The tweakers have been fighting over my sneakers.


As well they might. They are a sweet old pair of vintage Adidas that I used to wear to cut the grass. When my property fell into the ocean, there was no more lawn to mow, hence I would no longer need my mowing shoes, was my thinking. See what the mind does in a time of grief?

You will recall my solemn oath never to return to the Vagabond, but I’ve been twice since. On this particular day, the rusted-shut door was pried wide open, so I decided to pop in.

Vagabond 7-11-15

I had barely begun to trespass when a young woman named Shawna totally busted me, asking what I was doing.

bullet hole in Vagabond

She is staying in the trailer next to the Vagabond, formerly owned by Stanley and Resha and then occupied by Tweaker Leah. Now that Shawna’s here, neighborhood watch is back. “This is mine, or used to be, until I fell into the ocean,” I explained.

Shawna said that the Vagabond’s broken window had incited a lot of curiosity. She broke out the broken glass and cleaned it all up, because she didn’t want any passing-by dogs cutting up their feet. The window’s absence left my remaining belongings clearly visible.

“There has been a lot of interest in the shoes,” she told me.

There were several different tweakers who were jockeying for my Adidas.“I feel spirits, though I haven’t felt yours,” Shawna told me. Just the same, she had rounded up my remaining stuff and bagged it. She handed me the bag. There were a couple old bedsheets, my orange project towel, chunky with concrete, my rusty Fred Meyer chaise lounge chair, circa 1997, and, of course, the sneakers. “Blessings upon you!” I shouted and hugged her, shocking myself with this surge of unscheduled woo-woo.

But she had other concerns. Staying in Stanley and Resha’s trailer, she had come across some “Hindu stuff.” (I am guessing more likely Buddhist). She did not know how to dispose of it, not wanting to piss off any Hindu gods. I told her Stanley and Resha were talking about moving to New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, where there would be plenty of spirits already, and using her best judgment would probably be fine.

Blue Pacific Dr. signs 7-11-15

Shawna said she was hoping to stay for awhile, in that trailer on the edge, despite having no power or water. She is keeping warm with a nice cat named Spooky that likes to walk on the beach and layers of clothing, trying to get by with less in uncertain times.

Seattle in rain

Things in Seattle are uncertain too. I’ve lived here for 23 years and things have always changed, but this particular change seems to be happening really fast: cranes everywhere building high-rises; horror stories of “skyrocketing” rents, cool old buildings and legendary restaurants and affordable housing disappearing in a pile of rubble.

Seattle from Erik's-2

 I rent a tiny house where I’ve built a big garden. With my beach property gone, this sanctuary is especially dear to me. But my place recently sold, and it is a large property in an urban location. The future is uncertain. All I could do is make the very best garden ever this year. Every day, I nurture it, savor it. I am paying extra attention now.

raised bedclematistomatoesmy house

In a recent Gawker article entitled “How Amazon Swallowed Seattle,” the author blames the incoming legions of “brogrammers” and their lavish incomes on driving out the funky, the artists, the Wild-West character of the city.

“It was too nice here,” he mourns. “It couldn’t last.”

And it is very nice. In the beating heart of Seattle, I am lucky to have a great gardening job at Chihuly Garden and Glass, where magnificent plants and monumental glass sculptures coexist.

pacific sun and space needlereeds and pacific sun

We have the best in-ground irrigation systems for the plants, but it has never been this hot and dry for this long here, and it’s been scary to try to keep everything watered. As I imagine they used to say in the Dust Bowl, “Drought Sucks.” The sturdy old war horses of the Northwest landscape, Rhododendrons and Hydrangeas, brown and burn. Elsewhere, the state is on fire. This, and the lack of A/C that was never needed before, has lent this summer a feeling of suffocating ominousness. I’m pretty sick of doom. It seems everywhere is Washaway now.

Hummingbird and space needle

And then, in the midst of all this, are wonders more fragile than glass. There was a hummingbird nest in a highly exposed location at work. It was such a moving thing to witness at close range: to fear for the vulnerability of them, to feel the urge to protect them and worry about them, to not be able to help them, and see them still make it just fine and fly away.

mama hummingbird 4-14-15

Beautiful nest 5-24-15hummingbird eggs 4-14-15hatchlings 5-12-15hatchlings 5-14-152 hummies 5-19-15last baby to leave 5-21-15 11-07 amempty nest 5-21-15 11-42 amSeeing that last bird getting ready to leave the nest, stretching and flexing and practice-flapping, is something I hope I never forget. The bravery and hopefulness of it. There is no choice but to jump.

The native people of Australia, the Aborigines, believe in Dreamtime. This is a place where ancestral beings, who resembled animals and plants, created the world, then turned themselves back into rocks and trees to sleep. The natural world has to be respected, for you never know who you might be waking up. This “Time out of time” or “Everywhen” is an active place, where the past and present coexist.

The food in my Dreamtime will be unparallelled, with all the Italian women. My Grammy will be serving chicken and polenta; my great-aunt Alvera will have spent all day making her signature Gnocchi; my Mom will have single-handedly come up with a Thanksgiving  dinner, a pot roast, and a Buche de Noel all at the same time. In case you think I’ll be kicking back, eating and slacking, note that I’ll be grilling salmon in my fire pit, smoked with leaves from my Alder trees, with some sweet white summer corn. For dessert, I’ll grill some peak-season peaches with chocolate, also on my fire, because my fire pit will still be accessible, not in the  Pacific.

fire pitYou would think some piece of its substantial masonry would still exist on the beach somewhere. But what remains of my legacy are flip-flops. They are definitely mine. They have drill holes in them. Marcy and Bob have been attaching them outside the Airstream.

lost soles and fiddlehead ferns

lost sole, pinklost soles on airstreamMuch of my Dreamtime will look just like here, now.

forest frogsun dappled mossy trees

boys boogie boarding 2seaweed clumpfort 8-15

chair and seagulls 2young seagull drillssingle pelican

When I go about wishing, and I do, pretty often, really, I don’t wish for more or different stuff. I just want things to stay like this. If, as they say, the Dreamtime is what’s real, and the rest is a dream, then this won’t be too good to last. It’ll last.

