Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Four Days at the Beach

A good friend and fellow writer invited me to getaway for a few days. She had rented a house down in the central coast of Oregon, a stone's throw from the beach. We would make the most of the time, our own little writer’s retreat. It was a trip I was looking forward -- no alarm clocks, no children, no responsibilities -- only my computer, a New Yorker mag, a book I had wanted to start reading, and a couple of rented dvds.

The house sat on a spit, the Pacific coast in front of us and the Alsea river behind us. I remember my first trip to the coast with the kids back in the summer of 2005. I had told a friend that I was going to get up early so I could get to Cannon Beach (north coast) before it got too crowded. She laughed and said,

“Oh, Katie, it’s not the Jersey shore. It never gets too crowded.”

And that is what I love most about the coast -- solitude is ample.

The further south you go on the coast, the less populated it is. There is so much seashore in Oregon -- gorgeous coastline, where often the sea meets the forests -- dramatic cliffs, colossal rocks bearing a pounding from crushing waves and the giant old Douglas firs spilling down the coastal mountain range, punctuated by frothy and fast waterfalls. The first time I ever went to the Oregon coast was in 1991 and it cleanly took my breath away.

We headed down on Thursday after getting our kids off to school. I left the worry and heartache behind me, my husband assuring me that everything would be fine and to go and enjoy the quietness. And that is exactly what we did.

I wrote a few poems and journal entries, went for long strolls on the beach, the weather mild and windy and read out on the deck. At night we talked and watched movies and one morning we managed to get in yoga, my mind restful and no longer knotted in worry.

Below is a poem I wrote at the beach. I tried to capture how I felt being there away from the noise of everyday life.

The Good Darkness

Today the sky is burdened
With thick scarves of battleship gray
The ocean is erratic
Absent of rhythm
And music.
Pounding it’s foamy fists
Against the surf.

Even the seagulls are gone today.
Perched on cedar shingled roofs in town,
Scrounging in the parking lot of Ray’s Groceries
For crumbs.
Or on the rusty high school field bleachers
Foraging for spilled chips and popcorn.

I like it best,
When the coast is readying for a storm.
The scrub pines sway,
The wind tickling their thick fur
Finding tempo and cadence
And even laughter
In the bedlam.

I chip away in this gloomy space,
And discover how good it can feel in darkness.
To move my hips and limbs freely
Without contempt
Or judgment
Safely tucked away in obscurity.

My skin is stretching
Like warm taffy pulled between a child’s fingers.
My soul can no longer be contained.

Delight bursts at the seams --
A tiger swallowtail
With spun silk still wet on her wings
Emerges from a shadowy cocoon
Into startling morning light
To float and drift
Among the willow and alder trees.

katie donohue April 2010


Gimky said...

Beautiful, Katie! You find such peace in your poetry.

Glad you got away and had time to yourself. It's so important. Hurray for friends. Hurray for husbands.

Cinda said...

Ahhhhh, you are such a gifted poet! I have been there, I know the beach, the waves, the peacefulness in all the ocean noise! Thank you!

Kate Benton said...


I saw your piece on Autism Speaks and had to read more. You wrote some of the exact thoughts/feelings I have about my own 9 year-old boy with autism. He too has a brother, younger though. I sometimes wonder if they would be pals, if they would both like baseball and videogames and share other brotherly rites of passage that aren't meant to be for our family. It's best not to dwell on these things. We try not to let his disability define our family, or keep us from doing things. I too have a wonderful husband without whom I would be lost. I know what you mean about the stimming - we can clear our own section at my younger son's ball games! Keep writing. I will keep reading.

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie - I saw your Autism Speaks piece via facebook. I do not have an autistic child, but I teach many of them as an elementary school librarian. I recently visited my parents whose property borders a cattle farm. I have some really great cow shots Sean may enjoy and would be happy to send them to you. My e-mail is SHStafford@gmail.com. Feel free to contact me and I can send them to you as an attachment.

All the best,

Sheila Stafford

suelmayer said...

What a beautiful poem, you created pictures in my mind and a yearning to visit the Oregon coast.

Katie Donohue Bevins said...

Sue -- you have a friend and a place here if you ever do come for a visit!
And, Kate, thank you for your comment. I can only imagine what a lovely boy your younger boy is and how each brother makes the other brother better. Our "typical" children learn early that life comes with hard work and heartache but it often gives them compassion and kindness beyond their years.
Finally, Shelia -- our families couldn't survive nor our children thrive without the love, understanding and compassion that teachers like you give so generously. I will definitely contact you for some of the pix and thank you so much. Best, Katie