Ends of the Earth

There is something both dangerous and fantastic about going to the ends of the earth.

There is a place where I experience both of those qualities in equal measure — along the road south of Cannon Beach, Oregon, just at the rise on the side of Neahkahnie Mountain. Whoever built the road, and the pull-out to admire the view and watch for whales, left a clue on the far side of the stone retaining wall: three steps down toward a thin trail that leads through five foot high salal bushes across the top of a ridge and down — nearly straight down — to a pile of rocks above the vibrant Pacific. From there one sees over the edge of the world, and down into the magnificent stone walls and broken waves below. The danger is there — and at various times I’ve stood close to that edge. A few feet away is certain death. But the deep warmth of the sun among the standing stones, and shelter from the wind, creates a magical and sacred — and safe place. The ends of the earth.

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My Son

It is both a destination and beginning, a place I’ve visited from time to time, a marker of stages so to speak. One looks out across the more than 180 degrees of vastness, noticing — or at least believing in — the curvature of the planet, and asks to put things in order, in perspective. You cannot be here without understanding that such a wild place was made to reconnect you with yourself. It is the sort of place one goes to come up for air, like a swimmer, and also to see where you are, like a person lost in the forest of their own life who climbs a lookout tree to get their bearings.

I suspect the world is full of such places. In the aboriginal world, in Dreamtime, I’ve heard they mark where a god entered or left the world, and that is exactly the feeling of the place: something sacred as birth and death, the longitudes and latitudes of a transient self-awareness, an epiphany.

Even though I’ve provided rather easy directions to this physical place along the coast, I cannot tell you how to locate such special places in your own life. They seem to come when they come. How I discovered this one I cannot recall. It was just there waiting, and then it was in my life, and when I want to know the truth, it’s where I go to find it — and especially with those I love.

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2 Comments

  • Dan you got it. We all need that special place where we understand our nature and role in the world. I too have a place like that and I feel both insignificant due to the vastness of it and significant because I can survive it. For me that place is the desert – more beautiful than people realize, where only the strong survive.

  • Thanks for stopping by, AJ. I am also fond of desert spaces — many are alive for me and sacred, too. Wherever our special places are, they find us and inform us, and help us experience our wholeness.

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