Walking With My Ancestors On Cannon Beach

Above my desk in my office is a large framed photo of Cannon Beach, Or. I inherited the picture from a doctor friend of mine who retired several years ago. Cannon Beach has always been sacred ground for me. This beautiful beach is located about eighty miles west of Portland,Or on the Northern Oregon Coast. The drive to the beach west of Portland is always pleasurable. Proceeding west on Highway 26 you pass a lot of rolling farm land and then you traverse through the Coast Range, a smaller mountain range, compared to the Cascades, that is located between Portland and the Oregon Coast. The majestic Douglas Fir trees provide a spectacular canopy as you drive through the small hamlets of Elsie, Elderberry and Jewel Mist which convey a mystical tone and setting. As you climb through the Tillamook Burn, you finally get to the summit on the Coast Range at Saddle Mountain and then whoosh it's the gentle descent down to the coast land And Hwy 101. Now the air smells different and you know that you are at the beach.

For me driving down the exit from Hwy 101 passing Ecola State Park, getting that first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean and rugged Haystack Rock is nothing less than a spiritual experience for me. It is familiar territory and yet I am always struck by its ever changing beauty. I feel comforted because the spirits of my people are here.

Like many Portlanders, my family started going to Cannon Beach in the late 1950's. I still look at black and white photos of my maternal grandfather and grandmother Mark and Jenny Gullixson. Mark and Jenny met at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago,Il. Mark was a student there studying for the ministry. Jenny was the cook in the kitchen. They married and moved west first to Idaho, then Eastern Washington and then to Portland, Or. Mark would spend a career working in the Water Bureau for the city of Portland. Mark and Jenny are pictured bundled up in heavy coats and hats ( it must have been winter ) and they are seated under a tree with a lot of twisted limbs carved by the winds, and they are both looking west out at the horizon on the ocean. They both have a serene look on their face.

Every time, I walk on Cannon Beach, I think of them as well as my mother and my uncles and my aunts who are no longer living. I think of my aunt Bernice who in the midst of dying from cancer choose to be cremated and she had her ashes distributed over the waters of the Pacific at Manzanita, which is just south of Cannon Beach on the other side of Neahkanee Mountain.

Oh, the sound of those wonderful American Indian names.

Bernice was a strong woman and her departure from this world was very graceful.

Not too long ago, my sister and I were going through some family photo albums. We came across a black and white photo of me when I was about four. There I was sitting on a blanket at Cannon Beach talking on my toy phone looking very busy. I had my own office with an ocean view.

How prophetic!

My mother absolutely loved Cannon Beach. On her last trip there, we had lunch at Moe's Restaurant, on the southern end of Cannon Beach. We dined on Clam Chowder and Sourdough bread and again sat and looked out and watched the ocean waves and the seagulls. That day was priceless. It was a happy time.

Now when I go to Cannon Beach, it is with my sister and my niece and her children. The kids will play in the arcade at Seaside. My sister and I will look at the art galleries We will walk the beach and look for drift wood.

I believe that all of us can develop sacred places and spaces in our lives, locations of earth that can transmit great power and beauty. For me that place is Cannon Beach. For others it may be Santa Fe or Taos, New Mexico.

As my good friend Shiva, who is a wise soul has reminded me,

" These are power places."

We all need power places that can help move us beyond ourselves, to that place of beauty and transcendence and of wonder and awe.

This summer, I will walk the sands of Cannon Beach again; I will look up at Haystack Rock and sees the gulls nesting there. I will look north towards Seaside. I will look south towards Garibaldi and Tillamook and think of all of the fishermen fishing for Salmon on Tillamook Bay. My good friend Dr. Mark Henry Miller even wrote his first novel "Murder on Tillamook Bay "about this area. In Mark's novel, a fictional United Church of Christ minister is shot to death while fishing on Tillamook Bay.

When I go to Cannon Beach this summer I don't intend to get shot, but I do intend to ponder and to meditate upon beauty, memory and the lives of those who have lived before and of our lives as they continue to develop and flourish.

May this be so for all of us.

As we walk together in our lives, may we remember and celebrate all of those past, present and future who walk with us.