Where the Oregon Coast Meets the Rest of the World, Universe
By Andre Hagestedt
(Manzanita, Oregon) – It's the middle of the night on the north coast, and not a creature was stirring. Except me, and a handful of truckers doing test runs of new vehicles, as they do at these odd hours (you probably didn’t know that the trucking industry does these tests on coast range and coastal highways).
It’s mid September and the stars are out in full force, as if demanding attention after being ignored during a rather crummy summer where clouds hid them. It’s windless. And up above Manzanita, on the overlooks beneath Neahkahnie Mountain, things are intoxicating.
I see the dark gray of the horizon meeting the black of deep space – an ocean of stars intersecting with the Pacific Ocean.
A comment again comes to mind, one made by CoastWatch and Oregon Shores director Phillip Johnson, which I actually kind of overheard during a social gathering of fellow beach geeks. He said something to the effect of the coast being the only place where he felt connected to the rest of the world.
Highway 101, on the overlooks above Manzanita, at 3 a.m.
It’s amazing how someone else can articulate what you’ve been feeling all along. I believe what he said echoed and honed in on what I’d been trying to say for many years, that it was as if the simple act of putting your toes in the water automatically connected your body and soul with the rest of the oceans around the world, and thus the rest of the land masses. Perhaps, if you were truly psychic (or if this was the SyFy channel), this little act would enable you to see and/or feel other moments around the globe.
However, at this moment in time, with the murmur of a calm, September surf in the distance, I felt like I was connecting not just with the rest of the planet in some esoteric, spiritual way, but with the rest of the universe.
This wasn’t hard to imagine, as the Milky Way stretched out boldly in a hazy, cylindrical gauze of light from the horizon to the east. Constellations were shining brightly and at least two stars were much brighter than all the rest, leading me to believe they must be planets.
The Milky Way, seen above Manzanita, is barely visible here as a slightly denser mass of stars in the middle of this shot
It all goes far beyond the waters and geography of Earth now. I can’t see them, but the big black holes, all the dark matter, the interstellar dust clouds and all those burning orbs and swirling galaxies seem that much more connected to this already-mysterious ocean. I feel as if I can feel them now – them, and a bundle of as yet undiscovered things that will undoubtedly blow our minds.
Somewhere out there, in that huge array of white and bluish dots, some other sentient creature is looking back this way – hopefully – and probably thinking the same thing. Hopefully they’re connected to an ocean this beautiful as well.
Standing up here, I was not only lulled by the water below but enthralled by this sea of stars. From this vantage point, like so many times before, I saw no less than four magnificent shooting stars. I’ve always said this spot is a lucky place. Make a wish here: you may be surprised what happens. But for astronomical purposes, it rocks – given the right conditions. If the sky is clear enough, I almost always see numerous shooting stars from these overlooks, no matter what time of year. It’s magical in this way as well.
Thusly protrudes the science nerd in me, and I suddenly become obsessed with capturing the Milky Way in my camera. I go from beach bum to amateur astronomer, shooting pics left and right of various angles of the sky and of the surreal mix of starscape and seascape around me, all the while hoping I’ll catch one of those comets as well.
In the back of my mind I suddenly remember something about the “False Dawn Of Omar Khayyam” appearing right about now, an interesting astronomical phenomenon where you apparently can see a sort of pyramidic or cone shape of light. I really don’t think I saw this at all, although conditions were quite ripe for it. I had to look up the details on this after my little photography session, and then cross reference the photos. Nothing.
I don’t confess to really understand this “False Dawn,” but it sounds amazing.
All I know is the world is strikingly different at this time of night, and utterly fascinating. I’d probably make a pretty good vampire, as there are times I enjoy the beach at night more than during the day. At this moment, the lights of Manzanita paint the clouds above, and Nehalem, farther to the east, paints the distant clouds a bit differently. These then at times look like massive, wandering ghosts.
The stars are almost raging in their presence, creating this wonderful visual pairing of twinkling from above and twinkling from the village. Meanwhile, a red light from a tower – or maybe the airport – is reflected in the ocean.
My camera has its limitations for such nocturnal endeavors as catching actual astronomical phenomenon, so I content myself with clicking away at the night air around me.
Even so, there’s only so much effort you can put into such beauty without suddenly succumbing to it totally and completely. I abruptly lose the need to photograph it, and simply fall back onto the side of my car, head tilted up, and soak it all in. I can’t work at this any longer. All I can do is admire this enormous expanse of stars, as the ocean rustles softly some 500 feet below.
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