The Beaver and the Bear
By Kyle Crawford
Entered in our Win a Winter Getaway to the Oregon Coast Contest
June 22nd, 2006: It was just off the Oregon Coast, where the rolling hills met the western cliffs that I found myself in a moment of great complacency. Having just traversed two years of study at the University of California, Berkeley, there was a growing lack of color in my esteemed college days, a constant reminder of time, that anything so ingenuous, so unheard of as the fear of loosing control in life was absurd, however, as narrow-minded the thought was, no one could deny that there was an itch for something else.
The testament to my two years at California began as a wild one with the bubbly freshmen, undergraduates with aspirations to sit on the board of the Daily Californian and embark upon Haas; both attempting to swing heroics and linguistics around until a natural impasse. The second year was spent with debutantes in dim-lit Greek sororities filled with fervor, blue and gold. For most of us it was a struggle of identity, some professing socialism in an attempt to understand the lighter hearts of mankind, knowing that revolution has failed but has not been proven to fail while others entered a capitalistic whirlwind, dressed as mini-Gordon Gecko doppelgangers styling the newest edition of Quicken at seven AM sharp, even though most of us attended the morning lectures via a streaming source.
It was an attempt to form a new generation amongst the ancestry and the marble in the vein of Rousseau, tinkering drafts of constitutions for the changing globe; goggled-eyed scientists, Bolsheviks, neo-cons and than the plebeian drunks whom figured that Fraternity Row was an excellent representation of ancient Athenian academia. It was a tough year and it had finally come to pass. Then in an anticlimactic moment California began to feel incredibly lonely until shortly after finals when I yielded to the invitation of an amazing uncle to spend a few evenings with him near the coastal towns of Brookings and Harbor, Oregon. However, a few days turned into an Oregon summer, a fabulous summer where I met Parker. Parker was the first Oregon girl I had ever met. She portrayed a beautiful strength, an effervescent glow about her exposed her delightful originality and mysterious nature, a girl that I knew I did not deserve, well, a girl that no man deserved and just as an ocean bonfire permits an immemorial bond between young romantics so she had done to my sentiments of the Coast. It was on the night we rode along Chetco River towards the Pelican Bay lamps where the river intertwined with the heavens that I left a piece of myself along the Coast and when I left it, I knew everything would be different. Parker loved Oregon passionately. She had an old heritage in Clatsop County and lived in a large, blue and white home in the hills of Astoria. She had been born in the north but found herself in the south with her grandfather in the summers…I see I am getting ahead of myself…let me begin elsewhere in Brookings… Walking along the beach in Brookings, I was amazed at the way the dunes and driftwood would form shapes and designs unlike anything in the architectural plethora of the City, what beautiful conceptions, stunning blueprints of the natural world. The ocean itself danced and settled as sea foam moved in and out of phantasmal shadows adjacent a June gloom.
For four mornings I had departed towards Harris Beach, sat down on a log of sorts and played guitar to the rocks, the forest and the waves congratulating Os West for the People’s Coast and cursing Malibu where beach houses “own” the ocean in a selfish disquietude. One afternoon returning from the beach, I strolled for hours along a new path, the arduous trees hanging above gave way to the mountains in the distance, appealing to an ancient genius that Mother Nature had bestowed upon the people of Brookings, keeping a subservient and introspective grace about the town, everything appeared
photosynthetic. Eventually, traveling along a wooden “shortcut” on advice from a passing Canadian cyclist…I lost myself entirely in the forest. The sky grew dark and a cold breeze from the sea could be felt budding until the first droplets of a storm began to fall through the canopy covering above. Dark clouds gathered in symphonies forming crescendos with the waves crashing against the rocks in the distance.