Posted in Beach Access, Tides-A-Com'n | 4 Comments


I’ve gone to the beach on my birthday every year since 1994. Falling into the ocean is no reason to go breaking traditions. Although everything is changed, some things remain the same.

Beach barefoot b-day vert

There are the lumpy, shapely islands forming that I call the Turtles, the hallmark of summer.

June turtlesturtle patternbeach toesAnd my property’s still not totally gone. I mean, I have, what, six or seven trees left?

last of 3rd estateBut Blue Pacific Drive is certainly a shadow of its former self.

Blue Pacific Drive, 5-15

Now the neighbors on the other side of the street are waterfront, getting looted and trashed. This is the case with the property across from mine, where every blue moon they’d show up with an RV so immense that my friend Steve once shouted, “Riverdance is here!”

I have referred to them as Riverdance ever since. Poor Riverdance.

Riverdance debris 2

Riverdance debrisAt the end of the street, or what’s left of it, my neighbor Bruno’s place, so secluded in the woods it became popular with squatters, then tweakers, is now exposed.

Bruno's from afarBruno's close upBruno's broken window

They were rarely there. I couldn’t figure out why, a big 2-story house and all. Upon closer inspection, it was incredibly rugged, with a breakneck ladder to the second floor and no discernible toilet. Now it is a stew of curious binders and letters in German, with million-dollar views.

Bruno's censusBruno's German letter

Bruno's view 1

Bruno's view 3While there’s a part of me that’s still curious, there’s definitely the memory of recently being the one whose stuff was on display for the world to loot. And it’s heartbreaking to see, over and over, the demise of  places that were cute, that were loved. It’s personal.

flat house and debris

Like the Myles’s trailer.

Myles, fallen


Or this place.

Trailer on edge

curtain and shell wallpaperTire swing 2fallen husky art

Or this place, which makes me think of some Wild West movie set. Cowboys and villains should be  entering and exiting through the pink door to the saloon that I imagine was there.

wild west house 2 wild west set

Or my own sweet Vagabond, now moved up the street and rusted shut. At first glance it looked fine. Anyone can see there’s nothing to take in there. It’s empty, a sacred burial ground.

Vagabond, 5-15But no, someone smashed the window, for no good reason but the sound of it, I suppose.

Vagabond, broken 1

Vagabond, broken 3

Honestly, it was more than I could bear. I sat in my car and cried. Sometimes nice memories aren’t enough. Marcy asked me why I continue to visit my old place. I have no good answer. It never gets any better. It’s time to stop, for real.

For my birthday, I set out to create new, better memories of a different beach.

b-day selfie

I’ve told you already about the path through the enchanted forest, but it never stops being remarkable.

lily pad forestmoss forestmossy tree view 2mossy tree viewAnd then there are my excellent companions, the White Sock Wearers.

Guys with white socks Todd, crab potHugo yawning at Knutsen's

Birthday dinner.

Birthday dinner.

cakeAs always, the big lesson of Washaway is to savor precious, fleeting moments in  uncertain times.

My friend Susie asked if I’m “fracking” this story now, strip-mining it after all the essential nutrients are gone. Maybe. But if stories happen to those who tell them, I guess I’ll just keep talking.


Posted in Beach Access | 7 Comments


“I did my time in that rodeo. Been so long, and I’ve got nothing to show. Don’t you know, I’m plain loco. Fool that I am, I’d do it all over again.”

-Little Feat, “Mercenary Territory”.

last of 3rd estate

cookhouse april 2014

My friend Tony from Virginia is always good about reminding me about Little Feat, especially “Waiting For Columbus”, one of our high school soundtracks. People out West do not know their Little Feat. One could Bogart their joints and they’d never even notice.

Pictures are nice, but I can conjure up my place myself, surely as a phantom limb.

vagabond sedumsvagabond dusk jan 2014vagabond interior april 2014Vagabond and foxglove verthorse and mannequins april 2014

The Siesta, April 2014. Les sold it for $100 to someone in Westport.

The Siesta, April 2014. Les sold it for $100 to someone in Westport.

Well, as I told the TV people, we’re guests, always were. Did you get to watch it? The link was sent late in the game, then removed quickly, which I thought was unsportsmanlike, what with all my efforts. As an artist friend pointed out, one hand washes the other. At any rate, enjoy some bad bootleg sound:

Now there is almost nothing. You could try to pitch a tent on the Third Estate, except someone dumped a broken windshield there. The twin trees of my driveway, always the first thing I’d see upon arriving, are now the last recognizable thing remaining I see here.

driveway fallen twin trees 3A

Well, that and the Vagabond, moved up the street. There wasn’t much left to steal in there, but someone cut the lock and took the crappy curtains I got from the Clothing-By-The-Pound Goodwill, estimated value, 30 cents. Now it is rusted shut, lockless. A stone has been rolled in front of the tomb. Please, please leave me alone now. Except for the ocean, who never listens to me.

vag 2-27

At least the terrible dreams have mostly stopped. Tsunamis, the ocean swallowing everything. And I’m forced to evacuate and Hugo is still in the Vagabond and I’m in some shelter in a high school and they won’t let me go get him. Or, I’m just endlessly trying to move broken, rusted trailers that won’t move, away from the ocean, away from here, somewhere else. It has been so exhausting, let me tell you.

blue pacific ruin

rusty vag

I asked my former neighbor Resha how she was faring. She said her husband, Stanley, was having terrible PTSD dreams too.

