Yesterday I parked at the edge of Newport’s south jetty, my getaway place, opened the car windows, removed my shoes and socks and stretched out in the front seat of my Honda Element. It was one of those days when I needed to get away from everything and do some hard thinking. My husband’s Alzheimer’s and his move last month to a care home, possibly forever, has turned my life upside down and I’m still trying to figure how to deal with everything that has suddenly changed.
Back in San Jose, I used to drive to the Alviso district. Once a bustling port for ships moving freight from the South Bay to San Francisco, it had turned into a stinking mudhole. Sulfur rankled the air, sea grass grew up through the muddy water, and broken beer bottles littered the parking lot. With its falling-down shacks too near the landfill, Alviso had a bad reputation. But in a big city, it was hard to get away from the crowds and find a bit of ocean to stare at.
Newport’s south jetty is not like that. The beauty there between the Yaquina Bridge and the ocean simply dissolves stress. I stare out at the water and watch cormorants and rhinoceros auklets dive and splash. A sea lion pops up, ducks back under, then comes up yards closer. Gulls glide overhead and squirrels skitter over the rocks of the jetty. On a warm day, I would sit on one of those rocks with my notebook, but most days aren’t that warm.
A sailboat floats near the north side of the jetty as a turquoise-blue fishing boat motors under the bridge, heading seaward. Between the two columns of rocks, the water is smooth, but it gets choppy where boats climb the invisible barrier between bay and ocean. Riding it in the Discovery Tour Boat a few years ago, we slapped that water hard as spray drenched anyone daring to stand near the front. Fishermen have died in this transition area, and tourists have been washed off the wet rocks during high tide.
But where I sit in my car, it’s safe. As I stretch out my body, the knots in my mind untie. Sometimes I write poetry, sometimes I play my harmonica, sometimes I weep, sometimes I just sit and look. Meditation comes in many forms. Last week it was shoveling dirt; this week it’s staring at the jetty until the chatter in my mind stops and I finally pay attention.