Letters Best Left Unsent – v

(you leave me) Hollow

I cannot describe the combination of relief and frustration that filled me as I left Jamestown the next morning. I thought I would be settled and rested when I set out, but I wasn’t. I was heading to San Francisco, but no longer for the original reason when this trip was being planned.  I was heading there now because I wanted to connect with the coastal highway as quickly as I could, and hopefully let the miles and the ocean temper the emotional meltdown that was  rising.  But that wasn’t to be.



Thor’s Well, Cape Perpetua – This was the whole reason for this trip.  Yes, creating beautiful images from Moab and the Grand Canyon were significant, my first pilgrimage to Yosemite was long overdue, and heading out for my “walkabout” all were part of the formula.  But this, Thor’s Well, this is what I wanted to capture.  This is where I wanted to plant myself and just shoot and shoot and shoot…

But, a funny thing happened on the way.  I’d fallen for someone.  Someone from my past had shown up, a friendship had been rekindled, a romance had begun, and plans had been made.  Big plans, in fact.  What started as an epic motorcycle journey of the West morphed into something different, something better.  And, then, it broke.  I broke it.  And I didn’t break it well.  I was not kind. I wrote things down, I put them into letters, and I mistakenly sent them.  I hurt someone else very badly. I let my issues blow up, and shatter everything in their path.  And so, this journey, it was less a journey and more a processional. A painful one; a guilt-ridden one, when I arrived at Thor’s Well, it felt very different.  I was more cautious, and more restless.  Something was missing and I could not focus.  The water coming in at high tide was really intimidating, and I couldn’t think through my manual settings quickly enough.  I should have just switched the cameras operation so it would do more thinking and I less, but I couldn’t even get that far. I missed most of the shots in this set, and I was really questioning this trip, and my photography.  

This was supposed to be a shared adventure, but the relationship had ended. I had been so excited to show off Thor’s Well, but when I arrived excitement had been replaced by dread. The images I’d wanted to capture just weren’t there, and I was dreading standing near the surf, especially the Well. This lonely set of waves needed an audience, so I obliged. The ocean is a calming place for the lost. This set represents something, but I’m not sure just yet, maybe letting them sit a bit more, out here on the internet will help me understand it better.



Point Arena Light – Things that guide us, lighthouses and fence lines.  I really like this image.  I think I’d calmed back down after the hectic pace in Yosemite.  Point Arena is not the furthest point west in the continental U.S., that honor belongs to Cape Mendocino a few miles north of here.  But this was a subtle, yet vibrant sunset. All of the elements came together for this image.



Cape Mendocino – Great commotion and energy, but very little progress… I had this thought while traversing the Lost Coast of California.  It is a stretch of the coastline that is geography and infrastructure seem to have forgotten about.  Geography, because it’s rugged coast and lush meadows share a strange proximity, and infrastructure because the roads are awful, and there are no straight roads, anywhere. This is a perfect place to get lost in, and if one has the time, one probably should get lost here.



Coastal Drifting – I wished I’d written the mile marker?!  The Coastal Highway has a few rest areas which are designated for overnight stays.  These are by no means luxurious places, in fact they have no services at all, they are literally a rest stop.  But, this is your morning view.  This has been a dream of mine for a very long time.  Robert Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance described these little stops in his book about a cross-country journey that ended in San Francisco.  I won’t go into the details now, but needless to say that book and his story were fundamental to creating the person I am today. – Mr. Pirsig passed away April 24th, 2017, a fitting date in many ways. – 



Redwoods, Redwoods State and National Park – If I ever do get lost, intentionally lost, it will be here, in the Redwoods.  This was only my second trip to Crescent City, and the Redwoods State and National Park, but the Scenic Byway through this forest has to be one of the ten prettiest stretches of paved road, anywhere, period. Again, pictures do not give justice to this place.  You can feel the forest breathe in and out.  You can transport yourself back 500, 1,000 years in history and stand among these giants.  The coastal Redwoods have not peers when it comes to their sheer magnificence.  They are a superior species, in every way. Hyperion, the world’s largest tree, still thrives in this forest.



Thor’s Well – This is a piece of digital art. See my writing above as it relates to what a digital image is, and what digital art is. Also, don’t play with Mother Nature.  Rogue waves, “sneaker” waves along the coast, have no mercy.  I was honestly shocked by how close people were getting to the edge.  Beautiful, but not a beautiful way to die.



