3 crowsIn just a few weeks’ time, things have gone from a whiff of ominousness to full-on terrifying destruction.

tipping spooky trees

I suppose there were some clues. For one, the presence of the sand shelf. It seems so hopeful at the time: the sand is building up! Last time I remember a sand shelf like this was in 2010, and that was a very bad winter indeed.

more shelf-2sand shelf 2There has been steady erosion down on Spruce and Willow streets. The Pentagon finally fell into the ocean.

fallen PentagonAnd there has been slow, if steady, undercutting of the Yellow and Brown Compound.





But now things have gotten very serious. Yesterday the Yellow and Brown Compound was flying in the air.



side view vertical-2Its siding had blown off and inside, from the beach, you could see a cozy living room, still intact, with a lamp, a TV and a bookcase with hearts cut into it, ready to break mine.

I heard it fell off the bank later in the day.

*yellow and brown cutaway view 2-2heart lamp vertical-2The only relief in the destruction that’s been occurring has been that, well, it’s not on my street. But all that has changed now. A giant cliff replaced the sand shelf earlier this week.

new cliff-2In God we trust cliff-2

The swing's tree fell in today.

The swing’s tree fell in today.

My neighbor Resha built an elaborate beach garden this summer. Now she is digging up and giving away her plants.

Resha's garden-2For the past three years, my neighbors have been waterfront. This includes my neighbor over the fence, Craig. Craig being waterfront has meant that I am Next to Next. I have no desire to be waterfront, for that would make me Next. But things are not looking good over at Craig’s place.





The "Stop" sign is a nice touch.

The “Stop” sign is a nice touch.

Bud on Craig's roof-2

Bo waterfront-2Years ago there was a place that called itself “Willie Washaway.” The place behind it had a sign that said “Willy B. Next.” They’re both gone now, of course.

Oak St. signs-2Sure, I always knew this was going to happen. It’s called Washaway Beach. I knew that going in. But how do you prepare yourself for loss?

root infrastructure-2

I know, in some part of my brain, that nothing lasts: spring, youth, beauty, your pets, your Mom, this moment. I like to think that I embrace this, that photography’s currency is things vanishing. That, as a gardener, I’ve seen leaves fall enough times to know it’s a cycle. All this sounds great in theory. I’m not ready. This can’t be happening.

fog footprintsMy first year here I met an old woman on the beach who told me she keeps coming back  for the smell. I smelled it when I pulled into my driveway Friday morning: wet trees, moss, salt water and sand, an intoxicating brew. The woman told me she’d had “ten good years” here. I’ve had twelve. It’s not enough, never will be.

ocean crowLike the smell, I’m trying to practice savoring. I must closely observe and experience the warmth of my fire, the percussive drumbeat of rain on my trailer’s roof, to each day I’m lucky enough to have here. If I could just act with such certainty that all things won’t last,  then I’d be really paying attention. Premature grief is what I feel.

But then, amid all this, are these messages of hope: “May you have a shell in your pocket and sand in your shoes.”

shell in pocket-2

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You may want to pick up some shoulder-launched missiles. The Pentagon is about to fall in the ocean.PentagonAll right, it’s a hexagon, which is less funny, and it was clearly crafted with some love.

Pentagon roof I’ll bet it has a better view than the real Pentagon.

Pentagon viewSummer is usually the less-eroding time, and this has been mostly true except for in a few places. There’s the last of the Yellow Compound at the end of Spruce Street:

last yellow compound 2yellow compound cross sectionThis place, which I will unimaginatively call the Yellow and Brown Compound:

yellow-brown compoundAnd, of course, the hard-luck A-frame.

A-frame 2

crow silhouetteWhile these serve as an ominous reminder to never forget,  the glory of summer is distracting. It’s trendy now to post lists of the things you’re grateful for. Here is mine:

I haven’t been able to get to the beach much, so my neighbor Ray has been cutting my grass for cash and Bud Lite. This has been a rewarding investment.

