The Littoral Life: A Light in the Darkness

By Dan Haag
I often wonder – as most full-time Oregon Coast residents do – about the strange behavior of some of our inland visitors: their odd interpretations of traffic signs, their confusion about what to do with empty coffee cups, their inability to read a menu in under 3 hours.
I’ve written about this before, the phenomenon I like to call “Vacation Fog” (patent pending). That is, the rapturous bliss of being on vacation and how it shorts out all normal brain activity. I feel like I can speak with authority on this subject because I too have suffered from “Vacation Fog.” Just ask the pleasant fellow at the Boise, ID visitors center who politely assisted me when I asked him – and I quote – “Is Boise where they make those nice speakers?”
I rest my case.

But after spending some quality time as an observer of tourists in their natural environment, I think it goes much deeper than just “fog,” especially in our neck of the woods.
I’ve come to the conclusion that inland folks who visit the coast are intimidated by wide open natural spaces. To them, this is the wild frontier, their “Heart of Darkness.”
Case in point, the house next door to mine that is “definitely NOT a vacation rental.” Every time someone arrives for the weekend, the first thing they do is turn on every single interior and exterior light and leave them on throughout the duration of their stay. Either they are signaling the International Space Station or they’ve been told that the wild grizzly bears, werewolves, talking trees and orcs that inhabit the Oregon Coast can only be kept at bay by 24 hour lighting.
Not only does it ruin my chances at star-gazing on clear nights, but I have to routinely talk my wife out of digging out my baseball bat and using it in ways that could technically be considered vandalism.
Still, I suppose I should thank them: I’ve probably saved several thousand dollars on my own power bill over the years during their stays.
Lest you think this is an isolated incident, I live on a street boasting several second homes. During the summer months, I could lay in my driveway blindfolded and read a book at 1 am thanks to the abundant lighting.
Frankly, I feel a little sorry for anything sinister that might be stalking the fringes of the night in my neighborhood: there’s a good chance its retinas were burned to dried corn bits a while ago by the amount of illumination pouring from these homes.
I sort of get it. When you come from a major urban center, constant nature can be a tad unnerving.
That’s not to say visitors don’t attempt to bravely forge ahead in its face.
Recently, I observed a family roll up to the beach in Manzanita in their urban assault vehicle, a car so imposing it made the Death Star look like a children’s bouncy castle.
A modern family of six clambered out and proceeded to unload enough equipment to stage a re-enactment of the Normandy beach landing. Dad adjusted his smart bowler hat and barked precise orders like a Field Marshall. His troops assembled crisply and marched over the dunes with all the pomp and circumstance of Lawrence of Arabia, ready for some good old-fashioned beach fun.
My watch said 1:10 pm.
Any of us who has spent time at this particular beach know that the afternoon wind can be a tad lively. While it certainly doesn’t detract from the beauty of the beach, it can feel like being massaged with a belt sander if you aren’t used to it.
And they likely weren’t, because at 1:19 pm they reappeared; covered in sand, kids wailing, dad missing his hat, and mom frantically scanning her phone for any nearby indoor family activity.
They threw everything back into their vehicle – including about 3 tons of beach – and sped off to grander, presumably slightly longer adventures.
So to my brothers and sisters from all points inland, I say this: don’t be intimidated by nature and its darkness, flying sand, pounding rain, or gatherings of two or more trees. It’s all part of the experience, our yin to your yang. Roll with the punches and enjoy your stay. It’s how you “visit like a local.”
Also, consider turning off or dimming some of your lights during at least part of your stay. I have an uneasy feeling that my wife’s recent obsession with locating the nearest batting cage isn’t just for show.