Yesterday I stood at Boiler Bay on the Oregon coast as waves crashed against the rocks and the salt spray speckled my glasses. After eighteen years away, I'm back in the Pacific Northwest. I left as a newlywed with my life all mystery and possibility. I'm returning having lived on the East Coast, in the Middle East, in Texas—having birthed four children and written a book and cared for a mother-in-law right through to the end of her life. Whether I'm reuniting with old friends or becoming acquainted with new, I'm keenly aware of how much my Oregon friends do not know about the life I've lived.
Just past the whitecaps I saw a spray of water—could it be? A whale surfaced, turned, then waved a fluke and was gone. We got back in the car and drove south to make our coastal pilgrimage, stopping at Devil's Punchbowl (more whale sightings and a bowl of chowder at Mo's), and the old Newport bayfront (salt water taffy from Aunt Belinda's and a meet-and-greet with the cranky sea lions on the docks), and of course we dipped our bare toes in the cold Pacific. These are the holy sites I paid homage to as a girl, as a college student, as a newly married woman. And now, after so many years away, I thank God that I am still strong enough to hike the bluffs and touch the water. Though I wear bifocals now, I can still see the whales. I am grateful to be back and to be teaching our girls to love this land, too.
Before driving inland, we stopped one last time. Several other people stood on the bluff, using binoculars or the zoom lens of a camera for a better look. I stood back, so the whale watchers formed a frame at the base of my naked-eye view out toward the waves. There—spouting, you see? Just past the whitecaps, where the birds fly low. Yes, he's come up again!
I breathed deeply of the day. Out past the breakers the gray whales surfaced and dove again. The whales will journey south, day and night, moving to warmer waters to birth their young. They will return again, bringing their young back up the coast in due season.