BY Lana Hechtman Ayers

Lana Hechtman Ayers

Cape Meares, Tillamook county, Oregon coast

This is my shrine, the shineless sky of gray-white fog,
domed cloud over my town, enclosing us in a mood of
contemplation. Even the ocean flows gray green today.
The muted colors ease mind and breath. Less hesitation of
self than when everywhere is golden tones, brassy, brazen,
so one must raise up one’s courage to be so floodlit.
Here in this soft haze of gray, I blend effortlessly into
the flannel-washed landscape. I can be the sea
and the murk and the seabirds floating, soaring,
just out of sight.

This is my shrine, the pines, the cedar, the thorn-hearted
rugosa and blackberry brambles, the waxy-leaved salal,
the green of intention, of soil verdant with life
through which the elk herd romps. Here, in salt air
unaccommodating to so many plants, these thrive,
crowded together on the hillside like brethren poised
to conquer the universe. Untamed and unashamed,
I am that unkempt myself.

Here is my shrine, the sloppy sine curve line of coast range
mountains, snowy no more. Hoary ancestors whose lifeline
spans much of earth’s time. They border the horizon of lake
and bay, seaming us in this tiny hamlet, this quilt of many
waters—a sky of crystalline water vapor, florae whose plasma
is water, and we human dwellers, welled up from saltwater
swells, transmuting gills to lungs long, long ago.

This is my shrine, this time to sit with silence of mind
and observe the infinitesimal slice of creation I am in and of.
This is joy, this place, this me that is one with fog and sea
and greenery. This gray day soothes my heart more tenderly
than the gray whale mother who nurses her calf past tideline,
halfway to the horizon. Though the world at large is fierce
in so many ways out of our control, here and now,
my soul breathes a momentary peace, a transcendent
release from fear.