Sunday, August 2, 2009

"I went to Oregon," she said, happily.

So, I already kinda knew this, but two weeks there proved it all over again: if I ever run away from home, there's a pretty good bet that you might find me somewhere on the coast of Oregon. Here's just a handful of the many, many highlights of my two weeks there:

1. Professional inspiration: David Greenberg has created something quite special with his Oregon Coast Children's Book Writer's Workshop: an environment with stunning natural beauty, filled to the brim with interesting, creative people, and with enough time and silence for wonderful works to begin and mature. As I am at every conference, I was inspired by the brave, smart, eager writers who were there to throw themselves into their craft for a week, and enjoyed seeing their writing grow in exciting ways over just a handful of days. A most excellent added bonus? Being surrounded by dedicated, fascinating, simply wonderful fellow faculty members, and hearing their sage and generous advice about the writing life, their stories of being storytellers and the caretakers of stories.

2. Personal inspiration: Walking beside the ocean for hours on end and losing all track of time. Collecting sand dollars. Studying the sounds and sights of the ocean in its many moods. Discovering an abandoned sand shovel and digging holes and watching them fill up again, and realizing there are analogies for pretty much every part of life--relationships, spirituality, even writing--to be discovered in the simple act of digging holes in the sand. Meeting a wonderful woman at the edge of Netarts Bay--a dentist from British Columbia whose name I didn't even get, but who positively delighted me by explaining that she'd realized a number of years ago that one should always carry a kite in the trunk of one's car--just in case. (I so wish I'd captured a picture of her and her kite roaming beside the ocean, but I'd left my camera behind that afternoon.)

3. Unanticipated Poetry: How I love moments filled with unexpected poetry! Inspired by Oceanside's beauty, fellow editor Jill recited (by heart, no less!) a gorgeous Mary Oliver poem one morning, and left us all a little more filled up inside because of it. And around the lunch table of instructors, an impromptu "Kipling-Off" between authors David Greenberg and Eric Kimmel amused me more than anything has in ages. It's a shame, I think, that more of us don't know whole books' worth of poetry by heart, because there's something truly wonderful about the way it can keep us company. Less unexpected, but no less enjoyed were the volumes of poetry on the bookshelves at my favorite B&B, and the afternoon I happily lost, leafing through them. And then there was the sheer poetry of waking up every morning to the sound of the ocean....

4. Connecting and re-connecting: After more than two years' worth of emails and phone calls, I had the wonderful fortune to meet publishing royalty face to face as author Virginia Euwer Wolff and I shared an evening of good food and fascinating conversation. I think we could have talked all the way through till morning! Lucky Oregon to have Jinny, and lucky Jinny, to have Oregon.... I also spent some wonderful hours talking to Judy, the world's most wonderful B&B owner, who I want to grow up and be one day, because she utterly inspires me with quiet wisdom, an inner sparkle, and and open-armed embrace towards all, absolutely all, of life. And I saw a college friend for the first time in nine years, and he and I had a wonderful evening of talking till the near-wee hours, and realizing happily how much we'd grown, yet how little had changed, except for the fact that we were drinking far better beer than we ever did in college!

5. Small joys: And right up there with many other delights (Visiting Kennedy School! Getting lost among the stacks at Powell's! Savoring Tillamook ice cream! Daily visits to Brewin' in the Wind, a perfect little indie coffee shop that I wish I could transport into Brooklyn! Roaming along the Willamette River and into downtown Portland on a perfect-weather day! Fresh clam chowder and marionberries galore!)--was the world's most comfortable hotel bed, EVER. But for the stupid details of airline security, I totally would have somehow smuggled it home with me!

Now I'm back, staring down a multitude of copy deadlines and an apartment that oh-so-desperately needs cleaning...but instead, well, I've been googling for kites. Because urban-NYC-life-sans-car or not, I think I need to keep one on hand, just in case.

But I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been roaming lately, right? Distract me from my deadlines! Tell me about some of your own summer adventures, discoveries, and delights!


  1. Love this post! You've made me pray for a weekend in which I can climb up the coast, maybe all the way to Seattle. The whole Pacific NW has been having a dry, glorious summer -- so you hit it just right, Yankee!

  2. What a lovely post! My 13 year old daughter and I head for Manzanita, just 20 minutes south of Cannon Beach, on Saturday for our 11th year of 'going to the beach' with the same 3 other Moms and 5 other kids. It is a special time and we are always so excited to go. Your post just makes the yearning that much stronger, because our trip is like going back in time to a simpler way of life.

    Perhaps it will become an annual trip for you? :-)

  3. Those three rocks look mighty familiar. Maybe I passed you on the beach? Or getting a coffee?

    I love Oceanside (and Zbiegniew Herbert!). Hope you don't mind me dropping in...