Fumbling through the trees, hunting a way out, the landscape smoothed as lightening broke the dark, the town lights were gone, as all mankind disappeared into warmer corners and frothing mugs. While debating a move across the field an unwavering sound broke the resonance of the storm, it was a voice, a girl was singing in a lovely, husky voice that continued without a quiver against the wind and beat as a subtle-throated drum. As haunting as it was, it was a comfort to hear and a grin appeared on my face as the lyrics sunk deep into my consciousness, “Bien sur nous eumes des orages, vingt ans d’amour, c’est l’amour fort…”
A lovely siren in the storm, vaguely being heard in a barn across the farmyard adjacent, I followed the voice with every note, “Mille foist u pris ton baggage, mille fois je prism on envol…” “Hello?…is there a soul between here and the Siskiyou,” I yelled aloud, “some one who is making an angelic sound of Jaques Brel in the pouring rain?” “Sure somebody is here and who are you my shouting friend, do you think you are the late, great Fajita or perhaps Teddy Kulongoski?
Well, I sure hope so and you’re not some elitist backpacker lost only a few miles from town.” “I’m not lost, I’m Bernard Maybeck, I designed this city!” I shouted on impulse considering her incredible matter-of-fact way of giving the facts in the middle of a storm. Laughter escaped from high above the barn floor. “I know who you are. I recognize that accent. The locals call you the Lost Californian.
Don’t you know you crossed the border more than seven miles south’a here? You really are living up to your name right now.” I entered the barn, which by the feel of it provided barely more shelter than the field outside. “Accent? We are both from Cascadia, well, sort of…anyway, how did you get up there?” I projected, soaked to the bone, and eager to find out who was behind that attitude but incredible voice. A shadowy figure popped up from the second story and gestured as though to jump. “Jump!? You jumped up there in the dark,” I cried. “Get a running start, you will make it if you run—not from there—start from the corner and I will grab your hand, oh, my little Lost Bern, come on,” the voice cried down from the dark, “mind if I drop the Maybeck?” And so I did, I ran and in a moment of faith and flight I reached up as high as I could, in mid-air a small hand reached out and grabbed onto mine, helping me up—up into what felt like the awning of some distant, dark jungle. “What are great day,” I had to quip as the strangeness of it all sunk in. “…and now you and I are holding hands and you still have yet to see my face, you know, I could be dangerous,” she responded with a laugh, “you could have just used that ladder over there too you know.”
I dropped her hand—she must be a witch. In a moment of divine intervention the lightening struck once again—finally! A chance to see the being that stood across from me in the dark, but she had covered her face. All that I could make out was a slender figure, wrapped in a scarf and chin tucked low where the dripping strands of hair meshed with her cuffed and gray collar. “Come over here and sit down,” her tone changed politely, “If you sit opposite of me—like this—(she configured me abruptly face-to-face), then you can have some of this rain coat and keep dry. It is my waterproof dome, my soaking wet team. And by the way, you are a terrible Bigfoot. Bigfoot would never have interrupted me like you did crashing through the forest.” “Hey! You called out to me…team—and in French nonetheless,” I replied jovially, “you are out in a storm, in a barn, singing in French, I am not Bigfoot, and I am certainly not lost.” “That is exactly how a Sasquatch would react,” she continued, “however, I can no longer call you that, for you have auburn hair, a Bigfoot with auburn hair would have been caught and sent straight to the government labs. Why don’t you play some notes on that guitar and I can finish my song, I will be your shining vocals, sunny boy.”
In the dark I smiled, invisible to one another, the storm continued outside as we sat in the never-ending darkness beneath the shield of her raincoat. All the while the lightning declined to flash again. I was filling with impatience, truly who or even what was across from me—could I be adjacent a real monster from the forest.
Heavens!—I could not stop thinking about who she was, what she looked liked, however, deep down I knew the monster scenario was not the case, because here along the Coast providence had sent me this being, saving me from the storm, just as providence had sent Raphael to the Garden to inform Adam of the evil fruit. How curious the world works. “I know what you are thinking about and I should tell you that I am not,” she continued acutely. “Not what? How could you…” “I am not some magical monster of the forest and I knew you weren’t either ever since I first saw you, and frankly, I should say it is not kind to think such thoughts of me.”
