a brief account (or perhaps a tale of friendly caution, if you will) of how our journey to Hole in the Wall is rudely interrupted as i am cast to the ground by the sea like a sort of mangy rag doll which has floated to the pacific northwest from a faraway land

Last Saturday, the exploding surf was as high on the beach at Rialto as I’ve had a chance to see in some time and the obstacle course of tangled, skeletal driftwood was getting more and more complicated for Oliver Fern’s short legs and it was getting close to lunchtime so we decided to stop for a couple hours to admire the hissing and rumbling and let the boys’ imagination run wild amidst nooks and crannies. We were on a gravel, forested bench- scattered, gnarled spruce and fir around us with a most excellent view of the surf and yet it was higher ground with mini bus-sized driftwood piled up in front of us that hadn’t gone anyplace for awhile so we had a reassuring bulkhead. Still, every few minutes: Cold, wet lightning struck in the form of biggie waves splashing over our barrier and we collectively flinched and shuddered and nervously laughed. The boys’ mother and I reminded them over and over: Stay vigilant, stay alert…. be wary of the surf. Never keep your back turned for too long. Get away fast if you see anything bigger than yourself getting washed ashore. Know where your exit is. Keep an eye out for sea glass.

So I was thoroughly thunderstruck after getting blindsided by icy surf while standing higher than I am tall, atop an enormous cedar which constituted the superior portion of our bulkhead. Absorbed with the breathtakingness in my viewfinder (James Island, plus I was trying to position an infuriatingly uncooperative gull in a better spot for my frame) little old me got walloped and the bird watched me take momentary leave of common sense: Leaping into the air like a worn-out salmon desperate for a final homecoming (run for the trees) so far did I fall it felt like sky-diving except for landing flat on my face in a gruel of rolling, miniature cobbles and splintered branches which absorbed much of the impact (along with the salty backwash).


The boys stood transfixed as if they’d just witnessed the Goodyear blimp executing a landing on the beach. I moaned and dragged myself to our gravel bench, lay completely still on my back for a spell and delicately reviewed the important pain centers of the body to gauge short-term consequences. Miraculously, other than the nasty jolt of a landing and the vicious knot in my upper back that lasted for several hours, I was spared damage to either wreckage of my shoulders. The contusion on my knee was the least of my concerns.

My boys are such sweethearts, it took comedic theatrics but they helped me overcome the stark gloominess I felt at my carelessness: Acting out a variety of hilarious, faux injurious falls they forced me to laugh at myself but what made me feel that not all had been lost was the stern lecture I received from the boys about following my own gosh darn advice. After cheering me up, they went back to playing on the gravel bench with their mother while I shambled away for a circuitous trek to the trailhead for a desperately-needed change of clothes. After all that backtracking but mostly because of the madness of pulling off wet, heavy jeans and underwear in the front seat of our station wagon like a wounded sea lion with its flippers tied behind its back, I was chastened for the rest of the day. By the way, in case you’re wondering- the camera emerged unscathed in the fall except for wetness and some scrapes on the lens body (glass okay).

Later in the day, the surf finally began the imperceptible withdrawing for evening tide and so big brother ventured with me to Hole in the Wall. Somewhere after Ellen Creek I took this picture. Adam sang himself silly while devouring half a bag of Sour Patches but as I had compromised most of my moral authority earlier in the day I could only sigh to myself in silent dismay about battle-picking. The unceasing, never-ending hopping through the Driftwood Labyrinth of Insanity to our prize destination might have burned into my brain for the rest of the evening like a Tetris binge but we took plenty of time gazing atop a small headland with nice views and the walk back was easy-peasy on that dark cobble of Rialto which I love so much.

8 thoughts on “a brief account (or perhaps a tale of friendly caution, if you will) of how our journey to Hole in the Wall is rudely interrupted as i am cast to the ground by the sea like a sort of mangy rag doll which has floated to the pacific northwest from a faraway land

  1. Love the photo TF. Glad your camera, and you, didn’t suffer any irreparable harm. I have a bad habit of jumping on logs on the beach, once one rolled and since I am not a log rolling lumberjack type, I ended up flat on my back, well as flat as is possible with my well padded back side. Probably saved my tail bone, those pads, hehe.

  2. I can think of no better way to reinforce a lesson for one’s children than to demonstrate its consequences yourself (as I write this, I remember my own father’s lesson to “be careful how much lighter fluid you use,” followed immediately by the smell of his singed arm-hair). BUT I AM SO GLAD YOU’RE OK and that your camera gear is also. Don’t worry too much about losing your moral authority with your sons, though … something tells me they’ll respect you all the more for the grace and humanity with which you took the whole thing and accepted the consequences of a moment’s carelessness. And now you have this indescribably gorgeous image as a souvenir! All’s well that ends well, I say.

      • I think if you catch yourself on fire first and then immediately get slammed down by a wave you will have accomplished the yin and yang of carelessness-induced personal disasters. But best to stay away from flames and shorelines, just the same, eh? 😉

    • Thanks! I shoot almost exclusively using RAW file format so my best or favorite images inevitably need minor spit and polish. Most of the time that takes place for a moment or two in Lightroom, I have an established but non-robotic way of editing and it goes quickly and enjoyably. When I have a little more time for nerding out I really like looking at pictures in Silver Efex and this shot came out of editing in there. The presets in that program can be a little heavy-handed for my taste but I think they’re pretty cool and it’s fun using them for a starting point and then working backwards to something truer.

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