Heceta Head Light – The last ten years have been a constant emotional roller coaster.  My dad stepped out in 2007, my marriage fell apart in 2010, my sons graduated simultaneously and are making their way, and in 2012 another death rocked my world.  In the process I’ve entered and exited more relationships than I should have; call it survivor’s guilt, or a longing for a harbor in a vicious ocean.  In any case Kris Delmhorst has become a staple in my music collection, her voice is captivating, and her lyrics throw me to and fro my emotional range.  Equally comforting and confounding, but at some point we have to be our own “lighthouse.”

The last time I travelled to Portland was just two years ago with my youngest son, Tanner. It was a playful and rowdy couple of days of breweries and food and a motorcycle ride to the coast.  This time, it was very empty.  I had the option to go where ever I wanted, to eat or drink what ever I wanted, and I was just empty.  The charming, boutique hotel in the wine country of southern Washington couldn’t have felt lonelier if it had to.  An inviting room and views, coffee across the street, waterfront park and walks, all to make a perfect getaway. Just not this trip.



Fairy Falls Runoff – Along the Columbia Gorge dozens of waterfalls carry the ever melting snow away from Mt. Hood.  Each fall is obviously unique, but something timeless does connect them, maybe that’s why it’s easy to view them over and over.



Latourell Falls – I want to mention here that I did take some still images, images that actually freeze motion.  My preference though is a long-exposure image like the ones I have here (obviously.)  The long-exposure it more technical, but really boils down to trial, error and patience.  The blur is how I think most people see water moving, to me showing the motion is makes the experience of the image more real.



Wiesendanger Falls – In my mind, this is my best waterfall picture of the trip.  I walked into the pool as another group was leaving, so I had time to work on getting it right.  I took about 10 pictures, but with the water splashing and the lens misting over and another group coming in and the 6 miles I’d already hiked wearing on me, I shot one more image, this one, and it is the best.  



Multnomah Falls – Oregon icon, it truly is an impressive site, and well deserving of the its icon status.  When I first saw images of Multnomah, I was under the impression that it was far off the beaten path, in a remote part of Oregon.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  

The Inn at Multnomah is right off the highway, and the vast majority of visitors just park and walk right up.  I can blame them or hold a grudge against them. I’ve done this sort of thing at dozens of scenic sites and monuments.  Multnomah though is unique in that there are other ways to see it.  The series of hiking trails found throughout this section of the Columbia Gorge allow for a least four different views and access points to the falls.  I chose to hike in from the west, along the Angel Crest Trail. This allowed me to take in four different falls, and numerous streams of smaller rapids that flow from the sides of Mt. Hood.  I really couldn’t take all of the pictures I wanted.  By this point I’d been on the road for two and a half weeks, and I was tired.  Ponytail was the last waterfall of the trip.  Lower Oneonta Falls, and the Oneonta Gorge are in the neighboring valley and I’m genuinely disappointed I didn’t take the extra hour to seek them out.

Now I can recognize that this was the trip I never got to do as a young man.  I don’t make this pronouncement as a criticism, but merely as a fact; it’s the trip I wanted to do as a younger man but just didn’t get too. This is the trip that I keep encouraging Andrew and Tanner to take. They have, in their own right, and they both seem to know that these are important and defining journeys.  They both benefited from an education that emphasized exploring like this.  Going, just to go, and taking in all that is presented without any judgement. This was supposed to be my “right of passage,” my great western adventure, and it never happened.  Piersig, and Kesey, and Abbey, and Muir, and Powell, and Clemens… even Strayed showed up in this, and I just figured that out today.  They all described this landscape, they each shaped a myth for me, and I’ve never had the chance to play that myth out on my terms.  In hindsight, there was more of the 23 year old Matt than the 50 year old Matt taking this trip.  Those two Matts had something to reconcile.  The old one had to ask forgiveness of the young one for all his silly and inane choices, and the young one had to ask permission to be left in the past, and not paraded around and lauded for “what could have been.”
Bridge of the Gods – They had their chance, here, in this innocuous space, the Bridge of the Gods, near Latourell, Oregon.  This is the spot where Strayed finished her trek along the Pacific Crest Trail.  

Something compelled me to visit this site, to walk across it.  And somewhere, out in the middle of the span, those two Matts met, they made their peace, and they are heading off in their own directions, with less remorse, and fewer regrets on the paths they’ve chosen and the choices they’ve made.


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