As long as I knew Parker, she and I followed our own mental path, our own mental connection. In the local taverns customers would look on and wonder if we had ended one conversation or begun another, we connected our conclusions together and by the end of one thought we were already in the middle of another, which to the onlooker was as far from the topic than the next actual topic itself. “You have to tell me—I mean how did you really know I was from California, my hair color, that I too am not someone dangerous Bigfoot, tell me everything!” I demanded, eagerly interested in what she was going to say next. At that very moment lightning lit the entire barn and with an illuminating glow I looked into her glittering eyes for the first time. Wow!—Parker was beyond an imagination’s etching, uniquely designed, different and just really, really gorgeous, Oregon as an adjective would be a fitting description. She had a healthy color, light hair, slender brows, and a graceful and aquiline nose. But it was her eyes that burned brightest—hazel eyes as alive and sprawling as the wildlife and landscape around us. She really was a witch—she had a small and kissable mouth and as we continued to lock eyes a dazzling smile gave way to her mortal self in this extraordinary meeting, a true delight. “And now you’ve seen me,” she said calmly, “I assume you are going to tell me that I am some kind of Wiccan priestess out here in the forest, in the rain to steal your heart for good.” “Not quite yet, ‘cause you still have to answer my questions, Chere.” “They seemed to have slipped my mind—anyways my name is not Chere, its Parker,” she said in a stern sentence.
For a moment there was silence and only the splatter of the ancient Oregon rain sounded from the roof above. “The rain is falling harder now,” she interjected as she began to disembark from the impromptu shelter of the coat. Flinging her hands above her head she embraced the cloudy skies above, “let’s move in, it is quite pleasant further back.” We ventured further into the reaches of the old barn and through the dark I held her hand. Finally, I decided to strike a match and our eyes met once again, as the match slowly burned down, I continued to be lost in the expanse of her sheer presence, until—“that is exactly what I needed!”
She swiped the match from my hand just as I felt its burn then quickly lit up a lantern on the floor exposing, well, exposing an incredible mural of the great state of Oregon. “Did you paint that? That is amazing,” I exclaimed in pure awe. “What do you mean, any one could do that, I just really like Oregon, I guess you could say Oregon is kinda my thing,” she said in her once again, matter-of-fact way of speaking.
The thing about Parker, I soon found out, is that she actually had no idea that it was uncommon to have such an array of talents including an effortless ability to create masterpieces. “I come up here to collect my thoughts, especially when it rains, I think best then—Oregon, when it rains here, I am perfectly content, I soak up the nature, the elements, I am sort of like a nerf when it gets wet you know?” “A nerf ball? You mean soak things up like a sponge? You are really something else you know that, so, are you going to answer my questions now?”
“Yes sir—my name is Parker, I am uncanny, I grew up in the Goon Docks but due to an expanding country club my oddball, reject friends, Short Round, Corey Feldman and the one who does the truffle shuffle—the whole gang really, and I were forced to hunt down a one-eyed-pirate’s treasure to save my neighborhood from Troy, who was a cheap guy by the way, and his father—keep up now—unfortunately, a nasty family name by the name of the Fratellis, ya heard of ‘em?—wait—you don’t seem to be listening, Okay! OK! I’ll talk! In third grade, I cheated on my history exam. In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max’s toupee and I glued it on my face when I was Moses in my Hebrew School play. In fifth grade, I knocked my sister Edie down the stairs blaming it on the dog…” “And you never said die did you?” I interrupted. “Not-a-once, I see you seen the documentary they made about my life,” Parker said facetiously with a smile, “but hey come on, you did not even let me make Chunk’s fake vomiting sound, its my favorite part.” “I suppose you will…” “Hua, Hua, Huaaaa.” “Better” “Much, now, I see you are one of those men, always dragging yourself into the conversation…I guess it is time to talk about you at this point. Well, dear Bern, I was getting some sun the other day down by Harris Beach and suddenly came this musician strumming some actually really pretty sounds until his conceited voice seemed to mess it all up, so when I looked up to see who it could be, all I could see was a reddish-haired boy from the back of his lovely head and well, ‘Jeepers!’ said I ‘that’s a fine young man!’ But as I went to go and meet this mysterious musician, he was gone, I assumed he was already lost in the forest, eaten by the night.”
