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


About washybeach

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

  1. Joel says:

    thank you for posting these updates – been trying to drive down along the beach but the tides have been too far in. Erica – I hope you remain a non oceanfront home for some time – Joel

  2. Sharman Ballantine says:

    Do you have electricity? Thank you for sharing photos and thoughts about this corner of our State. Have watched it wash away since I was a child.

  3. I have watched these happenings via the beach (raptor surveys) since March of 1999, and I know and appreciate all you say in this post. I live in Ocean Shores, about three blocks from the beach, where (for the time being) the sand is actually accumulating…some of it probably from your beach! But with the rising temps comes a rising ocean, and though I will not live to see it, I am sure this peninsula will one day be gone.

    So I too take each day as a treat to appreciate…the smells of the wet brush and forest trees, the sweet smell of the ocean, the sounds of the ocean waves…like a waterfall roaring off in the distance, we are so lucky to live out here! But not one day goes by that I am not reminded of the power of the water, whether from the rain or from the waves. My near-daily walks on the beach show a constantly changing scene, from those shelves of sand to a perpendicular wall of packed sand…always in flux.

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