“It may be that these dreams are things to be looked at, loved, and let go,” Resha noted. “Hero’s work, really.”

phone sunset 2012You might think that there would be some substantial remains, what with all the masonry and concrete, the outhouse’s stained glass of wine bottles, the brick and concrete fire pit.

outhouse stained glass

outhouse april 2014I just don’t understand. The Palace of Lost Soles, along with the outhouse, the Palace of Crossed Swords, were the first to fall in, that week of December 8. Yet what endures, under the strange laws of flotsam, are flip flops. They are definitely mine. They have nail holes in them. I picked up a choice striped one, salvaging my own stuff, for what, I don’t know.

lost soles and fiddlehead ferns

blue lost sole

pink lost sole

I got a comment on my blog from a woman that everyone tells me was fabulous, named Karen Ferry. “With tears in my eyes after reading your newest post I just want to wish you well. You and Resha have documented the Washaway losses so amazingly, the sad, the happy, the angry, the pictures we (not Washawayers) would not have known otherwise, for that I am ever grateful to you both. I am sorry for your loss but am glad to know that you have wonderful friends who care and a safe return. If you need anything I’m not much help physically, but we always have extra “stuff” (and plenty of plants to replace the one stolen.) It’s going to be a lovely sunrise this morning and hope it, and our best wishes, will help, a little, with your loss.”

I’m ashamed to say that I never replied. I guess I was “busy”. Then, later, I read in the South Beach Bulletin that she recently died of cancer. A stranger, dying of cancer, asked if she could help me, and I couldn’t manage to say thank you before it was too late. I am not proud of myself.

She wrote her own obituary, very sassy. May this smart, funny and generous stranger rest in peace. Now it’s me with tears in my eyes.

Nomads_0008She had a good point, of course, about my having wonderful friends who care. It is fantastic and restorative to stay in my Airstream at Marcy and Bob’s. Here, in a mere 24 feet, is the last of my stuff and all I need, palacial as the Taj Mahal.

april airstream 2april airstream 3And then, there are amazing strangers. On January 13, I received one of the best emails ever.

“I have enjoyed reading every one of your stories and love your photos of Washaway Beach. My family and I bought a cabin there about 6 years ago. We only visit about 8 or 10 times a year. I just hate for it to sit all alone when people could be enjoying it. If you might be interested in keeping the old girl company on some of her lonely weeks, let me know. This isn’t a sales pitch. From reading your blog I know how much you love Washaway, and we would love for you to observe and report from a little bit safer vantage point.”

As my friend Karl likes to say (full volume): “WELL, THAT IS A VERY GOOD OFFER!”

rainbow on 105

hugo repose knut

This not only lifted flagging sprits, but validated the very essence of my being. Strangers, reading my work, felt like they could tell what kind of person I am, and trusted me.

welcome to the beachIt was with great excitement that Hugo and I went to check it out. We were not disappointed. In fact, we kept wandering among the three bedrooms in amazement, like Goldilocks. It features luxuries previously not experienced at the beach, like running water (!!!!!!) and deluxe features unavailable at my home in Seattle, like laundry. In short, we are now living large.

hugo clothesline

NomadsWe had only been there a few hours when the sunshine turned into a dramatic hailstorm. Its percussive music on their metal roof reminded me of many a storm in the Vagabond, and the feeling of privacy, safety and openness on the land, looking at big, beautiful trees, watching the weather, is something, I realize, I mourn and miss terribly. Please listen:


One of my boyfriend’s names for me is Wood Nymph. I grew up in Virginia in a time before XBox and kept myself amused with heady doses of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and time spent in the forest, imagining fairies and trolls and witches. Still do.

In the back yard of this cabin is the origin of the aforementioned magical path, marked with the red Hansel-and-Gretel arrows, that I used to be able to enter from Ray’s yard, when Ray’s was still there. Up here there are elaborate bridges built over the black lagoons and handrails built from mossy logs. This is the natural habitat of the Wood Nymph, the sylvan path.

path bridge 1

path bridge 2So I should stop feeling sorry for myself. You should hear the songs of these frogs in the swamps in the springtime, and smell these trees that I still get to smell. I get to have new experiences, the new hope of spring promises. It’s only when the path heads by where Ray’s was, and where the tweakers have now occupied the home of my rarely-seen neighbor Bruno, that the smell changes to the burnt-plastic of crystal meth, and I remember how everything went down.

Where Ray's was.

Where Ray’s was.

But I tried to smudge it away with the first fire of spring.

first fire

In other good news, I got to stay in the beautiful cottage of a friend in Westport with my favorite pals. I have never spent much time in Westport. Napping ensued.

Napsters 2cute feetWestport has nice, clean beaches with beautiful houses and condos that are not going to fall into the ocean. There are dunes, like Washaway used to have up until 2010.

westport 2westport 3westport 4The beaches have pristine sand dollars and tumbled pebbles and no broken houses or piles of garbage or mean unattended dogs or tweakers. I realized that my carrying pepper spray in Westport was downright silly. If I wrote a blog about Westport, you would be bored. So I guess I can only semi-retire from doom.

hand sand dollarsand dollar 2

westport 1pretty pebbles

boots and tumbled gravelI should know by now that grief is sneaky, and to provide access for its uncomfortable, terrible feelings. Is losing a place the same as anything else that you’ve loved? I say yes. A tricky stew has ensued of anger, fear and sorrow. I don’t know how you prepare for loss, and here I always knew it would happen. I always knew to savor it.

Fool that I am, I’d do it all over again. Upward and onward, as my Mom used to say.

dancing trees w- moss

Posted in Beach Access | 6 Comments


AlJazeera crew2Nice people from Al Jazeera America came to visit me at the ruins of my property last weekend. Check it out.

I have some other stories to tell you, but they’ll have to wait. Stay tuned!


Posted in News | 4 Comments


It’s my hurricane party and I’ll cry if I want to, and take all the pictures I want.

my watchersThe End! I know, right? Yet my place hung in there, on the edge, for a long, long time. I appreciated the clamor for updates, but I simply could not deal. I needed a break from doom.

my power pole

Pacific County Treasurer sent me a property tax bill. My three lots that cost $15,000 twelve years ago, were now valued at $17.90. Guess they didn’t get the memo.

“Tell them to get in touch with King Neptune,” my Dad suggested. “He’s the new owner.”

-my sunset doom

And that business of people throwing my cabinets over the bank, and kicking a hole in the wall of the cookhouse? Well, I did not like that business one bit. This is one of the things I really hate about Washaway, the compulsion to beat the ocean by destroying things first. Indeed, I was  certain that if /when people decided to break in and trash the Vagabond, I would not be able to bear the sight of it, that I would have what was back in the day called a “nervous breakdown.” So I stayed away for three weeks, preferring to remember the good times.

fire pit

celestial Hugo

MLK day by Jenna Steffenson

Vagabond signvagabond w:pink jacketvagabond window

pink curtainsvagabond, springvagabond, duskFinally I had Marcy check. She said the padlock was still on it. So I decided to go see my place.

People had set up a scenic viewing station on the cliff with my grey plastic chair and a stuffed armchair that was not mine.

viewing station 3

 beach chairs viewIn the cookhouse, nearly everything that was mine was gone now, and people had brought in the rest of the crappy, burnt-sienna upholstered living room set. Also a couple bags of garbage. It may have been tweakers, but it kind of seemed like the work of teenagers.

cookhouse as living room At any rate, people were still enjoying the cookhouse. Maybe there had been some Peer Review, for no more destruction had occurred. I liked to think of them, whoever they were, catching whatever buzz, and checking out the wallpaper project made from years of beach firework wrappers, literally years and years of work, and being like, “Whoa. Dude.”

black cat wolf pack

A document, really.

A document, really.

I let myself into the locked Vagabond. By this point, it was so rusty that opening the door was difficult. I did a last pass, going through the cabinets. I’d open cabinet doors and they wouldn’t close again. It seemed that the Vagabond waited to see me one last time.

In the drawers I found some irreplaceable treasures: mixed tapes from my friend Chuck from 1994, Christmas lights shaped like fish, and a clay coin my dearly departed friend Regnor made for New Years of 2008, depicting the head of his dog Mingus, wearing a hat, over whom is floating what appears to be either a very small baguette or a joint. Now that the Captain  has crossed the River Styx, reunited with Mingus, all we can do is speculate.

While I was in the Vagabond, I looked at the gorgeous, golden wood door to what was once its bathroom, if there was water, with its beveled glass mirror. I realized this was something I could actually take with me, a piece of the Vagabond. So I took the door off with a screwdriver and loaded it in my car. It really helped that it was not raining and no one was around. I was on a covert mission, ripping myself off. The Vagabond’s outside metal door was very, very  difficult to close behind me, like this was the end. I put its lock back on, mindfully, with love and a prayer.

Meanwhile, life goes on in my “new” pad, the Airstream trailer that I moved to Marcy and Bob’s place two years ago. They built a pathway for me out of broken Washaway road.

airstream patio

I always stayed in the Vagabond, the Airstream was the fancy guest cottage. Now Hugo and I get to enjoy its finery, like guests.

-Hugo airstream 1-30-15

airstream and mannequin 2airstream interior 2

The whole beach experience is different now, approaching from Warrenton Cannery road. This is where cars can get on the beach, so it’s much busier. Also, there’s no doom up here. I’m pretty tired of doom. Get this: I walked down to the beach at sunset and let the ocean make me feel better.

Warrenton Cannery Road

Warrenton Cannery Road

sunset 1-16-15

The next week I got a call from the power company, Gray’s Harbor PUD, on a Sunday, the linemen letting me know that what remained of my estate was facing imminent, impending doom, and was everything all squared away with my account? Now, that’s customer service. Even then, despite gale force winds, I stuck around for a few more days.

On January 24th at 12:40 pm, Marcy and Bob happened to walk by and the cookhouse looked like this (photos by Marcy Merrill):

Photo © Marcy Merrill

Photo © Marcy Merrill

Then about fifteen minutes later, on the way back, they came upon this:

Photo © Marcy Merrill

Photo © Marcy Merrill

Let me get this straight. So instead of “succumbing to Mother Nature’s fury,” slipping off the cliff into a roiling, churning sea, the cracking and splintering of the cookhouse all but muffled by the angry ocean’s roar, I fell flat on my face on the beach, at low tide,  in broad daylight?

I once saw a really drunk lady do this. She was walking on the beach, we exchanged a few words about her Golden Retriever, then FLOP! She didn’t even try to break her fall. My friend Kelsey and I helped her to her feet. Her face was all encrusted with sand. I had a crazy impulse to clean off her face, like a stylist, but I didn’t, as she seemed crazy.

“I’m just really tired,” Drunk Beach Lady said. But she made an impression on Kelsey, who months later was inspired:

“Beach Face-Plant Lady = Halloween Costume Idea!”

I figured I’d better go get a picture of my sideways demise. As I turned the corner onto Blue Pacific Drive, the first thing I noticed was that THE VAGABOND HAD BEEN MOVED UP THE STREET.

Vagabond moved 1-30-15

blue pacific drive 1-30

Well, that would have to be Les, who loves the Vagabond and also fancies that it is wildly valuable, like $30,000. And perhaps it is, though it pretty much needs to be poached in Ospho, the rust-reducer of the Bering Sea, at this point. Moving it must have been quite an ordeal, what with the two rusted, broken trailer hitches lying along its path. I am now thinking the only way it could’ve even be possible was he must’ve subcontracted the services of a well-known Tweaker with a backhoe.

doomed trailer hitch #2

Now the Vagabond had been relocated to Stanley and Resha’s other property, which houses several derelict trailers already. Did they bequeath the property to Les, or was it Manifest Destiny? Some questions are better unasked. But this is not the longest-term solution. Its new home abuts the Myles, so the Vagabond is once again Next To Next.

Myles-next to next

But it made my heart sing, to see the Vagabond living another day with its trailer brothers instead of lying sideways on the beach like a dead cockroach, or like the dead cookhouse, for that matter. Naturally I wanted to hear the story. It occurred to me that the perfect trumpet serenade to summon Les now would be Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”:

Trailers for sale or rent.

yep, that's me

Rooms to let: fifty cents.

cookhouse sideways wide

No phone, no pool, no pets.

cookhouse floor 2

I ain’t got no cigarettes.

Black cat sideways 2

Ah, but two hours of pushin’ broom buys an eight-by-twelve four-bit room.

cookhouse sideways sunset

I’m a man of means by no means.

-cookhouse sunset sideways

King of the Road.

e selfie sideways cookhouse

Third boxcar, midnight train

Ray's place. My problems are far from unique.

Ray’s place. My problems are far from unique.

Destination: Bangor, Maine.



Old worn out suit and shoes

Like the smartest of the Three Little Pigs, someone at Belly-Acres was crazy for masonry.

Like the smartest of the Three Little Pigs, someone at Belly-Acres was crazy for masonry.

I don’t pay no Union dues.

doom 3-dutch cuteness

I smoke old stogies I have found.

doom 4

Short, but not too big around.

doom 5

I’m a man of means by no means.


King of the Road.

Someone put a stuffed animal in one of my last trees.

Someone put a stuffed animal in one of my last trees.

Soon it will be impossible to find, but for now there is still an enchanted path through the elfin-grove fairy forest behind where Ray’s place was, marked with Hansel-and-Gretel-style red arrows.

path arrow enchanted 2

path arrow enchanted

Where there are not arrows, I marked with the Sign of the Sneaker.

path sneakerI went over to Les’s to get the scoop. Katie came out barking after just a couple bars of “King of the Road,” sparing me from trying to hit those “man of means” high notes. For the first time in eight years, Les invited me onto his property, a museum of rust with a million-dollar view.

Les and estateLes's sunsetLes and Katie sunset waterfrontkatie ear and Les footAt one point Katie scrambled off the bank and couldn’t waddle back up, so Les had to perform a daring rescue.

Les Katie rescue

“You saved the Vagabond,” I said. “HOW DID YOU DO IT?” Les demurred, saying only that it was very difficult, and that the Gray’s Harbor PUD electrical linemen were duly impressed. But there were politics.

Les sciatica pose

“Leah stole the Vagabond mirror, that tweaker,” Les fumed.

“I took it,” I confessed, defending Tweaker Leah for no good reason.

Les said he had some of my stuff, and mentioned a green stained glass candleholder that hangs from a chain. I knew the one, I got it at Goodwill. I always liked it, and I said so. Les said something about stuff was hanging on it. I said I wanted it, and that is how I got invited inside Les’s trailer.

I had a little flash of Is This A Good Idea? Going into the lair of Les Strange and all. But then I was embarrassed for thinking that way, and curious, too.

Inside, I was amazed to see that I was Les Strange’s interior designer. I knew he’d helped himself to my stuff, but, come to find out, I had given him his whole new sense of style. My cute but uncomfortable rattan couch, really only good for putting your backpack on, was his couch. My Ikea rugs were on his floor. He had a cozy fire blazing in my Trolla wood stove. And, hanging over the dining table, like a grand chandelier for a guy without electricity, if not without power, was my square green glass candleholder, with various Les bling hanging off its four corners: a tiny noose, a metal fish, a little skull, some feathers.

“Ah, never mind, you keep that,” I said.

Les wanted me to carve my name into his table. When I suggested that would take too long, he had me write it in Sharpie marker for him to carve later.

I told Les that, other than the epic theft and destruction by Mother Nature’s Fury of the only property I’ve ever owned, and missing my hideaway, and the feeling of both privacy and openness, and my trees, really missing my beautiful trees, I was reasonably pleased with how most everything had turned out: the rescue of the Vagabond, and him enjoying all my cast-offs and such. And there’s a pleasure in downsizing the belongings. In fact, the worst part of falling into the ocean, for me, was that people went and ripped me off before I was ready to free everything. just the bad juju of that.

Crow trees, harvested

Crow trees, harvested

Les shrugged and said he’d been ripped off so many times that he was basically used to it. “I take everything with me that I can’t replace,” Les told me. “That’s Katie and my word. The rest is junk. They make more of it every day.”

Posted in Tides-A-Com'n | 8 Comments

WillShe B. Next

Me doomedDo not go acting a fool right now, for I am in the angry phase of grief.

In addition to other events, which we will cover shortly, my friend Regnor, one of the most inspiring and disciplined artists I’ve ever met, died of cancer.

Regnor in studio 2-2-2He was born in Norway, above the Arctic Circle, and spent his life on fishing boats. His father was lost at sea. He told me he liked being on the water so he could spend time with  his Dad. Whether he was throwing a pot, or sailing the 1930’s teak sailboat from Burma that he gorgeously restored (with its little mother-of-pearl inlays depicting the elephants moving its logs), he had a way of making mastery look not just effortless, but playful.

Regnor portrait-2-2The ocean was his muse, and he was tireless, creating series of works featuring boats, fish, lighthouses. His enthusiasm for working in clay was infectious. I spent many fine evenings (he was definitely a night person) in his studio, hanging out with Regnor and his excellent Australian Shepherd, Mingus, playing with clay, drinking beer and listening to jazz. He loved to entertain, and threw huge bashes for every Summer and Winter Solstice.

Regnor in studio-2

"Galactic Sea" by Regnor Reinholdtsen

“Galactic Sea” by Regnor Reinholdtsen

He told me he wanted to write a cookbook about his experiences fishing in Alaska.

The title would be “You Can’t Fuck It Up If It’s Fresh.

Regnor phone-2I’m not a big fan of the New Age woo-woo, but I recently read a good essay by Ram Dass about grief. “The older we get, the more we lose; this is the law of impermanence.”

He suggests that, rather than suppressing grief, to “open to it as fully as possible and allow our hearts to break,” noting that “it helps to realize that we only grieve for what we love.”

