Memories Arriving in Layers, Like Waves

Relaxing on the Oregon Coast among the Rocks

Relaxing on the Oregon Coast among the Rocks, July 26, 1992

The ocean is the ultimate earth mother,I mean the constant change of the tides, its relation to the moon, the sound of it rolling back and forth—it’s almost too beautiful.  And I regard being on the water during the summer as my substitute for a Parisian café, and I can sit there by the hour.  It is certainly not profound, but it’s—I enjoy it.  All artists are voyeurs, not people of action.

Robert Motherwell (interview)

Sleep did not come easily last night.  My mind continually drifted over what I had been reading in Moby Dick.  Decades ago, I scoffed that I had probably been a whaler in a former life.  The legend of Moby Dick has always resonated with me, as have thoughts about life in nineteenth-century New England, though I have never even been to the coast in that region; Concord, Massachusetts is as close as I ever got.  

When I awoke this morning, my first thoughts recalled a 1990 summer afternoon in rural Waxahachie, Texas, when I gazed across a vast field bathed in the golden glow of the afternoon sun.  I was spending the day at an annual Renaissance Festival, Scarborough Faire, and as my mind drifted, I heard the voice of a storyteller entertaining an audience of children with a seafaring tale.  He was shouting in the dialect that I was reading in those days from Herman Melville short stories, and recalling that sound today makes me think of the settings in New Bedford and Nantucket.  I felt on that afternoon in 1990 that I was being transported far back to another era, another space, and the undulating meadow before me was turning into a rolling ocean.

Growing up in the Midwest, I never even saw an ocean until I was thirty-eight years old, in 1992.  I landed in the Pacific Northwest for a five-week study in New England Transcendentalism at Oregon State University.  My plane touched down in Portland, and my rental car took me westward to the coast for that first look at the vast, sprawling Pacific.  Above, I have posted a photo taken of me on Sunday, July 26, as I relaxed for a day on the coast, reading from Emerson and Thoreau, and listening to the thunder of the tides crashing against the cliffs that enclosed me.

Throughout this Saturday, I have not shaken off these deep feelings induced by Melville and personal memories.  I pulled my volumes of journals and read all my handwritten entries from that month spent in Oregon, as well as the dawn I sat on the beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, six years later, translating The Iliad and reading from Thoreau’s Walden.  Today has been a day of ocean memories, and I have gladly been enveloped by an ocean of space and time–no appointments, no agenda–just reading, reflecting, recalling.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.




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