.

So – I give you a typical Orcas Island beach, filled with stones and tide pools, seaweed and shells – except that this one is even better in that it has a cave and a waterfall. I adore this place.

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What is it that I love, you ask? The salty tang in the air. The polished driftwood, worn down by days in the briny sea, so smooth it’s splinter-free. The limpets and hermit crabs, sea anemones and tiny Dungeness crabs that inhabit the tide pool worlds. I even love the barnacles that mark the high-tide line along the rocky cliffs (if you keep your eyes peeled you’ll see this in one photo). Even I must admit, however, that don’t like falling on the barnacles and getting my knees all bloody – I’ve done that plenty in my day. I love the stony beaches of Orcas Island – no sandy beaches for me, thank you very much! (There are a few sandy beaches on the island, but not many.) I love the tide, rolling ever onward – or outward – free of human concern and worry, simply obeying the order of the moon. In and out, in and out, in and out, twice a day forever and ever, amen.

I love the order of the tides…and the disorder of the shore.

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I remember that I loved the way my feet inside my socks inside my wet Keds (wet because a kid can never go to the beach and remain dry) would squelch all the way up the beach and along the dirt road to my house, 90 feet above the crashing waves. By the time I reached home, my socks would be all smushed beneath my feet and my toes would be raisiny and cold and I didn’t care one bit.

I loved the “Whoosh” of the Orca whales breeching off the shore – the giant exhale of their breath which we could hear from our deck and we’d come running to watch the pod pass by. How could a person not love that?

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I loved the screech of the seagulls as they dive-bombed the Bald eagles – and the patience of the eagle as he put up with it. And then, with a sudden swoop from his cliff-top perch, the eagle would leave the old, dead snag and drop to the ocean, coming up with a fish in his talons to grace his family’s table.

I loved the splash of the ocean’s spray against our windows in mighty winter storms – even that high above the sea, we’d have salt on our panes to wipe away in the following days. I loved the constant company of the waves – lulling or roaring, it was never silent in our yard because the ocean was our constant guest.

Our constant guest: and yet, really, it was we who were the guests, we who were the brief interlude between other people, other guests, other visitors to that ocean-side spot, where smoking mountains greeted us across the water on clear mornings, reminding us that we were not in charge of anything – not really. We were merely caretakers for a short time, of that little piece of magic that was ours. That little piece of Orcas I called home.

This is me, in the empty field next to our house.  That's Mt. Baker in the background and yes, it would steam and belch smoke sometimes.  My father took this photo and called it, "Bouquet for Mommy".

This is me, in the empty field next to our house. That’s Mt. Baker in the background and yes, it would steam and belch smoke sometimes. My father took this photo and called it, “Bouquet for Mommy”.

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Old bones of a giant squid?  Nope.  Just tree roots.

Old bones of a giant squid? Nope. Just tree roots.

The tide was coming in - all of the tide pools were filling up and I was close to being stranded!  Not really - I'm smarter than that.

The tide was coming in – all of the tide pools were filling up and I was close to being stranded! Not really – I’m smarter than that.

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The islands off in the distance are Matia, Sucia and the tiny one is Puffin.  Matia and Sucia are entirely parks.

The islands off in the distance are Matia, Sucia and the tiny one is Puffin. Matia and Sucia are entirely parks. Did you notice the high-tide mark of the barnacles?

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I love driftwood.

I love driftwood, all scoured by salt and sea.

Tanker and tug boat

Tanker and tug boat

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High tide line.

High tide line.

Told you there was a cave.

Told you there was a cave.

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Bull kelp.

Bull kelp.

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Behold the bounty in my daughters' hands.

Behold the bounty in my daughters’ hands.

Beach glass, collected over the years, now holds a place of honor in land-locked Minnesota.

Beach glass, collected over the years, now holds a place of honor in land-locked Minnesota.

A few nostalgic photos of our actual beach – just up the shore from the photos above. :-)

I believe my sister threw in a large rock so as to splash me and get me even more wet than I already was.  All part of the beachy fun!

I believe my sister threw in a large rock so as to splash me and get me even more wet than I already was. All part of the beachy fun!