“Okay, okay, now, go back to yourself.” “I am a person who will go around the state just to smile at strangers, I like it when people make me feel awkward, such a vulnerable, alive feeling, I like dressing in black from head to toe moving about the Coast as a shadow in order to not interrupt its natural patterns and color schemes, I enjoy lurking, it is amusing, so what, it just contributes to the strangeness of the world, I love Paris though I have never been, I find it unattractive when men show off and I prefer to be as poor as the Pope, which can’t be that poor though, right? I like finding places that I never knew existed, which around here is everyday, I love Oregon, with its golden sunsets that melt and drip pastels into pixilated pieces of perfection. I love replacing fruit with pastries during the Festival of Trees, I enjoy historical steamboats as they puff and mutter in a mechanical untidiness during earthen afternoons, I find it incredibly difficult to speak on the phone and prefer snail mail when I communicate, I like the sound of the heart when it goes ‘kerplop’ just before a first kiss and above all I know that freedom will give up the ghost unless it is used.” The storm began to fade as the night air rested upon the old barn and only the sea sounded as it quarreled with the specters of the evening wind. It is times like these when you realize that every instant counts—as though all moments have been staggered upon one another building a ladder to an ultimate requiem, a ladder to touch the heavens. I was in a reverie and as abstractions go I had a sense of belonging, a great coming home along the Oregon Coast. In my near twenty-one years of life, I had never met a girl like Parker—and from that silent moment, I knew I would never again. “Being caught in a storm like this,” she continued, “gives a person the mortal shell that I adore, most men I’ve met act as though they are the image of Herculean feats themselves but when lightning strikes there is only mums—I’m a romantic and only the soul is immortal, that’s what they forget, just as the Oregon sea is powerful enough to hold up an entire armada it still slips through my fingers every time I try to cup it in my palm. That’s life you see. But enough of that, the storm is dying.” “It sure is. And I guess I have to admit, I may have been a little lost before I found this place,” I returned, giving in, “I may have thought you were mad but what I know now is that you are a genuine spirit amongst these woods, a feast but also a folly nonetheless, you have a grand soul.” She leaned in and in a tone, less a whisper she spoke: “By the sounds of it, you may be a mortal romantic yourself, I like that,” then in the same sentence she jumped and laughed, “I mean you looked mighty scared on the edge of that field, Bernie!—I had more than a thought you might have started to cry. If I wasn’t certain this was a summer’s rain I’d have thought it was you.”
After spending a rather wonderfully odd evening learning about Parker and her actions along the Coast we eventually decided to descend from the parapets of the barn. And in a traditional Parker sense, she would not let me help her down and insisted upon jumping from the second story into a pile of hay at the foot of the ladder. Delighted, she landed, tumbled out and returning back unto her feet still smiling, she slipped her fingers in between mine and we took off down the road.
Wearing galoshes she would jump between the puddles with the occasional, intentional cannonball splash to alleviate the possibility of me ever drying completely. Wet walks in Oregon became pastime as rain cascaded placid from the heavens, whirling down from the sky into puddles of maritime, it was an interaction between nature and body that always ended up earnest, making one feel alive. The Oregon moon had risen and the storm fled into the eastern mountains as I watched Parker from the corner of my eyes skipping along. The moon seemed brighter than sun as it always does when brutal hearts meet, I wished we had left ourselves as shadows forever in the reaches of that night, forever seeing life through her hazel eyes.
All faiths had been shaken as she disappeared as quickly as she arrived down a silver path and the looming sounds of the Oregon Coast played in everlasting woolgathering as I walked home spellbound to the fantasy of it all. The summer went as it always does for young souls, without a passing day but rather an endless moment. The concept of proverbial summer love was aroused but as often as it is attempted it is just as often condemned as a season’s dream never so near as an imagination’s reality and an unforgettable longing.
