A woman walks along the beach in Westport Light State Park in Washington State, USA.

The beach. It’s in my genes. I don’t get there as often as I’d like, but when I do, I feel like I’ve come home. Family stories of the beach I’ve heard my entire life were sometimes from decades before my birth, yet I could easily imagine them, as I knew the feel of the wind in my face, the salty, slightly fishy smell, and the sounds of the surf and noisy gulls. Plus, we’ve had some great storytellers, including my mom, to make those old tales real.

Mom’s grandparents lived part-time on the beach in Oregon, so as a child, she spent a great deal of time there, along with her brother and sister. Though I never met her grandparents Nels & Ida, I heard hilarious stories of these Swedish immigrants and their follies, like the time Grandpa was getting pretty mad because he couldn’t get very far from the dock in the rowboat and it turned out they were still tied up!

I’ve rarely lived more than a couple of hours from the beach. One of my earliest memories is of camping at the beach and collecting tiny crabs. When I was a kid, Mom would drive us and a carload of friends or relatives to the beach several times a year. Sometimes, we would build a fire on the beach, but mostly, we walked and picked up rocks and shells. If it was nice, we took off our shoes and felt the warm sand between our toes. My hair would be a tangled mess from the wind and I would instantly fall asleep on the car ride home.

When I was grown, Mom still organized trips to the beach, which sometimes entailed the use of multiple cars. Whenever family came to visit from out of state, she took them there. She didn’t favor the touristy areas. She preferred the lonelier spots, as do I. Some of her guests couldn’t fathom what a noisy, windy, lonely, cloudy place could hold to the popular beaches in sunny climes or even the touristy ones here, but she knew.

In Mom’s later years, I began to see how, when she sat on a log, letting the wind blow her hair and her cares away, she seemed more relaxed than at any other place. I began to identify her with the beach.

I’ve been thinking about Mom a lot lately, as it would have been her 98th birthday a few days ago. That’s probably why I’ve been thinking about the beach. It’s a healing place for us. It’s where she wanted to go after my dad’s long battle with cancer ended. It’s where we said goodbye to my sister Vicki, sprinkling some of her ashes in the surf. It’s where I went not long after Mom herself died, letting the wind wash over me.

I think I will be planning another outing to the beach before long. We used to go at least once in the winter as well as the typical times of year. As Mom would have said, it’s about high time!


Tagged with:
Oly Alley by Madeline Houston

“Oly Alley” is hanging at the ARTrails Exhibition Gallery in Centralia, Washington during ARTrails.


ARTrails is halfway through! I’m looking forward to this next weekend, which will wrap up the ARTrails Studio Tour for the year. The above piece is hanging at the ARTrails Exhibition Gallery, located in the train station in Centralia, Washington. It will be there until September 25th.


ARTrails is once again so much fun! I enjoy discussing photography with the visitors and talking art in general with the other artists. I am at Sue Wachter’s studio. Sue does silk dying, painting, and many other things. Lennie Adams is also there, with her incredibly detailed art dolls.

Come and see us at 2114 Sandra Avenue, Centralia, Saturday and Sunday September 24 & 25 from 10 am to 5 pm. Stop by the ARTrails Exhibition Gallery at 210 Railroad Avenue, Centralia daily through September 25, from 10 am to 5 pm.

#artrails #art #olympia #centralia

Pilings from a long-abandoned logging trestle across the Black River near Rochester, Washington

Pilings from a long-abandoned logging trestle across the Black River near Rochester, Washington


Last weekend, my sister Tamara and her daughter Taryn were visiting Washington, up from their home in northern California. Our schedules allowed for one day together and we had a few days to think about what to do. My husband Dal and I came up with the idea of canoeing. We posed the idea and they liked it! Our two canoes hadn’t been out yet this year, so we pulled them out and cleaned them up. We thought about taking both of them, but decided on taking the 4-seater. Then, we had to decide where to go. Last year, a few of us paddled the Black River in early August from the put-in on Littlerock Road to Highway 12 between Rochester and Oakville. The water was so low, lower even than we’ve seen in September, when we had to hop out and drag the canoe over a couple of extremely shallow spots. Last year, we had to get out numerous times. We didn’t want to do that this time around, so we settled on the first leg, from Littlerock Road to School Land Road, which is always deeper.

After an hectic search for our WDFW parking passes, Dal and I headed out with canoe in tow and met up with Tamara and Taryn at School Land Rd. We left their car there, went to the IGA for a pit stop, then headed north to the Littlerock Rd landing. Before we knew it, we were in the water.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather – overcast and not too hot or cold. Dallen, who is an accomplished steersman, took up the rear, while I was in front and our guests were in the middle. We had a great time catching up, seeing the sights, and listening to the birds. All three of us women got dragonflies in our hair at one time or another. We shared memories, too, like when we passed the “Lagoon”, an area where our dad liked to fish when we were kids.

What a pleasant day – I can’t wait for the next time!

p.s. more photos from paddling the Black to come.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.