On Day 2, I awake and am further impressed by the universe, the sun, the little corner of the Earth I call home, the Pacific Northwest, the town of Astoria, and this hotel/hostel. The rooms have such an amazing natural light that keeps me slow and sleepy and a lazy morning finally leads Brian and I to breakfast at the Columbian Cafe.
We were surprised to be the first customers of the day. The cafe’s interior was warm and lived-in; the ingredients, as though fresh from a market, were rustically piled on countertops. We took a seat at the bar and asked the cook what had brought him to Astoria. He was from Michigan (correct me if I’m wrong), had visited a friend here, and had felt the same draw we felt then. A side of toast with savory jams arrived before us as we read the local paper. Then, two specials – a kale omelette and a beet & spinach crepe.
Feeling energized, we headed out to walk more of the streets and fall more in love with this town and each other. As the sun rose, we followed it up the hill, picking out all the houses we’d willingly live in, stopping at all with “For Sale” signs. We walked backwards up a grassy hill to better take in the view, until finally we arrived at the base of the Astoria Column. 164 more steps brought us to the top, where we admired the land- and city-scapes. I could live anywhere here (I could live anywhere that we go together).
We walk down via a forested trail; I’m running ahead and thinking about how Aoife and I are similar with respect to that habit. We take a right over a bridge and there’s an old house with a vacancy sign on the door. It’s been abandoned and the neighbor next door (Gloria, aged 69, former psychoanalyst, moved here a year ago from Portland) tells us “it’s history” and its history. It was owned by a man who became an old man, alone in his house, with a suffocatingly large material record of a life lived. He drank too much and killed himself in his house about four years ago. The home had been bought and sold a handful of times, mortgaged between banks and development companies; the listing price always too high to attract any buyers. Now it sits decaying, paint fading, fireplace falling, and water running through it. Gloria told us about other houses in town and gave us a summary of the real estate market. Then she invited us into her own “work-of-heart” and proudly showed us her many house projects, in progress since June.
It was time to meet up with Ben and Gabrielle and then we had our farewell beers at Rogue (and a cookie from the Blue Scorcher to satisfy my inner-child).
But we needed real sustenance so we drove out to the end of town, to Northwest Wild Products, where we eagerly dined on some of the best seafood in existence.
To work off the delicious calories, we drove to Fort Stevens and walked the beach. (I am so grateful for the heaven I am living in.)
It was Ben and Gabrielle’s first time at the Pacific Ocean and Ben opted to swim, running straight into the chilly waters with reckless abandon.
Since leaving the beach, we’ve been driving north on 101 through small towns on winding roads, with the ocean beside us and the setting sun painting the landscape in gold tones. There’s Raymond and Elma and Cosmopolis and Artic and Aberdeen. We’re almost to Olympia now and in another hour we’ll be home in Seattle.
I’ve realized that part of my home/heart/soul is now in Astoria, and I wonder how soon we’ll be returning.