I parked my RV for the winter in Southern Oregon. The ocean was different here. It had many words and many moods. The power was from vibrations that never ceased. I spent much time with Old Man Ocean, leather-bound journals overflowing with observations and stories.
Along with winter storms, Old Man Ocean also offered blue skies and clear, cold days of agate hunting.
“Hold it to the light…” A local gentleman approached on the deserted beach and began to teach me how to find them. He also opened my heart a bit, though nothing was to come of it. There was, alas, no romance.
Though certainly clean, he always appeared as sea-tossed as the agates he loved. He had no sense of humor and everything was scientifically serious, a direct opposite of my own personality.
Over the next two months, we would meet at first light, to hike the trail through the wild blackberries and across the dunes. We carried broom handles with kitty litter scoops strapped to the ends, to save aching backs from bending over during the hunting. He was curious about my calling it that. I carried a bucket, but he always filled his pockets, returning to his car to place them there, then walking back to begin anew.
Agates and jasper filled his car, the cup holders, the seats, the floorboards. When asked why he did not bring a bucket, he seemed baffled, incredulously stating that he had pockets, as seriously as if this were the only explanation possible.
He taught me to never put on my raincoat unless it appeared a sustained rain. The chilling sea spray and the cold rainforest mist needed to be withstood. He showed me how to dig pits for the tides when I didn’t feel like walking, carefully instructing that walking was the best way, for the direction and time when the sun would light them up. “When in a pit, be watchful of sneaker waves and know your exit.”
He showed me what the striations meant in the jasper also lying atop the gritty, volcanic sand. Mumbling in scientific jargon, he often wandered away with half a sentence in the balance, to examine driftwood or a plant on the dunes.
One day he did not begin his lectures. As we stood on the beach, he said it was time to show him what I had learned. He was satisfied with my answers and left in midmorning. I never saw him again. I asked around the very small town for this “local” and no one had heard of him.
I would arrive at first light alone. Then I walked the beach alone, dug my pits alone, knelt in the sand and spoke aloud to myself about the rock descriptions and missed him.
Agates and jasper, and “just pretty rocks” that had annoyed him in theory, filled my cup holders, the seats, the floorboards. The bucket got in my way in the wind while hunting, so I filled my pockets instead. I took the long walk back to my truck to put them there and returned to start anew.
A lot of pockets
“Hold it to the light…” I wearily answered from my pit. A young tourist had leaned over to inquire if what they found was an agate. I climbed out to show them. They assumed I was a local and I did not correct them. They were eager to learn about the jasper as well. A new cycle began.
“You do this a lot, why don’t you have a bucket?”