I step off the plane onto a misty, windy tarmac, pull my sweater closer around me and sprint to the terminal. After turbulent flights, I am happy to put my feet on the ground.
Inside, I step on the escalator down to the luggage carousels and see my cousin waiting for me. Our eyes meet. We smile. In an instant, I am a teenager getting together with my beautiful, sophisticated, talented, amazing -just slightly older cousin. We share a birthday. She’s older. That’s me being snarky.
I walk faster. We hug. Strong and long. With love. Just beneath the surface of that love is resilience and a huge need to see the ocean.
We collect my luggage and are off. Inga stopped at Pikes Market in Seattle before meeting me at SeaTac. The trunk of her rental car is filled with yummy ingredients for some of the food we will cook together. And with wine. I have chocolate in my bag.
Three hours later, we park in front of a charming beach cottage owned by Inga’s friend. It is dark. We stumble. And giggle. But we manage to put the key into the lock and open the door. And walk inside.
The windows in the back of the cottage open to the ocean. A vast panorama of ocean. It is heart-stopping, breath-taking. Powerful. Even in the dark. Maybe especially in the dark.
I choose the upstairs sleeping loft and open the window so I can hear and smell the ocean while I sleep.
After coffee the next morning, we walk along the beach. The ocean gives us gifts of magical designs in the sand. And a sand dollar, whole, with a barnacle ornament.
“Look! A bald eagle!” Inga shouts so her voice could be heard over the roar of the ocean. Soaring just overhead, the eagle lands in a fir tree at the edge of the beach and watches us from her perch. “She’s keeping her eyes on us”. Strong magic.
We hike back to the cottage and gather our bags so we can make the hour-long drive to the store for more provisions. “Crab, good crusty bread, and an orange,” I chant, memorizing my grocery list. We have butter and garlic and parsley. I am making oven roasted crab for dinner. We make three stops before we find crab. At the first stop, the woman at the counter looks at us and shakes her head. “You must not be from around here. The crabs are migrating. They aren’t in their usual spots and the fisherman can’t find them. Do you want some frozen crab?” “No!” we say in unison. Same story at the second stop. I imagine crabs making their way slowly across the ocean floor chased by fishermen waving their fists in the air. “Stop so we can catch you!”
At the third stop, we tell the fish monger our tale of woe. She shakes her head and tells us she has a pot of crabs that have been out of the ocean for an hour. “Those other people are just trying to sell you their frozen crab. They’re lazy.” she says as she picks out a large crab and cleans it for us.
The crab is delicious.
“Is there someone standing behind me?” I ask. “I feel something. Not frightening, but definitely present. It’s an old man with a beard. He used to sit here before this cabin was built. He’s trying to tell me something.”
Inga is one of a small group of people who don’t waver when I say things like this. “I don’t see anyone. Do you see him?”
“No, I just feel his presence.”
“Ask him what he wants.”
“He won’t tell me. He says I need to figure it out on my own. It’s my journey.”
“Hmm,” Inga says as she gets up to pace the floor. She stops near the door. “Lynn, come to the front door.”
I get up from the dining room chair and walk toward the door. The air gets colder as I approach the door. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck stand up. This presence is menacing. We don’t feel safe. “You aren’t welcome here!” I yell. “Go away!”
“We need noise.” Inga runs to the kitchen and grabs two pots and two wooden spoons. We march around the cabin banging on pots and yelling “go away”. We bang pots in corners and in the closet. We bang pots and yell until our arms are tired and our voices scratchy. The menacing presence is gone. I don’t feel the least bit embarrassed by our dance or our concert. It worked. The cabin is a calm oasis again. But the old man didn’t tell me about my journey.
A golden eagle flies in front of us as we make yet another treck from the cabin. Its raining today. Too cold and wet for walking on the beach. This time, we are searching for interesting local art. The eagle points the way. I find a lovely vintage jacket, which I buy. We browse beautiful carvings and paintings but take nothing with us but the joy of exploring together.
Later, searching through the drawers in the cabin’s small kitchen, I find a brush I can use to clean morels and fiddleheads. Inga preps the halibut cheeks and fresh pasta. I mince garlic and dill. Another feast is in the making. Delicious.
Some women pamper themselves with massages, pedicures, and scented oils. We pamper ourselves with local ingredients and a kitchen. And music – Billie Holiday sings on the small CD player. The ocean roars softly in the background. A fire – that we made – warms the room. My nails could use some pampering. I don’t care. My soul is fed.
Early Monday morning, we yawn as we pack up the rental car and head towards the airport. Before getting in the car, we say goodbye to the ocean. I ask again what I’m supposed to find. But the ghost is gone, and the ocean isn’t talking. It’s my journey.
The sand dollar sits with my other ocean gifts. I am still on my journey.