So I’ve been employing some of his techniques. Only problem is that a broken heart will make you lose your mind.

Siesta and ladder

Meanwhile, at Washaway, three powerful storms came ripping through the week of December 8. Marcy called me at work throughout the day on Tuesday, the first of the storms, to report updates: Les Strange was dismantling the metal roof over my Vagabond trailer in preparation to move it. Likely for financial incentives, Les was busting ass for me in a crazy storm while his own place was washing away. And then the Vagabond’s rusty trailer hitch broke off, and then it was jacked up and put on another trailer hitch, but that one broke too, right at the end of my driveway, which is where the mighty Vagabond came to rest, and where it was now tarped.

“Miss Marcy, I’m doing my very best for Miss Erika,” Les told Marcy.

(The next 3 photos are by the great Marcy Merrill).Les move 2Les moving Vagabond

Les move 3

vag hitches

Marcy put Les on the phone. He told me my vision of moving the Vagabond to the Third  Estate (the Second being a swamp between my lots) was impractical now, as that lot was eroding at the same rate as the First. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Last week, the Third lot was still deep in the woods, with no view.

Tarped Vagabond.

Tarped Vagabond.

“You’ll see when you get here, Miss Erika,” Les said. “This is heinous.”

vagabond shadow

There was nothing to do but keep going to work, while seeing all the horrible pictures and video of my neighbors’ places on the news, TV and Facebook. I was crippled by dread, yet there was not a thing I could do to change the outcome.

Then Regnor died. Vise grips closed around my heart, making it difficult to breathe.

“This is definitely the end of a good time,” Stanley told the TV news.



When I got to the beach on Friday I was the last one standing, Willy B. Last, with all the full-time residents gone. There went the neighborhood. Stanley and Resha’s place was gone,

Where Stanley and Resha's was.

Where Stanley and Resha’s was.

In God We Trust was gone,

In Log We Trusted

In Log We Trusted

and Ray and his girlfriend Arlysa had evacuated, having become a peninsula, their driveway inaccessible, their roof blown off.

Ray's peninsula.

Ray’s peninsula.

It was impossible to fathom. Last week Ray and Arlysa were ACROSS THE STREET from doom. Yet it came from two directions: the street, and the path to the beach, now gone.

Ray's view

Ray’s view

My next door neighbors’ place, The Doyle’s, was sideways. It was very, very spooky.

The Doyle's place.

The Doyle’s place.

The Doyle's clothesline.

The Doyle’s clothesline.

Doyle sideways2

It was lucky that my boyfriend Todd was with me. He is an upright bass player in high demand. Do you know what kind of music needs a good bass player? Every kind. It was a miracle he had this particular weekend off during Christmas-Nutcracker time. Without his help, I would not have survived this ordeal.

*Doyle's doomed w-chairs

Todd on benches2Todd waterfront2Todd, Hugo in sunny cookhouse2

bench w- crow treesI had lost about 50 feet, or half the property, in a week. The glass is half full! Let the festivities begin!


But there were challenges. The outhouse was gone, yet its presence was still required, like a phantom limb. Also, my power had been turned off, the meter vanished, the wire gone. I called Gray’s Harbor PUD. “This is unacceptable,” I said. “I am still here.”

Gray's Harbor PUD.

Gray’s Harbor PUD.

Two guys came out right away with a cherry-picker truck and were very helpful and apologetic. “Sorry for the inconvenience, we thought we were doing the right thing.”

But one of the guys seemed concerned. “Are you guys staying here tonight?” he asked. “Have you got a gun?”

life preserver

That seemed a curious question. “No,” I said. “Why?”

“There’s tweakers everywhere, coming out of the woodwork, stealing stuff left and right. We scared ’em off last night when we came by to turn off your power, but they’ll be back.”

Todd and cookhouse

Tweakers are, of course, the wild-eyed, scab-faced devotees of Crystal Meth, best known for theft. So I figured the guy was trying to scare us, to get out of having to turn the power back on, but soon I began to see he was telling the truth. Two skinny, sketchy characters came stumbling through my yard, carrying a big piece of metal pipe.

“Hey, this is private property. No trespassing,” I said. Blank looks.

“You can’t come through here.” I insisted.

They shrugged, mildly inconvenienced. But how much policing can one do, not being there all the time, with all the permanent residents gone, who used to keep an eye on things?

Why, look. In fact, I was already getting ripped off! Firewood: gone. Rain barrels: gone. The cute little birdhouse in the shape of a trailer that my friend Sue got me, that I meant to snag last week? Gone. There used to be protocol, that you don’t take stuff until a place is either undercut or on the beach, but now no one is here to enforce the proper decorum.

zombie w- vagabond 2

In a week’s time, my paradise had transformed into the zombie apocalypse.

Blue Pacific Drive, 12/19/14

Blue Pacific Drive, 12/19/14

Blue Pacific Drive, 12/26/14

Blue Pacific Drive, 12/26/14

In a plot twist the author was not expecting, the villain of this story, the eroder of the good time, turned out to be not Mother Nature’s Fury, but people.

Les Strange stopped by to collect his fee. I paid him in full, even though things didn’t go quite as well as planned. Les told an elaborately embroidered tale of the spiders he encountered under the Vagabond in the line of duty: big as a quarter, big as a golf ball. Les does not love the arachnids.Todd, Les, Katie

Les pontificating 2AThen Stanley and Resha swung by to observe the last of their place, unrecognizable concrete rubble.

Where Stanley and Resha's was.

Where Stanley and Resha’s was.

But Resha did find a magnet from her fridge that said “Wonder is the seed of knowledge.” They stopped by my place to watch the sunset.

Stanley and Resha, 12/12/14.

Stanley and Resha, 12/12/14.

my view 1

my view 3*“You have one more storm,” Resha told me, measuring time.

Resha watching

It was not the most restful, that last night in the Vagabond, listening to the tweakers’ rattle-trap trucks roar up and down my lonely street in the darkness, all night long.

vagabond smear

No one can steal from me now. I’m giving it all away. First, we loaded up Todd’s Honda Element with the irreplaceable treasures that could reasonably fit in my modest storage unit in Seattle, also known as my dead Honda Accord: the wood-burning stove from the cookhouse, the table at which we dined, now disassembled, the record player. There were tough choices to make. I limited myself to only ten records, three of them Duke Ellington. This will be an interesting experiment: do tweakers like jazz?

Cookhouse stove.

Cookhouse stove.

Then we moved key items, such as the Vagabond’s bedding and the cookhouse’s beautiful propane oven over to my Airstream at Marcy and Bob’s, over in the Less Doomed part of Washaway Beach.

I had Les move my Airstream over there two years ago, where it’s been a guest cottage for Marcy and Bob, while staying secure for me. This, it turns out, is the only happy ending: I can still come here, and have a beautiful and safe place to stay.

airstream and mannequin

In their back yard, the Airstream was waiting, nestled among various junk from my old place: the mannequin, the ROAD CLOSED and UNSTABLE SAND signs, all priceless treasures now. Inside the Airstream, Marcy and Bob had set up a welcome gift basket with a bottle of Cuervo Gold, limes, two glasses and some pink Himalayan sea salt. Tears sprang to my eyes.

unstable sand

My remaining best possessions would be pro-actively given preemptively to the right people. I gave Marcy and Bob keys and told them to help themselves to the cookhouse’s beautiful windows and full glass Craftsman door. Without a door, the place would then be literally wide open, for the vultures to swoop upon.

fall cookhouse

cookhouse windows

Marcy and Bob

Marcy and Bob

Which came to pass, of course. People who I’ve only met once were quick to snatch up my stuff while being amazingly tactless. “Went to your shop on the beach haha,” Freddy, the hat-knitting “photographer” messaged me.

vagabond lights_0000

Vagabond lights

Vagabond lights

I allowed for the possibility that my property would be gone the next week. On the way out of town, I stopped by Les’s place to say thanks again. I summoned him with a trumpet serenade of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” that had a bad case of the blues.

*Hugo waterfront

“You didn’t save the world, but you sure as hell tried, and that’s all that matters,” I told Les. He gave me a hug. Then I gave him the keys to the Vagabond and told him to help himself to its beautiful “Trolla” wood stove, all the $60-a-foot metalbestos stovepipe in there and the cookhouse, and anything else he might fancy or turn into money. On purpose, I left behind an ugly but warm men’s down jacket and the quilted red lumberjack vest I wore for my appearance on “Evening Magazine.”

Let’s review: in order to outwit thieves and reward loyalty, I gave some of my choicest, most valuable and expensive possessions to someone who’s always done right by me, who bent over backwards for me in my time of need while his own place was falling into the ocean: Les Strange, the guy who everyone always likes to call a thief.

Les portrait 12-12-14

A week later, I came down alone, and stopped by my place first before going to Marcy’s. The cookhouse, without windows, door, or stovepipe, with a hole in the roof and a week of rain, was a ruin. Yet my toaster and records were still there, as were the fridge and cabinets. I always liked that little toaster, so I snagged it. I made a plan to come back the next day for the records and to dig up a plant I wanted. But it was not to be.

door, windows gone

The next day, 20 more feet had fallen in, so the plant was gone, as was the magnificent alder tree the crows used to sit in, sweetly and quietly, waiting to be fed (any hollering resulting in denial/removal of their favorite treat, old, cold french fries). My friend Lamar had suggested to me that, since I always knew this would happen, wouldn’t it be actually really important to watch my place fall into the ocean? Yet I could clearly see the crow tree and the firewood shed in the surf, and it was not cool. Also, someone had taken all the records overnight.

crow trees, firewood in surfI ran off all my Watchers, including Freddy, for I was in no mood to be a spectacle, or suffer fools.

E on cliff w-cookhouseI am grateful for the help of a sympathetic and kind man who loaned me a screwdriver to help get my power strip off the cookhouse wall. At the end of the street, Ray’s place was falling into the ocean and the tweakers were openly looting, staggering under the weight of his cast-iron sink.

As the cover of a tide book from the Minit Market put it a few years ago, “It’s Not the End of the World, But You Can See It From Here.”

Ray's doomed with Rhody

Suggested talking points for visiting a place falling into the ocean:

1. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

watcher w- golden

2. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

willywatchers 3 dogs 2

3. “Is it OK to come on your property?”

Blue Pacific watchers

I left for a little while, then came back. Now there was a guy parked on my property, and I told him “No Trespassing.”

As he put his car in reverse, he remarked, “this place’ll be gone tomorrow anyway.”

windows w-firewood shed

“Fuck you!” I screamed. There are problems with allowing the heart to break.

end of a good time

It was definitely the end of a good time. I’d say that this is the fundamental problem with what Hunter S. Thompson called “Gonzo” journalism, where you’re an active participant in the story, instead of doing a fly-on-the-wall, drive-by, objective-journalist thing.

Like getting stomped by the Hell’s Angel’s, when the story starts to suck, it really, really sucks. It’s personal.

cookhouse side 12-20-14 2

To make matters worse, I really wanted that jerk to be right, for the last of my place to “succumb to Mother Nature’s Fury” the next day, on a King Tide during the Winter Solstice. Wouldn’t that have been a nice Regnor-esque ending? But the talent would not cooperate. I’m still here, two weeks later, what’s left of me, the ruin of the cookhouse and the tarped Vagabond that has ceased to roam, just hanging on like a loose tooth.

cookhouse side 12-26 wide

The tweakers are getting bored. Now that everything of interest has been looted, including the fridge and the kitchen sink, they have too much leisure time. They threw my cabinets and microwave over the bank and kicked a hole in a cookhouse wall. If they had asked me, I would have illuminated to them the fact that the solid brass drawer pulls on the small white cabinet are useful for opening beers. I salvaged a cute little drawer off the beach. I really must stop stopping by this place, it is hurting my feelings.

crow trees smear 2

One good thing about grief is that it’s better than dread. I know what’s going to happen. It’s happening.

Marcy E  doom picI never thought I’d say this, but I’m ready now.

Let’s have that storm.

Posted in Tides-A-Com'n, Watchers | 11 Comments


The Farmer’s Almanac called this last full moon the “Cold Moon, when winter fastens its grip,” and noted that the Cheyenne Indians called it “Moon when the wolves run together.” I need to write those wolves a thank-you note. What a blessing for a mild week.

grand estate at dusk 12-5-2The previous week I had met with local legend Les Strange. A name like that, people want to either make jokes about More Strange, or call you an outlaw. But the facts remain that Les has always done right by me, and has already successfully moved two of my trailers, masterfully, and our hopes are high for the Vagabond.

Palace of Crossed Swords and Vagabond

Palace of Crossed Swords and Vagabond

The first trailer he moved was the Aljo, a big, bad trailer from the 70’s with teeming wet carpet and black mold. Both floor and ceiling were collapsing, its shell was fragile as the exoskeleton of a locust, yet it was full of choice building materials: cedar siding, a truly massive 10-foot beam, and more.

“Make this go away,” I said to Les, “and you can have everything in it.”

“Yes ma’am,” Les said.

Les silhouette-2Then, in 2012, the last time it seemed that doom was truly at hand, I had Les move my Airstream over to my friend Marcy’s for safekeeping, which was a ninja drive detailed in my post “Interlude” and established Les as the Lord Of Fix-A-Flat.

Les and Katie on edge-2So I needed a consultation with Les, but how to contact a person with no phone, when one is disinclined to knock on the door of a property that says “STOP STAY OUT”? I stood outside his property and played “The Godfather” on the trumpet until his little dog Katie started barking and he emerged.

boat 1-2Les said he’d move the Vagabond, named his price for that, then asked for a retainer. I agreed and gave him all the cash I had, $18.

boat and watchers-2

So, I thought Les was going to start dismantling last week, but everything was the same when I arrived. We had another consultation. “I think you have some time, Miss Erika,” Les said. “It’s all set up like you like it. You still have power. Enjoy it, and I’ll move it when the time comes.”

vagabond side 12-14-2

But Les did think I should prepare. “You need to get some Ospho,” Les said.


“It comes in gallons at the hardware store. It turns iron oxide, which is rust, into iron phosphate, which is paintable. We used it on the boats in the Bering Sea.”

So I went to the True Value and got me some Ospho, and I did my Ospho chore on a beautiful day, then decided to crawl on my belly like a snake and get the inside of the wheels and the axles too, whereupon I did notice that the front trailer hitch featured a disintegrating rust that fell into my hair and compelled me to hit up my friends Marcy and Bob for a shower. Yet my spirits were not dampened. In Les We Trust!

vagabond wheels-2What a beautiful reprieve from preparing for doom. I slept in until 11:30 in the sunshine with a pal, listening to a frog serenade us from my swamp in the unseasonable warmth.

Hugo vertical in vagabond-2Hugo sleeping-2

Vagabond views

Vagabond views

vagabond interiors 2vagabond interiors3Then I decided to take a stroll down the street to see what was up with Stanley and Resha and check out In God We Trust in the 9.9 tide.

S&R watchers 1-2The watchfire was burning at Stanley and Resha’s, and a crowd had gathered.


S&R watchers 3-2S&R watchers 4-2S&R watchers 2-2One thing I noticed right away was that everyone was wearing these Dr.-Seussy hand-knit hats. How did Washaway Style Watch miss this important new trend? Your correspondent is asleep at the switch.

S&R watchers 8-2

S&R watchers 6-2Fortunately, I met Freddy, photographer, birdhouse maker and prolific knitter, who had a car full of these hats, and gave me one, so I could be as cool as the rest of the class.

S&R watchers 7-2

e and hatsI made a joke last week about In Log We Trust. Now it is true.

In log we trust 2-2In log we trust-2In log we trust detail-2In God we trust and ladder-2

In Log We Trust was being salvaged by Tom, of A-Frame fame, and another guy. The house was leaning sideways on the log over the churning sea, yet they were going up on the roof with chain saws to get into the attic.

Tom and chainsaw-2“What in the attic could possibly be worth it?” I said to Resha.

“The ADVENTURE!” Resha said.

cliff salvager-2I took a stroll to the end of our path to the beach with Resha. What was once a fairy-tale trail through the Elfin Grove was now, as Resha pointed out, 30 steps long. But there was no wind. Things were reasonably calm. We were standing by this sideways tree, then we moved further back, while singing a few bars of “I Felt the Earth Move Under My Feet”, and then the tree fell off the bank and left a huge hole where our feet had been.

tree chained to bank-2toppled chained tree-2

S&R beach chairs-2



Resha 2-2Resha 3-2It will make you younger-2



I asked Resha if she was experiencing the anxiety and dread. She said she got her grieving mostly over with two years ago, and was really trying to focus on savoring. She told me that my worrying might actually make things worse for me. “You need to be present and in the moment, so you can make good decisions when the time comes,” she told me.

sod clods-2silvery metal-2Craig’s outhouse was still standing. I decided to help myself to his abandoned multiple gallons of unopened drinking water.

2 outhouses

2 outhouses

Craig water-2A reader named Dianna commented on my last post. “That ‘ragtag compound of trailers, shacks and buildings’ is your sanctuary, that is why you and your various neighbors are there. It was cheap enough so the ‘everyday person’ could afford to buy it and live so close to the ocean. It is magical to be there, and the rush to the sea has long been one of woman-kind’s ways to heal the soul.”

grand estate 12-5-14-2Feeling healed, I headed back to Seattle, feeling like I had some time and that things would be handled when the time came. It did not seem like our Cold Moon wolf luck was about to run out.

Posted in Tides-A-Com'n | 3 Comments