'); } -->
THE OLYMPIAN |
I doubt that anyone could - or would want to - remember each day of every year.
But our minds cling to some moments, hours or even entire days.
The 2009 day my brain clings to happened in early September – before the leaves began to turn gold and red, but after the kids went back to school.
My daughter, Courtney, called me from her Portland State University digs and reminded me that her classes wouldn’t start for more than a week and a sweet, clean swell was rolling onto the coast.
“This is our chance, Dad,” Courtney said.
So, I got up before dawn the next morning and strapped surfboards onto the roof of the Subaru. The air felt balmy and carried the thick scent of blooming roses from the folks next door.
Interstate 5 to Portland was almost deserted as night gave way to day, and I was in Portland before 7 a.m. Courtney was waiting – travel coffee cup in hand – and we hit the road for Cannon Beach.
We had planned to surf a lot that summer, but Courtney’s summer job – and my work – kept getting in the way. We’d had fun fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River – and jumping into the water afterwards – but we never made it to the coast.
Until this day, one of the last, sweet days of summer.
I drove, and Courtney talked about her hopes for her sophomore year – and perhaps a few years down the road.
“Dad, I’m thinking about becoming a teacher, and then maybe starting a children’s summer theater camp, kind of like Creative Theatre Experience,” Courtney said.
I took a sip of orange juice, but the lump in my chest made it hard to swallow.
Teaching others – touching young lives for the better – is one of the most noble professions around. I was so proud that my daughter felt pulled in that direction.
I told Courtney she would never become rich as a teacher, but money is a poor way to measure the joy of life.
She smiled at me and nodded her head.
“And, you do get a few weeks off in summer,” I said.
We both laughed.
We talked of nothing and everything – writing, movies, books and travel – until the road curved and the blue Pacific Ocean opened before our eyes.
Long swell lines stretched to the horizon, and the water was glassy.
“Oh, yeah,” we both said at once.
We were soon walking down the wooded trail to the beach.
We both had on full wetsuits, including booties and gloves. The windless day was already kicking the coastal temperatures into the ultra-rare 70-degree range, but the water was 54 degrees.
Northwest surfers wear neoprene or risk their lives.
The swells broke into glassy waves that were about 5 feet tall or so – small by expert surfer standards – but we weren’t there to rip it up. We were there to feel the pulse of the planet catch our boards, and then leap to our feet for the drop down the glassy face and the ride along the curving face of the wave.
We were there to laugh when we bungled and fell off our boards.
We were there to share the good rides, bob up and down on the waves we let pass beneath our boards and bask in fresh air and warmish sun.
A small west swell like this one tends to make the water as clear as a mountain trout stream, and we watched Dungeness crabs scuttle on the sandy bottom. A small school of surf perch glittered under our boards.
A sea lion swam nearby and stared at us.
After about two hours in the water, Courtney looked at me and smiled.
“I’m getting tired, Dad,” she said. “Let’s catch a wave in together.”
And we did. We both fell – perhaps because we were laughing.
We carried our boards up the powdery, sandy beach and sat on wave-worn rocks to drink water and eat crackers and pears. Salt dried on our faces and tightened our skin.
We carried our boards back up the trail, peeled off hot wetsuits and drove into Cannon Beach for deli sandwiches and fizzy sodas.
Only later did I realize that we never suffered through a moment of uncomfortable silence.
The car did get very quiet on the 96 miles back to Portland, as my little girl – now 19 and a young woman exploring a new world – fell asleep.
She always falls asleep on the ride home from surfing.
Chester Allen: 360-754-4226