Every June I leave New Mexico ….
and I go to Oregon…
I make this annual journey from the parched mesas of the Southwest to the crashing waves of the Pacific Northwest in order to sleep.
My annual pilgrimage to seaside slumber began about six years ago as an escape. It was the second or third year in a row when June mornings in New Mexico brought black flakes of charred forests in the dry wind, and a daily grey dusting of ash. Even the wasps were thirsty, as they hovered at the edge of the quickly evaporating water that I bucketed into the metal fire pit, now a makeshift emergency birdbath.
Nights were sleepless, as I worried about fire, which, were one to strike in my neighborhood of dense pinon and juniper with no guaranteed escape route, would be nothing short of biblical. Two dusty miles down a winding dirt road walled in with trees. It made me sick to my stomach to imagine
What if there’s a lightening strike?
What if a some witless person pulls off the road and parks in tall dry grass, their hot engine igniting a grass fire?
What if some idiot tosses a cigarette butt?
What if a tree falls across the only road out?
I dreaded going into town and leaving my pup at home.
What if there’s a fire while I’m gone?
But it was just too deathly hot to leave her in the car while I ran errands.
I kept evacuation gear — a change of clothes, important files, most precious keepsakes — in my car.
I did this during every drought year living out there on the ‘ridge, and also all those years I lived in Taos Canyon.
Finally with the Las Conchas Fire raining down ash for days, I had had it.
“I’m getting the Hell out of New Mexico next year” I proclaimed to My Man. Luckily for me, he decided he would, too.
And so for 5 out of the past 6 Junes we’ve headed north by northwest — though, alas, without Cary Grant — and without even my Pup. No, instead we have boarded her, at a cool place in ABQ where they take great care of her and she has lots of friends.
Until this year.
This year we drove 3000 miles with The Pup.
Because she’s getting old.
And because I wanted to see her run on a beach at least once in her life.
Last October when she and I drove to New England, I had the same plan to take her to the beach, only I’d do so in New Hampshire. The Live Free or Die state doesn’t have much coastline, but it has 18 more miles of coastline than New Mexico does. New Hampshire’s beaches are beautiful, and they’re actually the beaches I grew up on. Despite being raised in New Jersey, our family never went “down the shore” like most people who populate the Garden State. Rather, we went to New Hampshire and Maine.
So just imagine my heartbreak when my pup and I arrived at the Atlantic Ocean only to find NO DOGS ALLOWED. I think we both cried.
When we finally did find a beach that allowed dogs, it was high tide, and the waves were crashing against the rocky and treacherous shore, crushing us with disappointment.
When the Oregon legislature passed the brilliant Oregon Beach Bill in 1967 that “established public ownership of land along the Oregon Coast from the water up to sixteen vertical feet above the low tide mark” I’m pretty sure they had dogs in mind among those “public owners.”
So two weeks ago — three days and 1500 miles after leaving achingly smoky New Mexico — we brought my beautiful old desert rat of a sweet girl down to the beach.
And she ran…
and ran …
And she kept on running…
And then, in that cool, wet, lusciously soporific Pacific ocean air… she — and we —slept….
Thank you, Oregon.
Photo above of Wilson & me by ace photographer Joe T.R. Beman.