THE LIGHT OUT TO SEA
THE LIGHT OUT TO SEA
A Story of Loss and Grief
WORDS & PHOTOS BY TOMMY MOORE
After a long day of getting pummeled by waves, I sat a few miles north of town on Indian Beach. In my left hand I held a dimpled scotch glass and in my right rested a bottle of Tullibardine 20. The glass and scotch, up to that point, had only touched my lips twice. The first time followed the eulogy of man I considered a brother—a night that fell a year ago that day.
As I sat there having a glass of Greg’s scotch, thick ocean cover hid the setting sun. The swell had died down, and a young couple were the last left in the water. The girl rode her first wave into shore and the man’s excitement showed over the tops of crashing waves. The rest of the beach had cleared out as well. A few people climbed on the haystacks to the south and two families sat up the beach to the north. My favorite white noise filled the air, singing the sea’s lullaby. All the while, Townes Van Zandt hummed next to me as I filled out the tail end of a high.
Sitting alone, I smiled at the joy of the couple in the water and the happiness of the families remaining on the beach. As the pair worked their way out of the water, they were greeted by their golden retriever sprinting across the low tide’s skim. Few things I’ve seen in life were as freeing as watching friendship in such pure form.
I lost myself for a moment as I looked back at the bottle, but then placed it away in its case. As I stood up, I grabbed the blanket. It flapped in the wind before I wrapped the glass within the still sandy fabric. This place felt like a different version of home—though I think any large body of water may have that same effect. It appeared a storm was making its way towards land, seeming to move faster and faster every time I looked up at the encroaching cloud line. The light blues and purples the sun left behind turned into increasingly ominous grays. Waves broke on the southern haystacks and their mist added to the growing cloud cover. The wind started to pick up, and with it the temperature dropped. Sitting above the cove, the dense forest to the north rested in darkness. Low clouds engulfed the trees through the small valley. Each breath that filled my lungs felt fresh and smelled of coming rain.
I left the foggy beach and parked in an empty lot in town for the night. Near the beach, I grabbed a blanket and headed towards the water. The small tourist town dropped off quick, leading to the vast openness of the moonlit Pacific. The flares of small fires poked out of the pits they were dug into across the open beach. Towering up out of the shallows, the silhouette of Haystack Rock stood out against the night sky.
I settled into the cold sand. I sat a hundred feet or so inland from the ocean’s territorial line as night fell over the small town. Mist kissed my face as winds blew eastward. Besides the ocean’s song and the occasional seagull chirping into the wind, it was quiet.
Out to sea, a ship raced the weather into the port. For an hour, the boat floated up the coast. Its light glowed like the bonfires on the beach. Sitting such a distance away from the vessel, the ship appeared calm as the night. However, my reality was much different than the crew’s aboard the ship. From my seat on the shore, the ocean’s skim extended hundreds of feet, and the waves crashing were distant. Their sharpness was stripped, creating a cohesive, powerful roar. I couldn’t see those very same waves pummeling the ship, breaching its hull, and crashing atop its deck. As the ship bobbed while toppling the ocean’s mighty ripples, all I saw was its light flicker in the distance. While they battled the strength of the sea, I sat there still.
Awhile later I finally got cold and headed back to the car. With my board also inside, my sleeping situation was less than ideal. Both front seats were pushed as far forward as possible, allowing for the nose to extend just far enough for the trunk too close. Lying on a sleeping pad in the uneven crack between the exterior wall of my car and the board, I attempted to get comfortable.
At around 12:30 in the morning I awoke to muffled talking outside my window. I had been out for about two hours and I fumbled for my glasses. Several police officers were knocking on a camper’s window on the other side of the lot. I figured I wasn’t supposed to park there for the night, but I didn’t see any signs, so I thought I had gamed the system. I knew I needed to get my ass out of there quick. In the most graceful, panicked lunge, I pulled myself from the backseat crevasse into the driver’s seat in one, swift move. To this day I still think it was the smoothest I’ve ever moved. The police cars didn’t have their lights on, so I figured if anything I had plausible deniability that I wasn’t “fleeing”. With the officers busy a couple hundred feet away, I started my car and quickly pulled out. A few blocks away, I looked over my shoulder and saw no cars followed. I laughed, and shook my head thinking if Greg was there he’d either be crying laughing in the passenger seat or still back at the parking lot arguing about his legal rights to the officers. A single tear rolled out of the corner of my eye. I gave the gas a little extra punch, and sped off into the forest to find a place to sleep.