Ray and mowerI am delighted and entertained by Washaway Beach and its fascinating curiosities.3 sandpoints

tire and gooseneck musselstire 2beach bananalost pantscliff facefeathersshipwreck and barnaclesvelellapaddleboarders 1paddleboarderspaddleboarders groupI’m thankful for our beautiful Northwest king salmon cooked on the fire, smoked with leaves and branches from my alder trees, served with a sweet corn summer salad.

salmon cookingsmokersalmon and corn saladAnd then there are the guys, the best boys, my goodfellas, always looking out for me.

GoodfellasHugo jagI’m especially grateful for my place here, my piece of this, for a little more time here, for as long as I’m allowed. I guess I’m just a lucky so and so.

vagabond and daisiesbeach foxgloves

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The rockets’ red glare? Pass. Washaway is next to an Indian reservation, so the Fourth is a Mecca for meatheads seeking explosives. The beach must be avoided at this time, unless patriotic terrorism is your bag. Besides, my firework wallpaper project is now complete, so I have no need to go harvesting anymore.

firework wallpapercookhouse interiorThis is not to say my Seattle neighborhood was immune to constant shelling, but, unlike the beach, I do not expect it to be quiet. I stayed inland to make sure no one set my roof on fire. While I was at it, I decided to be a tourist in my own town.

space needle and tree

I go to the coast so often, I forget that the mountains are pretty cool too. I went for a beautiful hike amid alpine wildflowers on Little Bandera Mountain, just east of here.

bandera 1bandera 2

bandera 3

Then I headed down to Seattle’s waterfront, to observe the wildlife.

3 chihuahuaschihuahua

The Chihuahuas in sombreros were hilarious, but they must’ve been heavily sedated. That would explain the shades. All I know is, the sombrero did not go over well at home.

Hugo sombreroAnd there were other creatures with addiction issues too, namely the Ivar’s seagulls, endlessly enabled by Ivar’s sub-par french fries.



seagull and ferry

I went for a ride on Seattle’s Great Wheel. This is a gorgeous way to see the city.

great wheelwheel view 1wheel view 2wheel view 3wheel view 4wheel view 5wheel view 6

Missing the beach, I headed over to the Seattle Aquarium for some sea life.

Young salmon

Young salmon

aquarium 1aquarium 2aquarium 3aquarium 5aquarium 6aquarium 7aquarium 8aquarium 9

While a lifetime in captivity sounds like no fun, I think the sea otters have figured out how to do it, spending the long days eating clams, doing the backstroke.

sea otter_0001

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The old grey mare ain’t what she used to be, yet her services are still required. I’m referring to Bonnie, my mighty steed, the ancient Honda Accord I bought from Bonnie, a fabulous 88-year old woman I met at the beach two years ago. Bonnie, the car, is getting “long in the tooth”, as my Dad says. A blown hose in Seattle traffic, a river of antifreeze flowing down the hill, a dead battery, the 220,000th mile, all conspired to land-lock your correspondent.

landlockedAnd now Bonnie rides again, limping somewhat. Meanwhile, in a month’s time away, an amazing transformation has occurred: erosion stopped, weather improved, and by all appearances, it is now summer.

stormy window

window, springboys in waterLike the melting of the polar ice caps, destruction is on the radar, but it seems far away at the moment. I set off on a barefoot beach walk through the sculpture garden.

rebar sculptures

Doomed civilization

Doomed civilization

driftwood sculpture



sawblade selfie

sawblade selfie

may rubblebrickhosenetsClay etc.

The fort endures.

The fort endures.

Last of the yellow compound.

