I have (what hardly qualifies as) a confession: I never wanted to live so far north. When one moves to the Pacific Northwest, and one has certain Bohemian tendencies and a poetic fondness for weirdos and antiques, one wants to live in Portland if possible, and Seattle if necessary, but never in the suburbs. Never, say, in a place where the only peaceful feature (say, a walking trail around the neighborhood) is being spoiled by the construction of an impossibly massive Walmart. Or where, say, the president of the evil Homeowners’ Association (say, the one that hates your ever-so-well-behaved dog based on the fact that certain persons would want to turn his sweetness to aggression and set him upon other dogs) turns out to live next door.
However, every once in a while, there are nice things about living where we do. I may be developing an ulcer from the stress of just walking Winston around this neighborhood while enduring the sometimes hostile stares of neighbors and watching the earth-movers dig up wetland in favor of low prices, but occasionally I find gems, like the produce place down the road that sells a large variety of competitively-priced fruits and veg, as well as hard-to-find items like tamarind pods and coconut juice.
Or like the beach that Ben found, just ten minutes away.
When I got home on a Saturday morning after duty and my first-ever stop at the produce place to pick up strawberries for a surprise pancake breakfast I wanted to make for Ben, I found him with a haircut and a tip from his barber: there are dog-friendly public beaches all along the Puget Sound. And he had found one, just minutes away. Over our breakfast of fruity flapjacks and varicolored hashbrowns (made with the last of the Ballard potatoes, including the oddball purple ones) we made plans to make like explorers and head West. After all, I would be gone out to sea for the next week, and he would be traveling to set his small-business plans in motion, and Winston would be spending part of the week in the kennel. We had to make the two short days of brilliant February sunshine that we would have together count.
And I have to give him credit: this is one of the best ideas Ben has ever had for how to spend a weekend. We had wanted to try to head to Vancouver on Sunday to watch some curling, but the ticket prices were prohibitively high; the beach cost only five dollars to park, and we could stay as long as it was light. And so, we did.
One of the advantages of the Puget Sound area is that it is both wooded and watery. We got to hike some short but lovely trails that looked like they belonged in an Olympic Peninsula temperate rainforest, but we also got to watch the water lap the rocks along the Sound and hop from log to log of stranded driftwood. Winston had never been to the beach before and ran along excitedly taking in the new smells, sights, and sensations.
After a few hours, in mid-afternoon, we decided that we had to obey our stomachs and head out in search of food; we batted around the idea of returning that same day, but February sun is fickle and sets quickly, so we decided to come back the next day instead.
Sunday found us still attached to the plan, so we packed our picnic basket and books (Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke for me, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt Beyer for Ben) and spent another afternoon basking in the warm, if wan, winter sunshine. We stayed until the sun was nearly ready to set, walking along the shell-strewn beach, enjoying the sights of families out playing or sitting around fires talking. It was another perfect Pacific Northwest day. On some days, the sadness of suburbia is soul-crushing; but once in a while, we escape and find blissful beaches on which to rest, frolic, and dream.