I went to the coast yesterday, for my monthly trip to the beach.
This time, collecting trash was fairly straightforward – I didn’t run into any “take it? leave it?” concerns like I did last time.
I found another long-deceased seabird, perhaps a cormorant (there were some black feathers, and it had black, webbed feet . . . the rest was either gone or buried, and it wouldn’t have felt right to exhume it to determine what species it was). I don’t know what to call this process, whatever it is I’m doing with dead birds, but apparently so far I am doing the right things . . .
When I got back to the parking lot to put my bags of trash into the cans, there was someone there who worked for the county, who was emptying the cans. She told me that apparently her boss gets grumpy when people collect trash and put it in the cans – I guess the state sends people out to do beach clean up or something. She pointed to a “tsunami debris” sign a short distance away and said that’s where beach debris is supposed to be left. I had figured it meant only after a tsunami. At any rate, she didn’t mind people cleaning up the beach and putting the trash in the cans: “We’ve got a lot of dirty beaches . . . well, we’ve got a lot of dirty people.”
It struck me later that it seems odd that putting trash from the beach there would BE a problem – it’s nice that trash cans are there, but why not put up signs asking people to haul out any trash they bring in with them, and also to please deposit trash from the beach? That could help with both cleaning up the beach and reminding people of the problem of human trash and beaches.
Since I had finished a little earlier than expected, I decided to take a drive a bit farther south, to Cape Meares, which I’d been wanting to check out for months.
I ended up completely missing it completely, because I’d forgotten my maps, and I’d conflated it in my head with Cape Lookout, which was where I ended up.
I took the trail out to the end of the cape, about 2.5 miles of dirt and gravel path. Some boardwalks over really muddy ground, but there were enough wet places that my shoes got quite filthy and I splashed mud on both legs.
It was a fantastic hike – dense, lush, temperate rainforest vegetation. Ferns growing in trees, on trees. Even other good-sized plants in other trees. Moss and lichens everywhere. A lot of birds. And snakes! I saw the tail end of at least 3 small snakes (garter snakes, I think) that zipped off the path as I got too close.
Large parts of the trail are very, very close to the cliff edge. Far below were flocks of some kind of sea bird, hanging out on the water, making a lot of raucous noise.
My return walk from the end of the trail did not go as quickly as I expected.
First, as I approached one muddy spot, I saw a small snake, with an orange stripe down its back, in the middle of the trail. I stopped and crouched down to watch it, since, for a wild change, it hadn’t noticed me and darted off. It was no thicker than my smallest finger, and maybe about as long as my forearm.
It looked like it was hunting, flicking its tongue out and moving slowly around. It came up on something that I think was a dead, stepped-on slug. A large one, like grows in rainforests. The snake tasted it a couple times, and then opened its jaws and grabbed this carcass, and started moving backwards, hauling the squashed slug with it.
It gave a couple good tries to haul this immense thing away, and then dropped it and moved off. Eventually it circled back near the spot where it had first found the slug, and I could tell it was getting excited by what it was tasting in the air, and it started following the trail where it had dragged the slug . . . but then I adjusted my posture, and the snake moved, and it lost the scent trail, and headed to the side of the trail again, which I decided was a good time for me to move on, too.
After a while, I was back in shaded areas again, and some bird flew onto the side of the trail and stared at me, then flew off as I got closer, landing another 10 feet farther down the trail. Then it flew off, another 10 or so feet as I got closer . . . I always feel bad when this happens, because I feel like the bird is like “Why are you chasing me??” and I swear I am not chasing, I just happen to be going this way. But after about the third instance, I thought, ha ha, this is what people say happens sometimes when a land spirit is trying to lead you somewhere.
The bird went around a corner of the trail. I went around the corner. The bird flew off – and landed off the trail this time, in the branch of a tree, with a bit of a cleared area around it. And it stayed there when I got up to that point of the trail.
“I’m not going into the thicket, bird!” I said, and then looked again and said, “Oh, all right, it’s not really a thicket.” Because why not see what happens, right? It could have just been a bird doing bird things, and it might be nice to slow down a minute anyway.
As soon as I stepped off the trail into the cleared spot, I got a large energetic sense of approval from Loki, and a few more as I paused in the spot and rested and looked around. I didn’t see anything particular eye-catching that might have been the reason I was guided there, so I thought maybe I needed to talk to the tree there.
I stood up and put my hand lightly on the tree and said hello. I was in entirely the wrong mental frame of mind to really relax and try to slip into a meditative state, but I closed my eyes to see if I could feel or perceive anything.
I felt a really subtle, fairly regular shaking sensation. I thought maybe that was just my heartbeat throughout my body, but I think that really, no, it was the ground, reverberating from the ocean hammering against this narrow and TALL strip of land extending into the sea. Later, at another point on the trail, I paused again to see if I could sense the same shaking, and yes, it was there.
Not far from that spot, I saw another clearing just off the trail, and when I moved to step in there, I got another jot of approval, and then another, stronger, as I stepped to the farther edge of the clearing . . . because what I found there was a small pile of trash that had clearly been there for some time. So of course I picked it up to carry out with me.
The third clearing along the way had nothing remarkable going on. So much for “third time’s a charm.”
Then I passed another hiker, who said something to me about my shoes, or the hike, and we ended up walking together and talking for a while, and it turned out to be a Small World instance: not only did she live in the city where I’d done my graduate work, but at one point she had worked in the same department.
I didn’t write it up, but last month, I had another sort of “random encounter” with a group of people. (A family out for a short hike who got lost and turned around and had been out for like 3 hours instead of half an hour. They waved me down from the side of the road, I gave them a lift to their car, once I also got sorted out properly as to which direction we all needed to go. They gave me money “for gas” far out of proportion to the distance I had driven them.)
I have this sense of – not unease, so much, but a sort of paranoia anyway, that this sort of thing is going to keep happening.
I’m not sure what to make of what happened on the Cape. Someone/something seemed to be trying to get my attention, and succeeding. I think it might have been one or more local land spirits. Which is vaguely unnerving, because how did they know I’d notice them?? When I’ve gone out to places for “business reasons,” I’ve said an intentional hello and given an offering to the local spirits, but this time, I was just out for a fun hike, and it didn’t cross my mind to say “hello” to the locals when I stepped into their space. I’m fairly certain that, while Loki was encouraging me to follow the damn bird off the trail, and into the other clearing (and into the third one, for that matter), it wasn’t Him nudging the bird or me.
I’ve realized that I need to make a better checklist of things to bring with me when I go out to the beach, like extra water just for washing my hands. And I think now my list also needs to include mental notes to intentionally say hello to whatever land I’m wandering around on, whether I’m there for business or pleasure. I feel a bit foolish for having not remembered this already, but apparently I don’t need to say “Hello” to be noticed and shown things and asked to do something in return.