My GPS takes me a route I wasn't expecting. I thought I would be hugging more of the coast, but instead I drive through what, honestly, looks like home. One acre homesteads, thriving gardens, chickens. Sleepy winding roads on this weekday afternoon.
When I finally get a glimpse of the coast, it's blinding.
I have been driving through spruce trees as tall as skyscrapers for nearly an hour before there is a sign for a beachfront campground, and then a break in the trees just big enough to look out and see glowing white, so bright I can't tell what is sky or sea or sun.
I haven't seen the Pacific ocean since I was too young to remember it. I remember going to the beach, sure, but it's the hazy memories of childhood. Glimpses of my mom in a bathing suit, 80s perm piled on top of her head. Feeling joy, being in a place so magical. We lived near Phoenix then, so a trip to the beach was rare. I'm pretty sure that most of my memories are, as they so often are from when we are young, based on stories my mom told me and pictures I have seen.
With every overlook I pass, it looks bigger.
After spending two months on the Atlantic coast, staring out at the waves while making breakfast in the morning, the vastness should not be surprising, but it is. I think maybe it's the trees. Maybe it's that everything on the Olympic Peninsula is just bigger.
I am on a whirlwind trip to Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park in Washington because I have amazing friends who encourage my business, and said I was absolutely justified in going because I can't expect to get anything out of my career if I am not willing to invest in myself first. So I booked a flight, a car, and a ticket to a styled shoot hosted by a photographer from Chattanooga I had tagged along with once before.
Not surprisingly, I learn lessons on this trip unrelated to photographed a seaside elopement.
Wait for it.
As a young adult I was fairly married to Eriksonian psychology. Identify vs Identity Confusion. Intimacy vs Isolation. In my 20s I thought I knew who I was becoming. In my 30s I find I don't honestly care. I've had a second child. Lost both of my parents. Seen friends lose parents, lose their homes, lose their children. There is so much loss. And within all of that loss there is so little time worth dedicating to anything other than what you are able to do in the moment. And while there is privilege in that statement, I think there is also a lot of privilege in holding out.
Hamil-trash that I am, I feel like the majority of my friends identify with "Wait For It" above all of the other songs in the show. That Burr, knowing he is meant for more but not being able/willing to risk what he has until the moment is right, knowing his worth without flaunting it (well, we are talking about Burr from the musical at least), is sympathetic.
If I had to pick a song, a line, that I would be willing to get tattooed onto my body? Maybe "Why do you write like you're running out of time." I am a writer, and always, always feel like there is never enough time to say the things I need to, want to say. Through words, through art, through how I live. But the real one? "Dying is easy. Living is harder."
It's why I start writing this at the Philadelphia airport, having been awake for what feels like 48 straight hours, because there is no time to plan. I have approximately 8000 projects in my head at any time, and whether it is life or being neurodivergent or just human nature, I won't do most of them. Because there is no time to sit back and to say "one day," or "when I'm older" or "when I retire." My parents never got to retire. I am constantly reminded to seize opportunity whenever it arrives, because the cliches are true.
So within a week, I have been able to see the Atlantic, and the Pacific. To hike in the Appalachians and drive past the Olympic range.
It harkens to a Victor Hugo quote I used as my email signature for the majority of my adolescence and young adulthood: "It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live." To a petrified Eowyn telling Aragorn that she does not fear death, but a cage.
I don't consider myself brave or adventurous. Definitely impulsive. But also scared to death of all the things I will never get to do or experience.
The water of the northern Pacific is colder than coastal North Carolina, but warmer than the Gulf of Maine. The shore is filled with both rocks and sand. I miss my family. I see my kids playing on the driftwood, picture my son crying when I tell him he can't take home the rocks, imagine the joy of my daughter's face at how many flat rocks there are perfect for skipping.
And when I return to a little cabin in rural Maine, I plan for our next trip to the ocean.
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, WA
Quoddy Head State Park, Lubec, ME