It turns out all access points to Multnomah Falls are closed because of the forest fires that have been raging for the past six weeks. Some kid setting off firecrackers in the woods. Carol, the 60-something-year-old highway worker guarding the exit, peers sympathetically into the car and suggests that we check out the tide pools at Tillamook instead. The promise of sea stars and urchins swimming in giant puddles is enough to get us up well before dawn the next day to make the two-hour drive to the coast.
When we arrive, the dark is already disappearing. There’s no time to lose before the tide’s pendulum swings the other way and our expedition becomes a fool’s errand. We follow Carol’s directions and climb along the rainforest trail that hugs the shore. At one point, the path forks unexpectedly. We go right, and keep ascending for another forty-five minutes, assuming that the trail will eventually lead back down to sea level. We’re about 200 feet above the Pacific when the path suddenly runs out.
Disappointment is never on Life’s guestlist. It barges in unannounced; hijacks the playlist; tosses tea cups at the host; unwinds every clock.
We sit on rocks with chaos on our laps because there’s nothing else to do.
Below us, a giant gust of water blows fifty feet into the air. Massive shadows break the ocean’s surface– Whales! A whole pod of them coursing through the current. Before we know it, we’re gasping, whooping, laughing at the perfect timing of events that’ve been nudging us toward this moment all along. The decision to turn right instead of left; Carol’s wizened smile; careless sparks from a teenager’s hands. We discover that Disappointment is not just an artful saboteur; it’s also one hell of a dance partner.