Brookings had the ability to heat up in the summer, the so-called banana-belt effect carrying over from the winter, and on warmer, lazy mornings amongst the fallen logs of a thousand years and the nascent of a new grass, we would sit and discuss love and life. As Parker spoke, I never felt more mentally nor even physically near than when she would connect her thoughts in beautiful sonnets, running the spectrum of the world’s expanse.
As she lay in my arms we fell in love nearly from the first. With the breeze in her hair we would read poetry of the centuries to one another. The infinite, distant horizon of the ocean was within our grasp, it felt as though we had found the edge of the world and together with our forest-friends and neighbors we would rule the vast kingdom of light and sun-stained lands adjacent the mighty Pacific.
A few days later we officially met and I made my way to her grandfather’s house. Sitting in a whiskey dialogue with her grandfather I learned of her rebellious past and the unusual history she bore in Clatsop County. I learned how the summer brought her three hundred miles south to his arable plot of land along the shimmering sea of blues and greens, a place he called, “a philandering minx”.
Parker and I became inseparable as the generous weekend months continued. “I find it hard to ever possibly worry on nights like these, what else can we do but exist, I just want to drift and loll in this nexus of time before our presence on this stage is noticed, to be forever young with you by my side” I began on an August’s evening with Parker.
How different my views had become since the months previous in Berkeley, an uneven progression, a scheduled in-sight path had merged with the scenery of a dream, all the sweat and grumbles of the previous two years had dispersed upon meeting Parker. And to my surprise the cumbersome necessity of cataloging life into a single frame had ceased in this hour of youth, it was a simple song of joy, which rushed through my veins. I had been left atop the crest of a wave belly up to the sky, drifting wherever the fates desired. “How well the dying summer flirts with our love,” said Parker sadly as we lay vacantly peering into the starry-starry night. I had never heard her speak with this tone in respects to us and only occasionally so at the end of one of her passionate diatribes against “giant transnational corporations” and the consequences of third world occupation, both ideas which she fought with an incredible strength.
But this was different. “What do you mean? We are ok, nothing our rational minds and endless hearts can not handle,” I began… “Tell me, I have not found a rational reason any of this has happened—I have a life up north and you do elsewhere…” she said finally. I felt a fight coming. We had argued in the past, oh had we, but this again was a tone different than the rest, it was shrouded in the odd mystery that the entire Oregonian summer had produced, a melancholic foreshadowing of things to come. With an uneasy frown she complained to me, but all I could do was smile at her beautiful face, “what are you doing with that dopey grin, what does that mean, stop it!” She demanded. “I don’t know, I guess that is just my face. That’s how it looks, born with a dopey face just for you my love,” I responded lightheartedly urging a smile despite the impending pain. She got up and walked away as the moon rose and shone upon the mortal, fragile heart of the fading summer.
Out of the moon’s burdening path, she turned into the darkness of a vine-covered gondola astride the sea. The dark was never quite as dark without her, nor the bright as bright. “Strike a match, sunny boy,” she murmured, “I want to see you,” With a burst of light she appeared in front of me, shadowed and ethereal. How it felt like a memory from some grand theatrical scene, everything was staged and we were the tragic characters at the will of the playwright, the strings and the horns. The match went out. “We are creatures of the night once again,” whispered Parker, “lighting the darkness with only our small voices. Strike another.” “I haven’t another, that was my last…” In a sudden, soft leap, she fell into my arms, “I will never forget you, I will never forget the Oregon Coast.”
I voiced into the cold—an unspoken truth veiled the night sky as further andromeda pierced the glory of our own little corner in the wild, wild world—the benevolent world. The summer had finally come to an end. “The centipede sweeps the streets with its unlaced feet, over ants that bred in slums of need, intangible, cannibal things. An autumn odyssey…” Parker recited as we rode along the Chetco trail during the first night in September, “Lets cut through the trees and admire the skeleton of the night.” “You little witch,” I cried, “You are trying to make me stay up all night and miss my ride back to the Bay, tire me out as the miners of the great Rush.” With a quick snap she smiled, “Tisk, tisk, let’s go faster now!” She zoomed down the path taking turns nearly black as pitch; all I could do was try to keep up.
