“You know we call it the ‘coast’ and not the ‘beach’, right?
It was 1996 and my boyfriend was attempting to give me a brief linguistics lesson while we visited his family in Oregon over winter break. He was eager to show me around his hometown and take me for a drive along the ‘coast’. I was a Southern California girl and frankly, this slight nuance in terminology was lost on me. Besides, I was in love and not really paying much attention. He could have told me they called it the ‘watering hole’ and I would have simply nodded and gone along with it!
But, as we wound our way west, I realized that this was nothing like the Pacific Coast Highway I was used to. Not only were we passing farms and forests but the landscape gave no indication that we were near anything even remotely coastal. Nowhere in California did I have to pass a lumber mill to see the ocean! Then, as we came up over a hill, suddenly there it was. It was so wonderfully familiar and yet totally foreign at the same time.
This version was like nothing I had seen before and I realized why my boyfriend tried to prepare me. The waves crashed against jagged rocks and the only patches of sand I saw looked anything but warm and welcoming. Wind whipped around us as we stood at the edge of a cliff to try and capture the moment on film. I felt less like a Valley Girl and more like a character out of a Brontë novel! Then and there I decided that this ‘coast’ was not for me.
How could anyone find this appealing?
Three years later, I found myself leaving behind my beloved beaches of Southern California and following that former boyfriend, now husband, to Oregon. Our new residence was only an hour from the ‘coast’. But, moving in the middle of a cold and rainy winter did not make me inclined to give it another chance. Needless to say I was suffering from a bit of culture shock. Eventually, winter gave way to spring and with it the most glorious shades of green I had ever seen. That rain has to be good for something, right?
As the days grew longer and I began to thaw out, my husband asked me if I would like to take a drive along the coast. Perhaps I was feeling homesick for the ocean. Or perhaps in my heart I knew I needed to fully embrace my new surroundings. We hopped in the car and headed west, past those same farms, forest and lumber mill. While we drove, we reminisced about that day, years before, when as boyfriend and girlfriend we had set out along that same route. And, before I knew it, I felt a stirring in my heart. This road and I had history. It had seen that boyfriend and girlfriend filled with love, hopes and dreams for the future. And, now it was seeing that same young couple turned husband and wife making those dreams a reality.
We came up over the hill and, once again, I was startled. Only this time it was by the beauty that stretched out before me. The sun peeking through the clouds created a glistening effect on the water as the tide rolled in and out. On one side of the winding road, dense evergreens rose up like giants. And on the other side the infinite expanse of the ocean reminded me of just how small and finite I really am.
This was the coast.
And I was home!