I had been through this before, this deep grief, this cutting hurt. I had lost loved ones and struggled to stand, to sleep, to breathe. So I knew what I needed to do. To get off the couch. To stop staring out the window. To go out!
The raging waves roared lifting logs and tossing them on the stony shore. Dark clouds settled on the distant mountains. Columns of rain streaked the far shore. I walked. I climbed. My heart pounded. The wind scoured my face, blew into me, swept through me. Climbing. Standing. Purging.
I noticed a little girl, in a pink coat, singing, playing, dancing by the water’s edge. The smile on her face. The joy in her step. Her father nearby, her protector, her guide.
I lost my father on New Year’s Eve. It was time. He was ready. But what a cavernous hole in my heart! What a deep well of sorrow! The only thing to do was walk.
I walked through the forest where the old trees grow. I walked by lakes and ponds of mallards and mergansers. I walked over pastures and among trees with hooting owls overhead. And I went to the bluff. Only in wild beauty, strong wind, vast waters, could I find solace. A gaping wound such as this needed powerful healing, and that is what I found.
Steps lured me to the ridge. The path led me up the bluff. Twisted trees danced with the wind. A gull hovered steady as a kite looking me in the eye. It was a rare day, alone on the bluff. I walked watching the tiny figures on the beach below. At the very end I pushed past the rosehips and Oregon grape to where there used to be a sign. “End of the Trail” it had said, but the sign was gone.
So I turned and looked back. On came a man with a broad hat. On came another with a red shirt. One by one they went down the steep slope to the beach. I turned to retrace my steps along the ridge.
I felt better. Not so devastated. Eyes sore and limbs tired, but not completely undone. I could walk and stop and take in the view, a passing ship with an escort tug, a ferry crossing from Port Townsend to Whidbey, a faint hint of Mount Rainier on the horizon. Walking on I heard kinglets all around me and caught a glimpse of their shiny gold crowns. Eagles sailed high on the wind. People came and passed, smiling, as I stepped aside. The old log where I'd sat with friends on many previous bluff hikes had withered to skeletal remains. Nothing lasts forever.
And when I feel the loss acutely here is where I come for consolation, when times are hard and I am suffering. We are truly blessed to have so many places of peace so near at hand. Beaches and bluffs, forests and fields, wetlands and lakes where we can go to release the ache and breathe again. Ebey’s Bluff is truly a treasure for us all to share, in times of sorrow, and in joy. It cleared my head and began to heal my aching heart.
Directions: From Highway 20 just north of the Main Street stop light in Coupeville, turn left onto Ebey Road and drive to the beach. Or go a little farther north and turn left on Sherman Road and right on Cemetery Road. Park at the very end at the Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve office.
By Bus or Bike: The Route 1 Island Transit bus stops at Sherman Road. Walk or bike a half mile south to the upper trailhead at the end of Cemetery Road.
Mobility: The picnic area by the beach is accessible from Ebey Road. Parking inside the gate requires a State Park Discover Pass. The trail is narrow and climbs steeply in places and has a steep drop from the bluff to the beach below.
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