Last of the yellow compound.

aggregateMore proof of summer: the formation of what I call the Turtles, inland waterways, little round islands, curvaceous shapes in the sand.

turtle 1turtle 2turtle 3The sand is high in some areas, low in others, exhuming new areas of brick and concrete while completely concealing the gun turret. The tide was low enough to get to the other side of the Rockpile Peninsula Project.

rockpile There I was amazed to find the old Shipwreck still kicking around, four years later.

shipwreck 1shipwreck 2shipwreck 3Coming back over the Rockpile, I was looking for Lost Soles, abandoned flip-flops. Whether this has to do with tsunami debris or not, there are a lot of shoes afoot right now. Had I not been looking so closely, I would not have seen this little guy.

seal in rocksWhy do they call them seal pups when they look like kittens? Anyway, it is harbor seal pupping time. Their moms stash them on the beach, go fishing, and come back with dinner. You must NEVER touch them, for the stink of people makes their moms reject them. There was a story one year of a couple on Memorial Day bringing one back to their hotel room in Westport. Don’t do this. There’s a big ol’ fine for kidnapping marine mammals. I was glad this little guy was so well hidden, said hello and went on my way.

Of course I’ve had fantasies of bringing one home myself. The little guy would quickly grow from cat-sized to 300 lbs. I would install an enormous and elaborate salt water tank in my yard. I would train him to do tricks like balancing balls on his nose. We’d do partner acrobatics, me in a spangled swimsuit. I’d pick up hundreds of dollars worth of seafood every week at Pike Place Market for him. We’d perform for crowds to defray costs. Sure, it would be kinda mean to take him away from his family and ocean and ecosystem, but I would respect his intelligence and love him fiercely. I ran this fantasy by a friend of mine.

“The fresh seafood seems to be the only problem,” he replied.


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Rites of Spring

Hope doesn’t always spring eternal, so the promise of spring is essential. But it is at this very time of year where the ocean pulls some fast ones. I always remind myself that Ray and Juanita’s house fell in on March 31, Juanita’s birthday. Just when you think you have snuck out of winter unscathed, ready for flowers and birdsong, comes the old Washaway smackdown.

Here’s what I will call the Yellow Compound at what, until recently, was not the end of Spruce Street, on March 3.

yellow compound

graffitiHere’s the Yellow Compound on April 4.

toppled yellow 1I would say that at least 50 feet has fallen into the ocean in the last few weeks.

overturned yellow 2overturned yellow 3

overturned yellow 5Which means it’s time for “salvage”/ looting. It was tagged with a message (in tar, a nice touch, I thought) to other looters: “Don’t do it” , i.e., this is mine.

don't do itAnd, indeed, its contents were choice specimens. Who wouldn’t want this green banana lamp?

green lampOr a place to rest your weary head

yellow house contentsor the most excellent vintage fridge hiding in the lower right corner?

yellow house contents 2It’s every salvager for himself. And you know a tree hugger like me loves recycling. My quarrel is that, after salvaging the scrap aluminum, there is, as in any industry, waste product, that which cannot be turned into cash. Therefore, you have the strategically arranged, heart-stomping garbage piles. Maybe I should emphasize that the beach’s name is misleading. It doesn’t all “Wash Away.” It goes into THE OCEAN. Where, like, fish live. Not only the wise and beautiful enormous creatures, but the ones that you and I eat. Please make a note of it.

insulation pile

green tankblacktopThings have been eroding pretty seriously, all of a sudden, just south of me. “We haven’t lost anything!” my neighbors whisper, guiltily. But while a relief, I feel the secondhand dread that accompanies a friend with cancer: this is not my doom, but when will the shoe drop?

You’ll recall this big brown barn/storage shed on March 6.

brown shed 3-6Well, it now looks like this:

tire, concrete, roofAnd then there is the adorable A-frame, once owned by a cute old couple, then looted, then bequeathed to one of my least favorite “salvagers”, now festooned with piles of crap insulation in the back , and about to fall in the ocean. Easy come, easy go, no?

A-frame March 6

A-frame March 6

A-frame April 5

A-frame April 5

I’m thinking about the dashed hope of spring, because it was a year ago today I donated my bone marrow to my Mom. All I was thinking about, at the time, was me, me, me, I’m sorry to say. Fear: fear of hospitals, of doctors “harvesting” a “spongy red liquid containing stem cells” with hollow needles from my spine. Would it hurt? It never occurred to me that my inconvenience would not save the day.

sideways tree

I will say that the dread was worse than the actual experience, probably a good life lesson, and John Hopkins’s drugs were excellent. I wish I had been braver, or more selfless, with what, now, I’m pretty proud of.

overturned roots

Too bad she died anyway. “I don’t think it was you,” my Dad told me today.

replaced signage

With or without my endorsement, let the rites of spring begin. You’ll see that there are a lot of pictures of dogs here. Coincidence. I don’t hire the talent, I just shoot ‘em.

