Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Neskowin with Gretchen

My sister Gretchen is in town visiting our father and helping him with some projects that have piled up. It has been wonderful for us all to see some movement in his resistance to having help and in seeing a big job accomplished at his house.  It doesn’t matter if you live near your parents or far, you can’t help an aging parent until they are willing for it as long as they are still able to function.  My dad has been so extremely capable and intelligent in handling his affairs for all his life--and ours--that it feels presumptuous for us to step in and shocking that he needs some intervention.  He is 89 and living in his own home still.  I am so happy that my sister came and patiently endured the process of doing things with him respectfully and with good humor!  And Dad feels great about the results!   

Gretchen invited me to go out to lunch with her in honor of my coming birthday, a plan which evolved to a beach daytrip with our dad.  We went to Neskowin, the little village on the coast where we have a long family history.


14-05-02-12-48-10H14-05-02-12-47-24HMy dad’s family started camping in Neskowin in 1935 and in 1941 built the cabin we all love.  Of course some additions and improvements have been made through the years but it has retained that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, what my sister’s family calls “that Neskowin feeling”, a transcendent sense of calm and joy. 

In recent years my dad has sold his interest in the cabin to his younger brother which has been a bitter pill for me.  I no longer can consider it my inheritance. It is hard for me to see my younger cousins using the cabin and taking friends to it while I don’t have that freedom and pleasure.  I almost didn’t want to go there on Friday with my sister and dad to see it because I feel  so bad about losing it.  But we went so they could see it while she was in town. And I want to hold on to the good memories and be thankful for the formative benefit the beach cabin had in my life rather than be occupied with bitterness at the changes.


The golf course from the cabin’s front deck.

One of the unique things at Neskowin is Proposal Rock which has had many a Robinson Crusoe adventure on it.  Usually you must cross the creek to climb it but on some glorious summer days the creek is on the south side of the rock enabling ascent without wet pant legs. It used to be arduous, climbing the rock, but Gretchen said it seemed a lot smaller this time!  I think it’s because she’s been living in the Rocky Mountains!14-05-02-13-17-48H


She and I walked the beach noting changes and things that are just the same as always.  The worst change is the rip rap which has been added to the beach, the boulders placed all along the front property lines to protect the sand dunes and front row homes from being washed out.  Ironically, those dunes were created by the beach grass which was intentionally planted in the 1940’s to hold the sand from shifting.  The grass caused the dunes to grow which created sandy land to build on.  (In 1941 my grandparents’ cabin was ocean front and in the 1960’s new cabins were built in front of it.) As winter storms came, especially in recent winters, the high tide has tried to reclaim its former space and has done serious damage to some of the newer property and even early development, hence the riprap.  Where once you would see sand sloping down to the breakers and children running over the dunes with their pails and shovels you see a rock wall now with an occasional staircase at a public access point.  Because of the boulders, beach access has been curtailed inadvertently.  (Oregon has a law protecting the coastline as public right of way so once you get over to it no hotels or private owner can rope off the beachfront.) It’s just not easy to climb over the boulders!

I call this picture “The riff raff at the rip rap”.  The day before the temperature had been amazingly 88 degrees at Neskowin but for us it was cold and windy and heavy mist (my sister called it rain but I said no Oregonian would call it so.)14-05-02-12-58-35H

The riff raff at the rip rap.

Gretchen and I walked the same way we did everyday as kids with my grandparents, down to the water’s edge and along to Proposal Rock where we turn to the village center which consists of one store and a deli.  The deli has been closed for several years and  it has just reopened  much to everyone’s delight.  It is the one place to eat out within 20 miles between Lincoln City and Pacific City.  We had my birthday lunch there. Our waitress was a woman who remembered my brothers as her pals back in the day—there’s just that kind of timelessness about the place.


We drove back to Portland stopping for coffee at the iconic Otis CafĂ©.  They specialize in home baked goods. Of course, we indulged.14-05-02-16-18-11H14-05-02-17-12-53H14-05-02-17-13-14H


Although our paths have taken us to living across the country from one another since high school  days and our separate family lives occupy us most of the time nowadays there is a bond of sisterhood that I appreciate now more than ever.  I have memories of us sleeping under the rafters in that beach cabin in the summertime as kids, waking up and bonking our heads on the rafters when we sat up in bed. Our closeness now is not in physical proximity but in a shared upbringing, shared heritage, shared faith and a shared love of family.  I have a deep appreciation for the new memory I hold of Gretchen coming to help our dad untangle his affairs with such patience and graciousness! 

Other flora and fauna that we saw during the day: