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Some Ocean-Inspired Art and a Family of Geese on Vacation

Some Ocean-Inspired Art and a Family of Geese on Vacation

Musing from Cannon Beach, Oregon

I didn’t visit the ocean often as a kid, but when I did, rain or shine, the shoes came off and in I’d go. On the Oregon Coast, to actually go in the water is invite instant hypothermia, but I didn't care.  I couldn’t simply see, taste, and smell it. I had to feel it and somehow be part of it. 

Maybe growing up in the desert did it to me. Maybe it's an innate part of being human.

Either way, there is something about the rising and falling, the constant unpredictability, the cool colors that roll over smooth sands and crash against jagged cliffs that unleashes an enormous sense of wonder, whymsy, and awe in the core of my being.  I am not alone -- from the vaqueros who grazed cattle up the California coastline, to the 19th century painters who staked their easels in the Normandy sand; from prisoners to poets; mermaids to mythology, the alure of the ocean knows no boundaries. 

Last week my mom and I took a mini excursion to Cannon Beach, about 90 minutes West of Portland, Ore. 

The sun surprisngly was out, the wind less surprisingly was also out.  We didn't stay long.  As we were walking back along the ocean to the car, we saw a family of geese who were also having a family outing at the beach. Momma Goose, Papa Goose, Brother and Sister Goose. 

The four of them were wading in the tide, thier black beaks turned up in smiles, their feathers shining resplendent in the sun.

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Brother and Sister Goose splashed at each other with their oversized paddle-like feet and then stopped and stretched tall to look out as far as they could.  

I bet that’s the first time they’ve seen the ocean, I thought, and it took me back to when I was 10 years old witnessing a similar scene.

When I was in fifth grade my class went on a field trip to see the ocean. The desert town I grew up in is about a six-hour drive up and over two mountain ranges from the Oregon Coast. Imagine a bus full of smelly, awkward, noisy tweens cooped up together for six straight hours. I already had my shoes in my hands when we bailed off the bus and over the sandy bank to meet the chilling water. Already in up to my knees, I looked out over the sunsoaked waves and then back at my classmates coming from the bus.  

 Tillamook, Ore. 2009

Tillamook, Ore. 2009

Some had joined me by then, splashing in the surf, but a handful were just standing there, eyes wide, gaping in awe at what lay before them. That’s when I realized that the majority of my class had never seen the ocean before that day. 

Not only that, but some didn’t even have running water in their homes, and now, to be surrounded by an unquantifiable mass of it, endlessly cresting and breaking was breathtaking. To have spent one's whole life in a grey, sage dusted desert and then to be bombarded with glassy green ocean and soft clean sand stopped them in their tracks.

I won’t ever forget the magic that spread out of their beaming grins and delighted squeals as they too wrestled with their shoes and satisfied the need to not just see it, but be it. 

I don’t remember my first time seeing the ocean, but I do remember my first time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, feeling that same sense of awe standing before Romantic and Impressionist ocean scenes, composed on canvases of brushstrokes laden with green and blue and pink and wonder. I felt as if those very squeals that escaped my excited classmates had been bottled up and sent back in time to be mixed in with these masters’ palettes. In another room I witnessed that desire for the ocean sculpted into the contours of mermen and sea monsters and felt again as if I were seeing it for the first time. 

  The Manneporte , Claude Monet:  (1883) - New York, Metropolitan

The Manneporte, Claude Monet:  (1883) - New York, Metropolitan

When Monet painted The Manneporte, he wasn’t only drawn to the scene’s natural wonder of the cliff nestled into the waves. For him it was about the way it was forever changing depending on the light. It was about capturing perception and interpreting what he saw almost exclusively in terms of color and luminosity. He painted twenty views of the thing, trying to get it right. 

My mother used to read Edgar Allan Poe's Anabel Lee aloud to me because the I enjoyed the way the cadences mimic the rhythm of waves. It’s a brilliant effect.

But what I love most about this kingdom by the sea is the idea of living with no other thought than to love and be loved. It's one of the most true, yet simple principles in life and in faith

The ocean really is forever changing. It carves away new shorelines and reveals new wonders. One fiery red sunset can be replaced the very next evening with a murky pool of pinks, washed out the next morning with yellow disks and purple streaks.

Art is not the real thing. But I feel like it helps interpret the real thing. From The Manneporte to Annabel Lee, and everything in between, art has the ability to blend reality with the mystical in a way that the ocean seems to do in real life. It invites you in, not just to see, but to feel it and to somehow be a part of it as if for the very first time.  

Below are some Ocean favorites, as seen in New York and and elsewhere, along with a few photos from last week’s “lunch break”  excursion Mom and I took to Cannon Beach.


Annabel Lee

BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

It was many and many a year ago, 

   In a kingdom by the sea, 

That a maiden there lived whom you may know 

   By the name of Annabel Lee; 

And this maiden she lived with no other thought 

   Than to love and be loved by me. 

 

I was a child and she was a child, 

   In this kingdom by the sea, 

But we loved with a love that was more than love— 

   I and my Annabel Lee— 

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven 

   Coveted her and me. 

 

And this was the reason that, long ago, 

   In this kingdom by the sea, 

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling 

   My beautiful Annabel Lee; 

So that her highborn kinsmen came 

   And bore her away from me, 

To shut her up in a sepulchre 

   In this kingdom by the sea. 

 

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven, 

   Went envying her and me— 

Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know, 

   In this kingdom by the sea) 

That the wind came out of the cloud by night, 

   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee. 

 

But our love it was stronger by far than the love 

   Of those who were older than we— 

   Of many far wiser than we— 

And neither the angels in Heaven above 

   Nor the demons down under the sea 

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul 

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 

 

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams 

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes 

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side 

   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride, 

   In her sepulchre there by the sea— 

   In her tomb by the sounding sea.


  The Calm Sea , Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877), 1869 Oil on canvas ,  New York, Metropolitan

The Calm Sea, Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877), 1869 Oil on canvas ,  New York, Metropolitan

  Thetis Transporting Arms for Achilles , William Theed the Elder (British, 1764–1817), Bronze, New York, Metropolitan

Thetis Transporting Arms for Achilles, William Theed the Elder (British, 1764–1817), Bronze, New York, Metropolitan

  Whalers , Joseph Mallord William Turner (London 1775–1851), 1845, New York, Metropolitan

Whalers, Joseph Mallord William Turner (London 1775–1851), 1845, New York, Metropolitan

 This one isn't from The Met, but it's a favorite so I must add it.  Fishing boats at Saintes Maries de la Mer (Marines in Saintes-Maries de la Mer), by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) / De Agostini Picture Library / The Bridgeman Art Library

This one isn't from The Met, but it's a favorite so I must add it.

Fishing boats at Saintes Maries de la Mer (Marines in Saintes-Maries de la Mer), by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) / De Agostini Picture Library / The Bridgeman Art Library


More from Cannon Beach, Oregon


One more from good ol' 2009 when my Scottish cousin let me borrow his cool hat. Just for giggles.

 Oregon Coast, 2009

Oregon Coast, 2009

Toppled over Memories and Life Lessons from London

Toppled over Memories and Life Lessons from London

Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods