Elfin grove

Good ol' Pacific County.

One thing Pacific County is good for is signage. A too-cool artist friend was telling me how he didn’t like the logo I’d designed for my site, of the guy outrunning a tsunami AND about to get whacked on the head with a boulder inside the “No” sign.

Like I could make this up! Pacific County does the Myth of Sisyphus one better. The guy has to roll the rock up the mountain and then it rolls down into the tidal wave at Washaway Beach.

Evergreen tunnel.

My beach access road is much more scenic, with no such signs. It is a walk through a beautiful, moss-covered forest, a winding tunnel of trees. It, too, has been getting hammered by erosion. The end of the path will break your heart every time, lately.

When the painter Claude Monet was going blind from cataracts at the end of his life and couldn’t get around much, he would  make these paintings in his garden in France. He had this rose arbor, a huge arch of bramble, and he’d just paint it over and over and over again and his canvases just kept getting bigger and crazier. He was inventing Abstract Expressionism 40 years before Jackson Pollack made it cool and he couldn’t see enough to know it. I think of Monet, and how he used obsessive arches of slashing color to try to hold onto his sight, as I photograph my arches of trees every week to keep them.

I’m sure Irish is part of the problem, but I think my superstitions and obsessions are a result of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I wish I still had this one book, with beautiful illustrations and stories I haven’t seen anywhere else.

In “The Elfin Grove”, this girl goes for long walks in the woods. One day she comes across a grotto where all the spirits of the forest are; elves and fairies and wood nymphs and centaurs and nature spirits. They say, “We like you. You can come fly with us and we’ll show you things. But you must promise to never, ever speak of it.”

So she promises, and gets to go fly around all the time. Eventually, she meets a boy and thinks it would be fun to take him to the Elfin Grove. Curiously, no one is there when they go. Later, the guy tries to find the place by himself. A storm whips up. The wind howls. He gets stabbed by flying branches. The forest is trying to kill him. He can’t get out of there fast enough.

Next time the girl goes, they tell her, “You have betrayed us. You will never see us again.”

She grows up and marries the boy, and they have a daughter. When the girl gets to be about seven, she starts disappearing for long, unexplained walks in the woods. Her mother knows where she goes, but she can’t ask.

The end of the path used to be a graceful descent into dune grass but is now a 15-foot cliff. There is a ladder now, installed, I suspect, by my intrepidly energetic but hard-partying neighbors, colloquially known as Redneck Nation. So, while the ladder is welcome, it is worth pondering its installation by drunks. The rope banisters were attached to tiny saplings. I spent a few minutes redoing some Redneck knots.

I saw an old woman on the beach once, wearing big rubber boots and a shower cap in a storm. She totally informed my sense of style. I wear big rubber boots year round now so I can go into the water and feel and smell it. I am working my way up to the shower cap.

Washaway corgie

Elsewhere, locals strolled about, making the rounds. Things are looking about the same. The green place that fell in recently has had most of its nice lumber salvaged, but no one cares about this one next to it, with its crappy materials.

Willy B. Next's doorway.

There was a big compound on the water’s edge for years known as Willie Washaway. Across from it, the neighbor’s sign said “Willy B. Next.” Both prophecies came to pass. Willy B. Next just has part of a shed left. There was a piece of metal roofing on it that kept smacking percussively in the wind, and I shot video of it but my Nikon software didn’t like it, so you’ll just have to imagine. Insert clanging steel roofing drumbeat here.


The Tyvek house where the guy shot himself is still standing.

The poor Rhody house has been pretty well picked over.

Might be time for mail forwarding.

Found: four of hearts, six of clubs. I don’t know about playing blackjack here. The dealer is a shark.




About washybeach

Washaway Beach This Week is a blog by photojournalist Erika Langley. See more work at www.erikalangley.com.
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