Rialto Beach

I am drawn again and again to certain places. Some because they are truly special, some because they are nearby and require not so much effort. Rialto Beach is a place that draws me to it because it nurtures me in a very personal and intimate way. I have seen this beach when it was nearly not there. It was a time when rain and wind and the pounding surf obliterated everything else in the world. I was alone with all the energy of creation. There was "me" and a wild, fierce energy that threatened to destroy me. Yes, I was a fool to be there ... and, yes, it was magical.

I have felt a similar sense when utterly and totally alone on the top of a mountain. I was standing on the edge of nothingness with my eyes closed and feeling a warm breath on the back of my neck ... knowing that I am never alone. I am very much afraid of high places and yet I am totally sure that I am protected and welcomed. I need not fear anything.

Even on a nice summer day when the parking lots are almost filled, it only takes a short walk at Rialto Beach to be apart from everyone else. Once through Hole-in-the-Wall, there are so few people. When the tide comes in and the waves begin to thunder, everyone leaves. In the winter, this place gets so noisy that you cannot hear a friend next to you. A storm is a reason to come, not a reason to stay away. An angry sea can open great vistas of insight and you can be embraced by an invisible spirit that already knows you well. The spirit is always in such places but in sunshine and quiet breezes your mind tends to wander and move to other things. In the storm, you dare not let your mind wander. Rather, you focus and listen and feel with exquisite clarity. You can learn to listen in this way in the sunshine and calm of the everyday.

My wife, Candy, tells me that this was the first time that she had gone past Hole-in-the-Wall and explored the tide pools with sea urchins, anemones and sea stars. There is much to discover here. For some reason, I like to look out at the forgotten pieces of North America that seem to float far out from the shore. They remind me of medieval castles wonderfully protected from attack. Although constantly besieged by angry water and wind, they magically survive. They are hopeful omens and sturdy reminders that the created world lingers with us despite man's constant efforts to explain this creation away.

I think that I can understand the reasons why mechanistic explanations of creation are comfortable to some. Gaseous clouds colliding in space to form matter and life is, however, too much of a stretch for my feeble intellect. Childlike, I look and see and feel and sense a comforting, creative intellect that consciously allowed rock and man to evolve in this lonely corner of an immense universe, as well as other, yet unmet creatures. Out here, seeing the varied forms of life surrounding me, it is hard to imagine that we have the universe to ourselves.

When I come to this place, my mind seems to stretch itself in new and unanticipated directions. As I walk along the cobbled beach, there are always pebbles and stones that call to me to pick them up and examine them and perhaps take them home with me. The infinite variety of the shapes and sizes and twists and turns and colors and textures of driftwood, sand and rock attack my consciousness. The air and feel of sun on my skin create a unique awareness of myself here. I am not in charge here. I am but one small and imperfect part of an immense reality that I am allowed to share time and space with. It is truly a wonderful place.

Richard Olmer's column appears in the Sequim Gazette the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. He can be reached via

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