A REMINDER BEFORE I START – REMEMBER THAT I AM IN A DIFFERENT TIME ZONE THAN I USUALLY AM. I LIVE IN WISCONSIN IN CENTRAL TIME, BUT I AM CURRENTLY ON THE OREGON COAST, WHICH IS TWO HOURS EARLIER. SO MY BLOG POSTS WILL BE LATER – APPROXIMATELY 3:00 WEST COAST TIME, 5:00 CENTRAL TIME, 6:00 EASTERN – FOR THIS WEEK AND NEXT.
And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I am still on the Oregon coast and will be for another week and two days. It continues to be amazing, though the week started out badly with a bird die-off. Dead and dying birds everywhere. According to some locals that I spoke to, it was “Tis the season.” A season of dying birds? I’ve been here in August and September before and I’ve never experienced anything like this. I had to turn back from my morning walk because I had to keep watching my feet to make sure I wasn’t stepping on or kicking a bird. I watched a man club a cormorant that was in his final death throes. It was a horrible way to die, but faster than what it was already going through.
At one point, I called Michael, sobbing, saying I wanted to come home.
By the next day, the beach appeared swept clean. Between the buzzards that showed up en masse and the tide, it was like nothing happened. And then this was followed by an incredible whale sighting, with a whale that was joyfully sending his spout way up high into the air, and another two sea lions who chose to swim beside me as I walked.
I guess nature isn’t always pretty. But every time I think of that cormorant, I turn my mind instead to the whale. And the joy.
One evening as I walked, I came up to a man who was standing with his walking stick propped in the sand. He had his camera out and he smiled at me and said, “Looks like the clouds took away our photo opportunities.” The clouds had swallowed the sun, and the sky, instead of turning blaze orange and red, became gray. I agreed and we talked about the birds. He asked what I was doing on the coast, and I explained that I come here to focus solely on writing.
“Wow,” he said. “Are you famous?”
I immediately looked away. “No,” I said. “Of course not.”
He asked for the name of my latest book and then he looked on Amazon, right there on the beach, and said, “There you are!” We talked a few minutes more, and then went our separate ways. He lives here, a transplant from Idaho.
I pondered his question, “Are you famous?” and my response, “Of course not,” for the rest of the evening.
The next evening, when I headed out for my walk, there he was again, standing beside his walking stick. “You were awfully humble yesterday,” he said. “I looked you up. Fourteen books! And what you’ve done with your studio!” He shook his head. “I ordered some of your books,” he said. “You are famous!” He looked out to the ocean. “You never know who you are going to meet on the beach.”
“But you didn’t know who I was,” I said, “when I walked up to you yesterday.”
He smiled. “I know you now. And look what you’ve done!”
We stood side by side for a little bit longer. I pointed out the pelicans that were flying like a roller coaster. He pointed out another sea lion. And then we said goodnight.
I’ve been struggling a lot with writing this past year, and with my own choices in this life. I’ve found that I no longer believe that I will answer the phone one day and it will be Oprah Winfrey calling for me. I no longer believe that I will open my Sunday paper and see my name on the New York Times bestseller list. These beliefs have been a part of what has kept me so focused and so single-minded for as long as I can remember. But as these beliefs have dropped away, and as I’ve questioned why I sit down at my writing desk almost every day, I’ve continued to sit down at my writing desk. Almost every day.
And I come out here, to the Oregon coast, by myself, walking the ocean, sitting at the desk overlooking the ocean, my books by my side, placed there by the women who own this little house. Who are proud of the fact that I come here to write. They display my work like it’s something. Something important, something to be shared, to be seen. To be read.
It is something.
Several times, when I’ve come here, it’s been during moments of unrest and I run to the ocean as soon as I get here and I shout questions. They’re almost always answered. This year, I set down my suitcases and I walked slowly out to the ocean. I stood there in silence for several minutes. And then I said, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t have any questions. Just feelings.” I walked alongside the ocean for a while, and then I said, “I guess maybe it’s just my time to listen.”
And I’ve been listening.
“Look what you’ve done!” the man with the walking stick said. “You’re famous!” he said, even though he didn’t know me at all.
I finished the first draft of my next novel the very next day. My fifteenth book. My eighth novel.
I’ll keep listening.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.