Kite, boat, Jeep

Kite, boat, Jeep

Marcy in rainwatchers 02 watchers 08

watchers 15 watchers 09watchers 06watchers 05

They were excited to reuse the tumbled concrete. "We have a muddy yard and a fire pit," she explained.

They were excited to reuse the tumbled concrete. “We have a muddy yard and a fire pit,” she explained.


Crab apple

Woodworker Jeffro Uitto was salvaging Crabapple branches for Brady's Oysters' smoker. Yum!

Woodworker Jeffro Uitto was salvaging Crab apple branches for Brady’s Oysters’ smoker. Yum!

watchers 11watchers 04watchers 14The thing is to remember the promise, not the promise dashed. Right? As we’ve discovered, dread does little to change the outcome.

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While I was on vacation, swimming and snorkeling in a warmer version of the very same water, the ocean was up to its old malfeasance. You’ll recall from my last post that this house was on the edge at Washaway.

70's house 7I shot some video of it with my fancy new telephone:

But now the whole thing is gone. Allow me to show you a week– no, four days–in the life.

Monday, March 3.

Monday 2


Katie, Monday

Sheet in sand, Monday

Sheet in sand, Monday

Fabric (drapes?) in sand, Monday

Fabric (drapes?) in sand, Monday

Monday 3Monday 4Monday 5Tuesday, March 4:

Tuesday video, 9.8 tide:


See? Only hacks use umbrellas.

overturned tree and mossTuesday 1Tuesday 2Tuesday 3Tuesday 4Wednesday, March 5:


A message to the ocean.

A message to the ocean.Wednesday 4

chunks of grass

Spruce St

Spruce Street

Wednesday 1Wednesday 2

A picnic house, further down the beach.

A picnic house, further down the beach.

WednesdayThursday, March 6:

No picnic.

No picnic.

Thursday 2

Willy B. Next.

Willy B. Next.

Thursday 4

Erosion control techniques: Rockpile Peninsula Project.

Thursday 5

Senja Antilla, who makes assemblage-mosaics of Washaway houses, on the hunt.

Senja Antilla, who makes wood assemblage-mosaics from Washaway houses, harvesting.

Thursday 6Thursday 7

Only the foundation remains.

Only the foundation remains.

more signageYou would think, after twelve years, I would be used to this. But I still find it very scary and sad and humbling and profound. I have property here, too, so it’s personal, and denial is essential.


And yet, inexplicably, there is the hopefulness that accompanies the first whiff of spring.

cloud of birds

Posted in Tides-A-Com'n | 6 Comments

High Waters

eroding bank 5I came to see the high tides and yes, there is some erosion going on, but it is slightly south of me. A 10.4 tide in the wrong weather can be deadly serious, so one must be thankful for a crisp, bright day.

eroding bank 3eroding bank 6

Units of Measure are in place to track any erosion with utter exactitude.

Craig flagAnd it’s those a little bit to the south who are, as we say at Washaway, “Willie B. Next.” This poor place has been gutted to the point where no one is enjoying the waterfront-ness, except maybe the looters:

70s house 270's house 570's house 670s house interior70's house detail70's house 870s house view 1P-INearby, someone’s compound of trailers has been trashed, pillaged, plundered, and it seems more like demolition and thievery than recycling. The heart sinks.

trashed trailers 1trashed trailers 2trashed trailers 3What an opportune time to stage a pile of garbage to fall into the ocean!

garbage hillside6-panel 26-panel 1It’ll be a duet.

eroded driveway 2eroded drivewayeroded bankemerging tiresBut we must practice gratitude. With any luck, there might be another summer.

low tidestand of treespurple sunset




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