Treading Water

ImageHey! The bone marrow transplant worked! It was “over 90% successful.” Now my mom has my DNA, my blood. “This could lead to some interesting scenarios,” my Aunt Norma joked.

ImageI like to brag that I kicked cancer’s ass, but this is bigger than me: medicine, magical, miracle. I have this feeling of fragile wonder: fear, superstition, the need to perform the right rituals to keep everything going smoothly.

ImagePlanting things helps. I ripped out my diseased blueberry plant and replaced it with a magnificent Dahlia in full flower that cost thirty dollars. I will not waste my time watering regrets.

What is a garden, but a ritual act of hope? Here at Washaway, all these feelings of fear, frailty, wariness and gratitude make perfect sense. We are guests.

trailer foxgloveA rhododendron (cockroach of the Northwest landscape) I salvaged from a house that fell in the ocean in ’09 is in bloom.

beach rhody

It’s summer. The lumpy sand formations I call the Turtles are back. They feel good on the arches of your bare feet.


more turtlesIt’s crazy how much the sand moves around. The giant pier blocks are almost buried.

disappearing pierblockThe World War II gun turret is disappearing too. Is it half full or half empty?

turret half fullturret almost buried

“So, was it like getting kicked by a mule?” King asked me.

I saw King walking on the beach, of course. He walks from Grayland to the jetty multiple times each day and keeps track of his mileage, which is now in the thousands of miles, or so he says. He asked me to explain what DNA is and I babbled helplessly: “Double helix…unique genetic fingerprint…mapping of the genome.” Pressed, I couldn’t actually explain how anyone figured it out. “Scientists do a lot of thinking,” I said. King let me know that although he is no scientist, he can paint cars.

surf casting

So, yes, donating bone marrow hurt. And pain can make you grumpy, like a whiny baby! The intricacies of this I did not fully understand until now. I did not appreciate my prescription painkillers until I ran out of them. Ultimately I think it was not just stretching but stretching and gardening that worked. And time. About three weeks’ time.

Summer means we dodged a bullet, we did not fall into the ocean, we get another summer. Even sad sights like erosion-toppled dead trees on the beach look beautiful.

summer pinecones


Tree pals

While I was convalescing, a group of amazing people including my friends Resha and Marcy performed a formidable beach cleanup on the pile of teeming garbage left behind by the cat-hoarding-then-abandoning human garbage I call Johnny Cash for his yelling, booming baritone and not because there’s anything cool about him. Three cat skulls were found.

There was a brief snafu where Pacific County stopped their efforts and put up asbestos warning signs, which turned out to be incorrect. Now it is spotless.

asbestos signno garbage, Craig'sThere are some good people in the world. For them I blow my trumpet, rejoicing.


Meanwhile, in other news, one of the most notorious burners of garbage in the name of free speech, let’s call him Burning Man, was walking on the beach with a walking stick. Burning Man proceeded to encounter a Buck-Naked Man half his age and a third his size. Words were exchanged, something like “Put on some clothes,” whereupon Buck-Naked Man seized the walking stick and beat Burning Man with it until the stick broke in three pieces. Buck-Naked Man was arrested shortly thereafter. He was easy to spot.

tire texturesIn a place of such great beauty and destruction, there are, of course, a few peculiar characters. I’ve met the Buck-Naked Man. Loyal readers will recall the story of Ray, the talented 18 year old who built an elaborate dock out of driftwood before it, and his house, fell in the ocean. Buck-Naked Man would follow Ray around, puppy-dog-like, and was both a pest and a testament to Ray’s charisma.

ImageSo the Buck-Naked Man is a troubled lad. Yet when I’m picturing this altercation, I wonder why, if one were thusly confronted and was wearing, say, shoes, why not administer a well-placed kick to Buck-Naked Man’s most conspicuously dangling visually vulnerable appendages? I suppose, as is so often the case, one had to be there, walking a mile in those do-nothing shoes.

Woolly mammoth

Woolly mammoth

The weather is so nice and this place is so beautiful that, here we go again, it’s easy to tell yourself it will last, everything is fine.

house and turfDown the road at the Shoalwater Indian Reservation, all the firework stands are open for business, but, meanwhile, there are all kinds of gravel trucks and heavy equipment shoring up Eagle Hill Road, the Tsunami Evacuation Route. Does the tribe know something?

tsunami route gravelThere used to be some graffiti on a concrete wall by the jetty that said EVERY STEP A PRAYER.


About washybeach

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