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My adventure this week turned out to be a pilgrimage to honor my parents, though I didn’t know that when I chose it. I was in a quandary about where to go as I have a stinkin’ cold, my first in more than a year. I couldn’t afford to be sick when I had to be with my mother nearly every day. Now that responsibility is over and whammo, out of nowhere. Anyway, the idea of the lawn in an Adirondack chair in the sun at the lodge had high appeal. Maybe a walk in the rain forest. Or not.

My mother and I stayed at Lake Quinault a couple of times when I came home for visits after my father died. She sprang for meals in the dining room at a table by the window, me watching the light change over the lake and the hummingbirds at the feeders hanging from the eaves, she with her back to the light.

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It was cloudy when I got up. What? I checked the forecast again. Sun coming soon at home, but not until 11 at the lake. No worries. I love sitting in the lodge; I went several times a few winters ago, driving two hours to write until time to drive back home and make dinner for my mother. I adjusted my vision to a fire in the huge fireplace. I wanted to work on my part of my mother’s eulogy anyway.

When I arrived at nine the fireplace was out of commission for chimney cleaning. Great. I anticipated noise and soot. But it was fine.

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I finished my eulogy draft at noon and there was still no sign of sun. I decided to go to Kalaloch (pronounced Clay-lock), 30 minutes up the road. It was my parents’ favorite beach. We went to other beaches when I was a child. Ruby, the next one up, is my favorite; Rialto, a little farther north takes longer to get to because of having to skirt around the Quinault Tribe reservation; camping at Moro. But in their golden years they stayed in the cabins at Kalaloch; and my mother and friends went there for their private Purple Arts Festival for several years.

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I ate my lunch in the car because it was overcast and looked too cold to sit on a drift log. As I sat looking out over the river to the Pacific Ocean, I read my 2500 word eulogy aloud to time it. Fifteen minutes. Going to have to cut. Don’t want to.

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Kalaloch Creek

Turned out it wasn’t cold at all, when I finally went down off the bluff and into nature’s art gallery.

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Paying homage.

The beach was strewn with millions of razor clam shells (I think) with brittle translucent sails attached, as if set to lift them up in the next storm and transport them elsewhere. I have never seen such a sight. In death, they were the most beautiful thing.

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I walked a ways down the beach, first on the logs as I did as a child—going forever without touching ground—then on the sand past the ancient storm-tossed root sculptures, marveling at the trees that cling to to the cliffs in spite of erosion. (Once again, I forgot to look for the so-called “tree of life” across the creek in the other direction. Next time.)

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Stegosaurus. Now that you know, you can’t not see it.

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The trees remind me of my mother holding onto life: “I will not fall, I will not fall.”

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I don’t know when I last found a sand dollar. It seemed like an omen to something good.

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I made a cairn to honor my mother and father. They each, in their own ways, found a delicate balance between life and death in their last years on earth.

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Flutterby’s first trip to Mama Ocean.

When I returned to Lake Quinault, the sun was out. I wanted never to leave. I’m plotting a camping trip soon. It feels strange to have this freedom to do whatever and go wherever I want without making arrangements for my mother’s well being. I think it may take a while to embrace it.

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