(NSP Meditations features regular contributions from Correspondents. If you are interested in becoming one, contact Matt Love through the NSP web site for more details.)
Mother Nature has her bizarre, mysterious ways of communicating with us. Sometimes she is subtle, a lot of times she is not. She will not hesitate to knock us off our feet, literally and figuratively. If we are lost, directionless, or on the wrong path, she will pick us up, blow us over, and put us where we are supposed to be. At the very least she will give us some sort of clue.
As far back as I can remember Nature has been sending me wake up calls. Reminding me to pay attention, be alert and respect the greater forces at play in the world.
When you are young, you are unstoppable, you bounce back with ease. However, my traumatic fall in Pacific City felt like a near death incident for me and shook me deep in my bones. I was seven or eight, a lively little lady with my head mostly in the clouds. It was my first time climbing the Great Sand Dune of PC. I had made the entire ascent with my dad and younger sister and I was on top of the entire world. I could see out across the breathtaking ocean, far beyond the horizon, and all along the gorgeous stretching beaches. Humans and dogs were the tiniest of speckles.
Now it was time for the Great Descent. Being as enthusiastic and naïve as I was, I decided not to take the advice of another fellow youngster who had run the dune before, and instead plow down the sand full throttle. I took off as if my legs would disappear any second and my wings (which I fully believed I had) would spread wide and carry me down gracefully. Unfortunately for child-me, they did not materialize. To the horror of my growing audience, I began to stumble, as if some invisible forces had weaved yarn through my toes. I could not regain any sort of balance and immediately tumbled, head over heels, cart-wheeling, somersaulting all the way to the very bottom.
Throughout this seemly never ending epic fall (well over 200 feet), I was unaware of the shocked faces of strangers and the look of terror on my mother’s face, who was standing helplessly by the tide pools and could do nothing but watch her child roll down the dune. It was just gravity and me, the Great Dune and all her might and affection, wrapping me in a loving embrace. By the time I reached my mother, I was absolutely shaken into silence. I could not speak, was not laughing nor crying, simply in disbelief of how my delightful view and possible flight had quickly turned to the world upside down and spinning all around me. I was back to the ocean in mere seconds, maybe a full minute. I was still speechless as we shuffled down the beach, her arm around me and my eyes totally glazed over, lost in a trance. It was easily a week before I had gotten all the sand out of every pore and crevice of my being, leaving me with a classic motto that still holds true in my life today: It’s a sandy life at the Beach.
I guess you could say I was humbled, put in my place, brushed against the elemental forces and fully aware of their power in my life. I laugh about it now, but thinking about the experience still gives me shivers and I have great respect for the beach and its lessons and teachings, of which I am still a student.
Every time I climb the dune (at least once a year) I do so with gratitude and admiration, fully conscious and aware of the unseen energies of Nature that constantly surround us, that we influence and are a part of. The world, and our lives, are both balance and chaos, a wondrous dance seemly random but beautifully synchronized every step of the way.
Another experience that stands out in my life took place in Astoria-Ilwaco, Christmas Eve December 2014, a week before heading out on a life-changing journey up to Canada.
I was visiting the lovely northern coastal town, where the ocean meets the river, with my boyfriend and his family, and we had just gotten sufficiently quenched at the local craft brewery. We were about to hit the road, but one final quick stop: saying a farewell to the mighty river, right at her mouth opening to the Pacific. His parents had taken to observing the stormy seas from the raised wooden lookout post, while Josh and I climbed over giant boulders that went right into her magnificent waters. Wandering along the river, my spirit was high above me, soaring away with the fog and the deliciously dark Fort George stout. I was lost in my thoughts as I gazed out at the deep dark mysterious body of water, the mesmerizing waves shimmering and rippling their way towards the shore.
It had been a cloudy day, the sky changing shades of gray as the rain fell lightly on and off. Now the sun was breaking through for an afternoon greeting. The waters sparkled evermore, the waves rolling larger and larger with increasing intensity. However, I was looking down at the reflections of the sky on the brightening rocks, attempting to read the mirrored cloud patterns, fully entranced by their cosmic designs. As Josh made his way up the boulder pile, I meandered down the rocks, closer to the water in hopes of spying a merman/maid or sea pup.
Behind me, the parents start yelling from their lookout deck, with arms waving frantically through the air. Returning to the present moment, I realized it must be something important, but it was too late. A second later, there is a peculiar shadow darkening the sky overhead. I look up and I am face to face with a thick, bone chilling wall of water. Time seems to freeze, the moment drags on for eternity. My mind is blank and at last the wave crashes down on me. I brace myself on the large boulder next to me and then it is over. I stand there completely bewildered, totally shaken. I never saw it coming. I am still grasping the giant rock, thanking him endlessly for such stability and sturdiness, because of him I was able to stay on my feet and not be dragged out to sea. I was amply soaked, every ounce of me dripping with salty freshness. The waters had claimed me, awakened me: “Stay present! Be alert every moment!” My phone was fried in my pocket, completely detaching me from anyone and anything that was not in my direct environment, yet another lesson from Nature. Never take your eyes nor mind off Mother Ocean.
Jane Endres is an Oregon native, rain, bird and mushroom enthusiast, animal activist, and deep admirer of the wilderness. She attended Portland State University for Social Work and Sustainability, leaving early to pursue her interest in organic farming and get away from city life. Her travels took her up north to explore British Columbia and its many islands as well as down to California and as far south as Costa Rica. She received much kindness and wisdom in her travels, but ultimately realized that the Pacific Northwest was the place she belonged, where she would set her roots. Jane enjoys vegan cooking and baking, brewing kombucha, speaking with owls, observing the neighborhood crow collective, biking, hiking, beachcombing, stargazing, jazz and poetry. She is currently residing in the rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula, going with the flow of nature.