Posted by: Harold Knight | 07/12/2011

Sunrise at Port Orford

Yesterday was not a beach day. But I’m at the beach. Oh, yes! The beach. No, the shore. No, the coast. The strand. No self-respecting American would call this place the beach.

The waves follow one another up onto the sand a scant—what? 100 yards? 200 yards? I cannot guess—from my porch. (“My” porch. The one I’m paying $105 dollars a day for the privilege of calling my own. Upgraded from the $85 porch that I would have shared with other transient tenants.) When I am not at the shore, the strand, the coast, the beach, I have it in mind that the sound of the ocean comes in waves (waves of white noise?) the way I see the waves following one after the other. But that’s not true. The sound is constant, perhaps undulating, modulating as the waves crash (here the motion is too gentle to call “crash;” perhaps “fold,” perhaps “cover”), a shade louder, a bit more muffled, moment by moment, but never ceasing.

I do not like to be cold. The temperature now is 58 degrees, too cold for my comfort. But I have all of the sliding glass doors on the ocean side of “my” apartment open. To hear the ocean. To be drawn to that most primordial of all sounds, the white noise from which all other noise emerges. I was up well before sunrise (as usual) and now the light is slowly (not so slowly after all) filling the spaces around the rock formations in the harbor, wrapping around the window frames of “my” porch, even coming into the room where I am sitting. The electric lights will be unnecessary in a few minutes.

Yesterday was not a beach day because I didn’t remember that walking down there—what? 100 yards? 200 yards? I cannot guess—would restore my peace sooner than anything else could. My peace broken by driving here from the airport. Four hours. Fifteen minutes in line at the airport car rental agency. Fifteen minutes wasted—taken—going north when I thought I was going south, corrected by a congenial and jolly teenager, to whom I am grateful (teenagers in spiffy cars with beautiful teenage girlfriends beside them don’t take kindly to befuddled old men like me asking for directions, do they?). And the idiots on the highway. Slowing me down. Concentrating on them, not paying attention to the green—oh my, the green—only to the time. I won’t have enough time here, so get out of my way. I need to rush. The Castaway by the Sea owner as gentle and kind and helpful as I remembered him from the last time. Then another old guy like me who comes here—he, every year. Happy birthday, I said, to his wife. Pleasant conversation already. But not on the beach, a one minute walk to put my foot into the water from which we all came (creationists notwithstanding) and regain the drive-undone peace. But I didn’t.

After dark I could hardly believe myself that I turned on the TV (after what I told myself I would not do—dinner at The Crazy Norwegian, fish and chips with a vengeance, but I had delicate made-with-the-catch-of-the-day crab cakes. Healthy food. Crab cakes and salad—opting for convenience instead of using “my” kitchen). The TV! Five minutes, and I realized I was already on the precipice of wasting the precious time I have here.  TV mostly disgusts me in prosaic Dallas (not a judgment, a statement of fact), so why should I waste a moment with it here?

A side note. Last week I clenched my lower back in an untrusting moment in yoga class, and I’ve had a muscle spasm in my back that has made moving difficult and painful for a week. For a couple of days, I thought I had dislocated my hip and would need surgery or at least months of traction to fix it. Night before last as I was going to bed at home, I discovered the knot in my back. I need a muscle relaxant or my time here will be ruined. No. I simply need to relax. To let everything go. To breathe into the pain. To be gentle with myself and my poor old mind and my even more delicate lower back. I’ve begun. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is painful in any way other than my thinking so. Let go.
I have let go for eighteen hours. The pain is smaller. I can move any way I want to. The white noise, the water, the cold air (remember, I do not like to be cold, but all of my windows are open—hearing the ocean trumps having to wear more layers of than I would like to) are helping me to remember to move gently, to “invite my soul” (as Whitman suggests) into every motion. To breathe, to be mindful of my body, mind, and spirit. This is not New Age gibberish (a redundancy). This is common sense.

Being in this place for some reason heightens my mindfulness of the rising and the setting of the sun. Since I got out of bed I’ve been taking pictures of the harbor (harbor—shelter? give refuge to? haven?) and Mount Humbug. Every five minutes or so. Hoping to catch sunrise here, the intensely colored light we might call orange or red or yellow for want of a way to speak of the visual experience, I remember when I think of this place writing in my walled-in cubicle in Dallas. Before sunrise the view was clear, but dark. My camera makes pictures clearer than my eyes can see. The view sharpened moment by moment. I waited for the brilliance. Instead, the fog spread from out there somewhere to in here, covering the harbor, the haven, the refuge and bringing a light mist, of course. The pictures go from dark and clear to light and blurred. The weather report says the fog will burn off soon. I think, dark and clear gives way to light and blurred. Like my mind, my spirit? I apologize for the silly metaphor.

The devil didn’t make me do it. One of those interminable scholarly articles I read made me do it. Looking at my photos of the sunrise, I know that

Aging will include change and development and much of it will be good. Often as we age we become more patient, more tolerant, and more accepting of ourselves and others. We will become more likely to tolerate paradox and appreciate relativity, and to understand that every present has a past and a future (1).

To tolerate paradox. The sunrise brings fog. Light doesn’t necessarily bring clarity.
(1) Andrews, Edward M. “Finding Peace in Successful Aging.” New Theology Review 23.4 (2010): 13-20.


  1. The beach does bring peace. I miss it.



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