And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today is my last full day on the Oregon coast. Tomorrow, I drive for 3 hours to Portland, stay overnight, and then fly back home on Saturday. This has been my first time staying here for 3 weeks, as opposed to ten days or 2 weeks. And it’s been amazing. I’ve begun waking up in the morning actually ready to get up. The exhaustion I felt in the weeks (months) before I came here is gone. I finished the first draft of my next book while I was here, and I’m into the second draft. The first draft was my goal. That first draft is now sitting with my publisher, and I’m chewing my fingernails off, waiting to hear if it will have a place in the 2024 calendar year.

I think the crowning moment of this stay happened last Sunday, with the arrival of a pod of whales right outside my window.

Now, I’ve seen whales here before. On my very first trip here in 2006, I drove to the Sea Lion Caves. While walking down the steep incline that would take me to an elevator that would drop me several stories down and let me see the caves where the sea lions barked, belched, and argued, I heard a shout. Looking over the railing, I saw the broad back of a whale, and then the accompanying spout. I was transfixed and nearly decided not to go to the cave, just in case there was another whale sighting. That afternoon, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to poetically, lyrically, beautifully say that I’d seen a whale.

I finally decided that being a woman from Wisconsin, it was enough to simply say, “I saw a whale!” and to have the experience.

In several trips since, I’ve seen the backs and spouts of whales. Olivia and I took a whale-watching boat tour on one trip here, for my birthday. The captain of the boat decided to go onto the open ocean, despite the choppiness of the water, and while Olivia and I both saw the broad back of a whale, we also both got seasick. I spent the rest of the afternoon in bed, nursing a glass of Sprite, and dreaming about whales.

I’ve also seen whales here, swimming by the little house. It’s been amazing every time.

But this moment.

Many wonderful things have happened in this spot. There are some, who believe in “the veil”, who would say that the veil is thin here. I don’t know what I believe. I only know that when I’ve asked the ocean a question, I get answers.

In 2016, when I was here after the publication of my novel, Rise From The River, I was in bad shape. I was horrified over my own gender’s response to the 50 Shades of Gray books, and the movies, and the relative lack of attention over my own book. My book revealed the truth behind why a woman can’t just give a baby who is the result of a rape up for adoption, and what she faces if she keeps it. I was totally up to my neck in depression and anger, and when I got here, I shouted at the ocean, “What do you want from me? I’m doing all I can!” And then I asked the ocean to give me a whole sand dollar if I was on the right path, if I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. A week later, an old man appeared out of the fog, came right up to my face, and said, “Have you found a whole sand dollar?” And he gave me one.

In 2018, when I returned here after having to take a year away while in treatment for breast cancer, I asked the ocean to let me have another whole sand dollar if I was going to be all right. But, I asked, this time, let me find the sand dollar. On my last day here, as I was standing and saying goodbye to the ocean, I felt a bump against my bare big toe. And there was a sand dollar.

A friend came here when I was in treatment for cancer and he said while he sat by the ocean, he thought of me. He also felt a bump, looked down, and found a sand dollar.

There have been other things too. But on this trip, as I wrote about, I walked out to the ocean when I arrived. I didn’t run. I was so, so tired. And so, so discouraged. I told the ocean I didn’t know what to say, I had no questions. And that I thought this was my time to listen.

So this past Sunday, I was sitting here at my writing desk, working on the studio’s ledger, as I do every Sunday. And I was bemoaning the fact that I decided to be here for three weeks this year, because when you have your own business, you don’t get paid unless you’re working. Three weeks without money coming in is a big hit to the bank account, and I told myself how selfish I was being. How impractical, how irresponsible. What a really, really stupid thing for me to do, taking these three weeks.

And then I glanced up and saw the broad back of a whale, followed by a spout. And then there were more. It was a pod. And I could see them, from my window, with my bare eyes.

Even so, I ran to the deck and grabbed the binoculars. For the next two hours, I watched all these whales. I saw whale backs, whale spouts, whale noses, and whale flippers.

And then the most incredible thing. What I thought was a flipper kept going out of the water and became a whale tail. And then more whale tails.

In all my time here, I’ve never seen more than a back and a spout.

And have you seen the cover of Hope Always Rises? A whale tail. In the book, Hope meets God at the edge of one of Heaven’s oceans. God knows that Hope always wanted to see the ocean, and she always wanted to see a whale, with the classic whale tail flip. In Heaven, sitting next to God, Hope sees her whale.

I’ve always wanted to see a whale tail too. That scene in the book was so important to me, I asked an artist to create the cover, complete with the whale tail. And now…here they were. At a time that I was supposed to be listening. And I did.

I had to keep wiping the tears away as I watched. As my title says, hope always rises.

I’m coming home awake and ready to get back to it.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Company on one of my morning walks. See the boat?
Here, even weeds are beautiful,
One of many sunsets.
And again – the cover of Hope Always Rises.

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