4:00am. In a small century-old house, tucked into one of the avenues in Northeast Portland, I wake to the glow of a screen sitting beside the bed.
Early morning blue light has always been my favorite. But in this moment, there is only black. Blood pumps quicker with the chiming of the alarm and the realization that in half an hour, I will be driving highway 26 out to the coast with my kindred sister, Lindsey.
We’ve only known each other a month, brought together by a dear mutual friend and bonded over motherhood, work, a love of forests and wilderness.
The drive begins slowly, silently, with music in the background. Still dark and leaving the lights of the city behind to watch the glow of dawn rise before us.
I’d like to say, as I’m sure most would, that this life of explorations and journeys and coastlines and deep forests is a constant. But truth be told, they are precious times I intentionally carve out for myself between moments of Life, with a capital L. Without them I’d lose my feet to the ground I’m standing on.
We pull into the parking for Oswald West State Park in the dim light, set out for Short Sands, and watch with smiles as an early morning surfer passes us by. Walking under the heavy green canopy, light filtering in, Lindsey and I speak intermittently. More focused on separately breathing in this space of pause and release from the strong presence of our individual daily lives.
The next few hours move in a calm blur. Pulling boots and peeling socks off to walk shin-deep in the freezing Pacific until toes go numb. Collecting black feathers damp with saltwater, polished glass, smooth white shells buried half in the sand. I climb barefoot up sloping black rocks, while Lindsey explores a cave nearby. The sun, barely hovers over the tops of the trees and shines in breaks through thin clouds.
For a moment, I lay back in stillness. Cover my eyes and let the world go dark. Without sight, there is only the sound of shallow waves pushing against the rocks. I feel the sun, but it is not yet warm. Instead the air holds the cool damp from the morning and the sea. In this, the world of movement and cycles drops away, briefly, but long enough to breathe deep and be still before climbing back down again.
- Melissa Laree Cunningham, photos by Melissa and Lindsey Smith
MELISSA LAREE is an explorer, photographer, mother, and librarian down south in Texas. She's lived as far east as Brooklyn and as far west as Utah. Busy city streets, red mesas, open deserts, and snowy ranges. Some places just keep calling a person back.