Cake by the Ocean, Fire in the Sand

Living as a paradox has been tricky. When you are equal parts fire and water, the world doesn’t so much rise to meet you as shrink away from you into dark corners to sip cheap Chardonnay until you get bored and leave. (That’s really just the introverts; I enjoy tapping on the side of their tanks and watching them swim around in erratic circles.) I am what metaphysicians call an “unstable combination of elements,” but then so’s an Irish Coffee. Both fun. I have pronounced fire features and water features according to Chinese face reading and astrology. My conversation flows like a river while my hands dance around like flames as I talk. I’m a scorching adrenaline junkie constantly swimming between multiple projects in a fluid choreography that I call intuition and others call “So, when are we gonna eat, already?”

My favorite color from birth is magenta, a combination of red and blue, hot and cool on the color wheel. If you call it purple, barneygrimaceI will beat you about the face with a Grimace toy until you crack.

“Look at the Grimace! Grimace is purple! Don’t be a Grimace!” That would be the fire element talking.

My favorite stone is opal, a gem created with water but coveted for the “fire” it exhibits. Its delicate beauty is typically wrested from the earth by big, sweaty guys in a climate approximately fifty feet from the surface of the sun. I’m okay with this, Australians need love, too. But that fiery stone better have lots of cooling blue in it.opalI run physically hot so I like things cold–my office, my coffee, touch the thermostat and die, my vacation locales–this is self-explanatory. Yet, I’m incongruously addicted to hot springs, a place where water and fire get it on together in a spectacular geologic orgy deep within the earth’s crust and then bask in the steamy afterglow on the surface that hikers can rub all over themselves. Yeah, I said it.

Taking all of this into account, it’s no surprise then that a long-held dream of mine has been to experience a bonfire on a beach. Hot embers pressing a soft blanket of heat around my body while cold sea air invigorates my face? Sold! But in eleven years of Oregon beachcombing, I had yet to find anyone who wanted to haul firewood with me and blow on kindling. Turns out, I didn’t need to.

The way to survive the clusterfuck of Memorial Day weekend without becoming a local news story that ends with the words “…before turning the gun on herself,” is to do it all on a Thursday. An impromptu mocha rush and chat with Canadians at Sleepy Monk Coffee in Cannon Beach fueled a road trip down the coast to a fine panoramic view from the Cape Meares lighthouse. (Click twice for salty ocean air.) On the return trip I played a game of Duck, Duck, Goose with about twelve beaches until I settled on Arcadia. It’s tough to find an empty spot along Oregon’s beautiful coastline. When it comes to beaches, if you’re purdy, you’re popular. Halfway down to the water, I smelled the most heady and intoxicating perfume a fire sign can inhale: wood smoke. A mound of orange embers were smoldering in a ring of rocks in the sand. The last guy on pyromaniathe beach passed me on his out and said, “Yeah, I found some coals so I added some wood to it and it got it going again.” He shrugged and smiled. He had just done it for fun, not expecting anyone to actually find it. I could’ve kissed his sandy feet.

Pyromania immediately set in. I assigned a poking stick, assessed the wind, nudged the coals together, erected a wood structure around them to maximize heat concentration, dragged giant driftwood logs closer for seating (my rotator cuffs liked this part least of all), and scrounged all the dry fuel I could carry. Even in the rain, that sucker blazed right up.  I plunked down on a log, popped open my umbrella, and absorbed tangy woodsmoke and sweet ocean air directly into my soul for a good, solid hour. An advancing tide rumbled deep bass notes while the tap, tap, tap of rain played timpani on the umbrella. Various seabirds attended. The Whimbrels were very organized. But the committee broke up frequently for snack breaks. About thirty minutes in, it dawned on me that all this could be measurably improved upon with cocoa, marshmallows, and a pair of large, burly arms wrapped around me as a deep, sexy voice whispered directly into my ear those words that never cease to stir my passion and inflame my desire: “I’ll get more firewood.” May 26, 2016


9 thoughts on “Cake by the Ocean, Fire in the Sand

  1. “When you’re purdy, you’re popular.” Nice thoughts, Miss Purdy. I’d add a few seagulls, fog and a fog horn. Especially the fog horn. Also like crashing waves, but lapping waves will do in a pinch. –Curt

  2. Fire and water, smoke and salt tang, a nice combination.

    I remember one particular beach campfire. I was spending several days on a live-aboard dive boat in the wilds of British Columbia when we decide to take a break from bob-bob-bob and do a beach campfire. The wood was mostly wet, and to get the fire going we had to blow on it pretty hard. We ended up using compressed air from a scuba tank, and not just any air. It was Nitrox, an enriched air oxygen mixture that had 32% oxygen rather than the usual 21% in regular air. Even with wet wood, that got the fire going ASAP!

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