My grandma, cooking burgers on our beach - probably 1972 or 3.

My grandma, cooking burgers on our beach – probably 1972 or 3.

The walk home from the beach was along this road. I have always had a fondness for forgotten dirt roads.

There was an old orchard at the end of the road.  Yum!  I'm the smallest one, holding my grandma's hand.

The dirt road, coming up from the beach. There was an old orchard at the end of the road. Yum! I’m the smallest one, holding my grandma’s hand.

20 Responses to “I May Live on the Prairie…But my Heart is on the Beach”

  1. Beth Ann June 4, 2013 at 7:27 am #

    Okay–I officially want to go there now!!! Beautiful! I love beaches with sand and with rocks! Makes no difference to me—they all hold beauty. I especially love the jar of beach glass—all kinds of memories in that jar, for sure!! Thanks for a mini vacation this morning!!! On this rainy gloomy day I needed it!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell June 5, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      Yes, it’s been quite gloomy weather-wise around here, too. I keep telling myself that we desperately need rain, so no complaining is allowed! It is a lovely place. Perhaps I could get a job writing for their tourism board?!!

  2. Minnesota Prairie Roots June 4, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    Your heartfelt words and beautiful photos paint a place of incredible loveliness, wonderful memories and deep connection.. Now I understand even more why you miss Orcas. You must simply ache at times to hear the ocean, to dip your toes into the salty water, to view the muted shaded of driftwood and rock. Of course you do, or you wouldn’t have written this post.

    It’s interesting that you live in the place now, the prairie, that I yearn for and miss. But I, at least, needn’t drive far to see prairie.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell June 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      I think it’s very good that we all have places that we love and connect to. I do love the way the wind blows the prairie grasses across a field and it looks like wind on water. Yes, there are things I can love about the prairie!

  3. treadlemusic June 4, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    With the rain coming down (once again!) and a slight fog rising, I could be in your “home” state of past years! The only thing missing, of course, is that gorgeous body of water!! I so love the smell of salt water oceans. I have visited the East Coast/New England a lot and have spent my most pleasant moments near the water. I do have a nephew and niece who have married and made their homes that direction (I have forgotten the name of the island). Your photos are so appealing and the family snapshots are so sweet. Thanks for sharing….hugs……

    • Gretchen O'Donnell June 5, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

      I hope that your relatives are loving their island life! It’s hard, these days, to afford actual beach-front property. I so wish my parents still owned theirs. Yes, it’s been raining here, too – which we really need, so I’m trying to be positive about it!

  4. julie wellnitz June 4, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Beautiful post, again, Grecthen! Thank you!!

    Julie

  5. cravesadventure June 4, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Beautiful Post – loving your captures:) I love the beach too – recharges and reenergizes my batteries. Happy Tuesday!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell June 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

      Yes, there is something about the beach. I enjoy lake beaches, too, but it’s not the same. Nice in a different way!

  6. gardenfreshtomatoes June 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    The words and photos flow today…wonderful, heartfelt descriptions. Thanks for showing us your world :)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell June 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

      :-) Thank you. I don’t spend my time wasting away over it…but there are times that I just have to wallow in it a little.

  7. Kathleen Mickelson (@kcmickelson) June 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    That jar full of beach glass – I love that! I do that same thing with rocks from the Lake Superior shore. Not the ocean, I know, but pretty cool. Lovely post.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell June 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

      Thank you. My husband grew up in Duluth, and I have found that the shore there is pretty special, yes. I know someone who collects one stone each time she goes to the North Shore – she keeps them all in a jar to remember her time there.

  8. hotlyspiced June 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    What a special part of the world. I love that old image of you with all the flowers and Mt Baker in the background. You obviously have many happy memories of growing up by the beach xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell June 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

      Yes, that’s a fun photo for sure. I should enlarge it for my livingroom.

  9. dzynr2 June 10, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    I live close to beaches and mountains and bush. It breaks my heart to know that we are destroying these things with our unfettered consumerism.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell June 10, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

      You are blessed in your location! Yes, there certainly are problems in our environment – makes me sad for sure.

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