I knew this guy Ned who insisted that the worse you feel, the better you need to look. You’d see him out in the rain in his Nehru suit and you knew not even to ask.

So it’s probably time to stock up on cheap Ross ball gowns. The point is not that the roof is leaking, but that it is leaking DIFFERENTLY, not into the nice new Lowe’s 5-gallon bucket poised by the leak by the stove, but over the very table where I eat and read and write what a hater book reviewer called my “precious thinky thoughts.” (A pox…no, wait, how about a steady stream of dripping brown water, percussive as the Tell-Tale Heart, upon their house.)

It’s raining now, but one mustn’t complain, what with the Indian summer we’ve had (October!), and when the eastern half of Washington state has been on fire. Somebody FedEx this rain to them. The weather was amazing when Taylor came to visit me.

I hadn’t seen Taylor in two years, and she hadn’t been to Washaway in five, since she moved to San Diego. When she showed up, the first thing she told me was that I was “greyer”. This is not necessarily the first thing a gal wants to hear, but is probably some standard greeting in Southern California: “Good morning! Call your colorist.”

I’m going to take Ned’s maxim further and propose that the worse you see your friends looking, the more highly one should praise their fabulous appearance. “You look radiant! Are you in love?” Our thoughts are contagious. It is beneficial for friends to lie to each other.

Festivities ensued. We stopped at Brady’s for king salmon, then the Local Store for provisions. The usually-brusque gal at the store surveyed our groceries with approval: Bloody Mary Mix, Clamato, pickled green beans, lemons and olives.

“I don’t know WHAT you’re making,” she said, “but it looks REALLY good.”

“We are out,” Taylor replied, “and we’re going in.”

The sunshine was radiant. We went for two long beach walks without shoes. “Doom is in a good mood today, so let’s rock!” Taylor decreed.

That evening we fired up the fire pit, my proudest piece of masonry. Taylor asked for an axe. Amazingly, there was a long-handled Paul Bunyan-esque  leftover from my past life that I have never touched.

She began to split logs, a project idea that would never occur to me. Ancient, big ol’ honkin’ summer-dried logs from the woodpile shattered into tidy little triangles. “Use it or lose it!” she shouted.

We grilled salmon on the fire, then kept stoking it with logs  until I could feel the vaporizing heat burning my eyebrows. The moon was out, the weather was warm, and the night was perfect.

“Oh, Erika, this is dire! You’re doomed. Your property is so cool, and I’m never going to see it again. Oh, this is so sad.” She began to run the ball like this, and I unfortunately did not intercept or redirect it. I realized I have been snuggled up in a velvety sleeping bag of denial. Vise grips began to close on my heart.

I purposely try not to go thinking this way, but that night I couldn’t sleep, consumed with dread. I used my friend Todd’s “square breathing” trick: inhale for a count of four. Hold for four. Exhale for four. Hold for four. Do this long enough and it is complicated enough to be distracting.

The good weather continued its sneaky con game. I made arrangements to have my Airstream trailer, the most elegant and possibly most mobile of the gypsy wagons, to Marcy and Bob’s as an act of hope, a plan B for the future.

On the appointed day I had local legend Les Strange come over and move my trailer. While it was once fashionable to dis Les, and it is easy fun to make jokes about More Strange, he has cleaned up his act, has a lovely new girlfriend, and moved the Airstream on its Fix-A-Flatted tire with seasoned, virtuosic mastery. Why go to strangers?

Les Strange

Like all those lucky enough to be here full-time, he sees things that I miss. He was telling me he saw an orange thing in the sky over the beach, appearing at first to be a Coast Guard chopper, but was actually a nimble UFO that resembled a Chinese lantern. If this guy starts blogging he will crush the competition.

That Friday was partly windy and raining, and the weather grew progressively more ominous with each passing day. The weekend Grayland Cranberry festival was held in a full-on monsoon.

Now the howling winds, the sideways rain that feels like spikes on your face, and the high tides are back. The ocean looks like a washing machine, the trees are waving their arms in alarm, and the water is up to the bank. My roof leaks. Can you believe what Taylor started?

I know what to do! I need to start dyeing my hair. That’ll stop the ocean for sure.


About washybeach

Washaway Beach This Week is a blog by photojournalist Erika Langley. See more work at
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3 Responses to Prelude

  1. bob says:

    I have some left over rolled roofing that might help that roof issue.

  2. Your gift for writing about that vanishing portion of shoreline is like the tide; it pulls me back to my place of birth, Grayland. Keep writing. It’s lovely. And stay away from colorists. Gray is real and honest and beautiful.

  3. Gerri Kiffe says:

    I am Les Strange’s sister. I live in Louisiana. Enjoying your blog & also the pics of Leslie. Haven’t seen him in many years due to well………..his behavior. Been even longer since I’ve been the Washaway Beach. I graduated from Raymond HS in 1980. Haven’t been back to WA. since 1982. Still looks as beautiful as always. Looking forward to your blog. Thanks.

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