As the wind broke, I thought of the summer, following Parker through the dark for the past three months, I saw her invent intellectual, stunning monuments to the state of Oregon as well as an unpredictable teenage girl grow up. We were only separated by a year in age, but she had become one of the wisest beings I had ever met. Dash! Pedal! Faster, as though we were racing time itself. I did not want her to escape from my sights, so I kept up, faster and more confident with every pedal. We had agreed on a night ride to Chetco Point by moonlit trail in order to eventually talk and plan out our future together she said. So we rode for nearly an hour without a word, except for the occasional exclamation or curse beneath her soothing, gravelly breath, as visibility varied between the trees and open spaces.
Arriving as far as bikes were allowed we dismounted and made our way on foot. “This solid soil has stood for thousands of years and it will stand long past the time you and I have returned to the earth and the heavens,” she spoke as a night breeze blew the dolorous, floral aromatics of the park into the senses. At the very edge of the point, we gazed over a hundred feet below into the dark where the water reflected the moons emotions within the tide. “Listen,” she leaned in close, “I like clever men, but every passionate love in the world seems to be lost in mediocre attempts of chivalry, unfit for the modern day girl, passing communication off for marriage, looting the truth from the moment a relationship is conceived.” “That does not have to be us, that is not us, a creative spark in the night has forlorn us to retain our own mental ambitions, forcing us to communicate with an impenetrable connection, I have never felt this way about anyone before I met you.” I replied sincerely. “It would never be us, sunny boy.
We have just missed our moment as we played the villain against time, divided by state, divided by the will of the unexplainable Coastal mystics. Just as modernity and concrete swept the rubble of tyranny at turn of the century in Europe, now an unfair world has been pieced together by design, not by fate, invisible paths to be walked alone until we meet again, risking it all. You will always be mine, always be the one.” She leaned in closer and we kissed.
The night was behind us now and only minute warm breezes recalled the past three months. That was the last night I ever saw Parker. We stayed together until the morning sun coruscated wishy-washy colors on our naked souls, souls borne of an older time. For Her, the summer had apparel decorated in cherry blossoms and flannels, feathers in her hair and the occasional breezy, knee slit dress but now she was to be tucked tight and safe in warm garments, fir-brimmed cardigans, and wool as the fall approached and she would return to Astoria. I was going to be amongst the quaint bizarreness of Berkeley again. An upper classman embracing the new charms of the ever-evolving American generation, where as world truths shifted, American troops drifted and the times would change again. Times as fearful of stirring faiths as the generations previous. There would always be moments of doubt, where if I questioned the existence of that summer, I would just return my thoughts to Parker and the Oregon Coast, where all the cares of the world seemed a distant twilight when reflecting upon the town of Brookings. It’s soft breeze and dramatic skies were the memory of our lost youth. For the next year my mind ran riot with thoughts of Parker and Oregon, and with a broken correspondence of letters, poetry and emotion we continued to keep in touch, but never really left the rugged, amorphous cliffs of the coast. After a phantom chase, the dream was over.
The unending sadness of her eyes had bore into my soul and it had escaped forever into the backwoods and mountains of the Oregon wilderness. With the intention of finding each other the following summer we ended up moving our separate ways, she left on a scholarship to the bohemian heart of Europe, studying at the Sorbonne, while I left to the Middle East, Beirut, Baghdad and then onto Africa, working closely with the United Nations mission to the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba. Against the heart’s control of the brain, the hours of analysis and more-often-than-not presumption, I half-logically finally let go. I would never have another experience like the one I had with Parker, a golden girl along the Oregon Coast. If she were to read this today, I know she would say in a matter-of-fact way of speaking, “And I would never have another journey like the one when I was with you, my dear, ol’ Bern.” Oregon, I love you.