Cliffs of Love

At first light, at high tide, I walked north down a semi-secret beach trying to empty my mind.

It was no use, the emptying that is.

I looked west to the limitless ocean and east to the sandy cliffs that hemmed me in. Even at some distance I could see carvings into the sandy face of the cliffs.

These weren’t carvings by an ancient people suggesting the spiritual or supernatural. They were messages of lust and love, inspired by the ocean and the plasma of all mammalian things alive, scratched into a blank canvas of sand and dirt, messages declaring ideas and sentiments for all the world to see, at least the few people who walked by these cliffs and bothered to pay attention.

A person like me.

I went over to inspect them because I like to think of myself as the Oregon Coast’s premier anthropologist of such cliff carvings. I’ve studied them for 20 years, from Hammond to Brookings, and I never grow tired of reading and thinking about them. They make me smile and wonder. They enlarge my heart and capacity for love. They make me want to edit. They make me want to write my own equation for love.

I have never carved an equation or name into the face of a cliff. Quite obviously, that I haven’t is the result of something severely lacking in my life and it’s all been my fault. Perhaps now, I am ready to carve. Doesn’t everyone want to carve?

The cliffs at this semi-secret beach were covered with letters, words and symbols, the most I have ever seen in one place. There were even complete sentences. You must really love someone if you carve a complete sentence of love into a cliff—and punctuate it—or so the former English teacher in me thinks.

I scaled a dune to the base of the cliffs, read the writing here and there, and then looked up: some were 50 feet above me, straight up, no footholds, no visible way of getting up there. Except to crawl and hang on.

Commitment. Carefree. Precarious. Dangerous. Dumb. Bravado. Wild. Rock and Roll.

Why do it? Why not, if you feel it.

I thought about the carvings. Questions/observations came to mind:

Are most of the equations and names carved by one person or in tandem?

What percentage of equations are gay and lesbian?

Why was the name “Matt” the highest carving on this cliff?

Why, with a couple of exceptions, were male names all the highest carvings? Think about that. You could write a book answering that question. Maybe I will.

If it’s only one person, is the other member of the couple present, watching down below?

In recent years, I’ve notices names in Spanish. America is changing. Good. More of that change. A faster pace, too.

What’s the average age of the carver?

Are the carvers more tourists or locals?

I’ve never seen a menage a trois equation.

How long do these carvings near the ocean last? They certainly aren’t as enduring as carving initials into fresh pavement or a tree.

I scaled back down the dune and faced the ocean. Then I turned around and scampered up the dune. I found a perfect driftwood chisel pen along the way. I was going to carve my first equation. I did. It was easy. It should have been written years ago.

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