Nomads

“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:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wce-y89VZjo

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

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About washybeach

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

  1. Robert Snyder says:

    Don’t worry about those terrible dreams. They are true and the waves will come some day in the near future but those that had their homes washed away are the lucky ones that will be saved. They are the winners and ccan thank God for his sweet mercies.

  2. bob says:

    Erika,

    I have anxiously awaited each new addition to your blog since its inception. Each time I tell myself that you can’t possibly do the next one better, and you do. You really can write, Girl. I hope you are diligently working on a novel, or something!

    I think that everyone that has had the good fortune to have met you out here has been better for it. You are welcome to stay with your Airstream for as long as you wish.

    Bob

    >

  3. NORMA LANGLEY says:

    The people who lend their house are great souls.  Onward and upward; I miss her too.  Norma

  4. I miss her too, Erika.
    Have you entered the fracking stage, wringing the last fuel from that beach? I hope that is ok to say. It sort of is like nuclear fusion, a myth that keeps producing. Susie

  5. Inspired. Everything changes, nothing stays the same; never has and never will. Loss is inevitable; growth is imminent. Without the first the second cannot thrive. We cry, we grieve, backing away from the sting of pain while fully embracing its lure. We barricade ourselves, our frailties, looking for safety and sanity and …. then, hope. Extricating ourselves; we cannot do it slowly! If we want to truly be free! We must rip away the coverings, the walls; the bandages, throw open our eyes and arms to the blue sky above and embrace, instead, a promise of hope.

  6. BTW, Hugo looks quite content!! Handsome guy there…

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