I often walk to the west when I visit the Dungeness Spit. The walk to the west seems an adventure and a walk into a secret place. There are few walkers in this direction; it is seldom that you meet or see or hear anyone. I especially do this in the summer when visitors flock to this place and almost all of them head toward the lighthouse. Toward McDonald Creek there are places where I am sure that I'm on a different planet or, at least, a different continent. The looming bluffs change shapes and colors and textures as you walk along the beach.
Somewhere, probably at about the two-mile mark, you see that the beach in front of you is strewn with huge boulders. My mind has trouble grasping where they came from. The bluffs here do not have the same color as these boulders. Some are almost as black as coal. They have the same conglomerate structure as the bluffs but why just in this spot and why this new color? Maybe other folks just accept things as they are? I need to try to fit things into some larger context or framework. Why?
Why am I so bothered by these rocks and yet walk past areas on the bluffs where grasses and plants grow thickly while most of the bluffs are barren? Why don't I question the fact that some areas of the bluffs are obviously damp and wet while most areas are quite dry? Some things tweak my curiosity and others, I seem to blindly walk past and accept. Why?
Why does one area take my mind to distant planets or the surface of the moon? I took one picture along these bluffs that I labeled, "moonscape." I suppose that I imagine myself walking inside some lunar crater and looking up at the bluffs above me and the play of sunlight on the sculpted rock. Why does my mind do these things?
As I walk on the spit or under these bluffs, I always am ready to be surprised by the shadow of an eagle on the sand and pebbles as it floats by above my head. I am always attuned to the sounds coming from the surf. Sounds of seals slapping the water or a river otter doing whatever it is that a river otter does. I'll never forget seeing and hearing a pod of orcas pass by me as I walked along the beach. One time, I remember looking down on orca in Dungeness Bay as I stood on the lighthouse catwalk and hearing their breathing ... "faawummmp. fawuummp."
Wherever I walk, I seem to find that I am seldom as alone and isolated as I think I am. There almost always is the song of some bird that floats to my ears or some movement out of the corner of my eye that makes me look. Even the rocks call out to me ... especially when they are "out of place." On the beach just past Hole in the Wall near Rialto Beach, there are large conglomerate boulders that are so different from any of the other rocks around. Why are they here? In this same area, there are rocks eroded by the wind and sculpted in fantastic designs that I never have seen before. And, there are rocks that move in ribbons from the shore out into the ocean.
Just miles from my home, at Dungeness beach or at the ocean or even in the seasonal wetlands near my house, I find my search for solitude interrupted. Near home, a hawk is floating on the air seeking a mouse in very tall grass. The hawk suddenly falls like a rock and rises with the mouse. How can he or she do that? I have never seen so well. No matter where I walk, I am amazed by the things that I witness. I have so much to be thankful for.
Richard Olmer's column appears in the Sequim Gazette the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. He can be reached via
e-mail at columnists@sequim
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