“This is such a nice picture of you Tava.”
Many have complimented the photo that Gustavo quickly snapped of me standing on a piece of driftwood on Arch Cape Beach, Oregon. But I bet no one knows what I was thinking or feeling…until now. I promise I'll get to the point, but first, you must be patient.
We arrived in Oregon the second week of September. Before this trip, I honestly hadn’t given Oregon a second thought. Well, the truth is Oregon captured my heart with her beauty. Her wild coastline, winding roads shielded by tall pines, and hidden capes with haystack rocks dotting the shoreline exhilarated me. I never wanted to leave.
On this particular day, we awoke around 4:30 A.M. near Astoria, OR home to “The Goonies” house. We made our way through sleeping towns down Route 101 and made a stop at Cannon Beach to photograph the infamous haystack rock found there. It was a chilly morning with a slight breeze and not many people were up and about. Gustavo and I spent the early part of the morning nearly alone, taking photos, writing messages in the sand, and ordering crepes filled with Nutella from Cafe Neptune down the street.
Originally, the plan was to head right to Portland, we would be there by lunch time and then we were supposed to hike Oneonta Gorge, about an hour further east of the city. Yet, the ocean was calling both of our names like a siren we couldn’t resist. So we continued driving south stopping at smaller, lesser known beaches along the way taking our fill of them and then moving on.
By the time we reached Arch Cape Beach the sun had risen high in the sky and I was hot. I stayed back at the car changing out of my two sweatshirts and long underwear and into my jeans and tank top. Then I leisurely made my way through the forest, and down the steep path to the beach. If anyone knows me well, they know how much I love the ocean.
The minute my feet touched the sand I soared down to the water, shoes in hand, hair fanning wildly around me. I reached the edge, rolled up my pants as far as they would go and waded in until the water grazed the edge of the fabric. I could feel Gustavo watching me somewhere far off to my left. A family with three children had set up a blanket nearby and they were making their way towards the water as well. I spread my arms wide, closed my eyes and tilted my head up allowing the sun to warm my face. It provided a nice contrast to the frigid water that was turning my feet numb. I was in my happy place here.
Gustavo yelled to where I sat in the sand.
“Hey, come over here. You’ll love this sea cave.”
“Coming” I yelled back.
I stood up, wiped my butt of sand and ran towards him. Gustavo had been photographing a small waterfall that made its way through the forest, down the steep embankment and trickled into the ocean from there. Just off to the side, there were two caves, one with a very large opening, and one with a smaller opening right next to it. I grabbed Gustavo’s hand and we wandered into the larger of the two caves. It was cavernous, I had never been in a sea cave that large before. You could hear water trickling in from far off in the very back. The sand was cold on my feet, and small crabs scuttled out of our way as we began walking deeper in. I climbed up on a small ledge that overlooked the bottom of the cave and I stared out the way we had come. we were utterly shielded from the beach, no one from the outside would be able to see us.
I sat there for a few minutes and then I decided to go and check out the other cave. Leaving Gustavo behind I walked into the smaller of the two. I began moving slowly as the walls became closer and closer the deeper I got. Suddenly, I heard a rustling in the rocks a few feet in front of me. I stopped and looked down. Right there was a tiny rabbit, struggling to move away from my approaching form. I didn’t want it to be scared, and at first, I thought it was just in there to get away from the sun, but then I realized its leg was broken and its foot was stuck under a rock. It must have had fallen earlier that day. My heart sank. I needed to do something. I didn’t want the poor thing to suffer and I could see in its eyes that he or she was terrified. I thought that maybe if I could just move the rock I would be able to pick it up and we could take it to a vet or animal shelter to save it. But whenever I tried to move close the rabbit began to struggle and I didn’t want it to hurt that leg any worse or be in any more pain.
I ran back and got Gustavo. He followed me and took one look at the rabbit.
“Tav,” he placed his hands on my shoulders” “There’s nothing we can do for him.”
“Stop, don’t say that, we have to try” I was beginning to get emotional.
“Look at it,” he said. “It won’t let you get close enough, and even if we do it will probably try to bite us because it’s so afraid. I know you don’t want to hear this but we have to leave it here. Let it be alone and pass peacefully.”
“We can’t just leave it.” Gustavo looked at me.
I started crying. I didn’t even know why. Yea, the dying rabbit was sad, but it should not have reduced me to tears. Looking back I now know why. I cried because the fate of that poor rabbit was entirely out of its hands. It was completely helpless. It brought me back to exactly how I felt all summer in a world that felt too big for me to comprehend. My fate, it seemed was dependent on so much and I wasn’t sure how to take it into my own hands. Gustavo tried to hug me but I pushed him away. The closeness rather than comfort me made me feel claustrophobic. I walked away along the sand for maybe 15 minutes across rocks slick with seaweed and littered with barnacles. When I had finally calmed myself I walked back to where the large sea cave was. I sat on the drift wood and gazed out at the ocean wondering what the hell I was doing out here so far from home.
I stood up and walked along the wood like it was a balance beam. I had finished my third length when Gustavo told me to stop. He asked for my phone, I threw it into his out stretched hands. He wanted me to smile, but I couldn’t. So I placed my sunglasses over my puffy eyes, looked down, and pulled my hair back a little. Gustavo took the picture. He lowered the phone and told me to be happy. I didn’t look up. Instead, I gazed at my jeans where I could see the spot that my tear had landed during the photo. Not every moment is a happy one.