LaPush, Part II
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
The Earth is breathing/ through the Ocean’s seizing/ just as the Mother-to-be/ should be too
My favorite element of being in nature is marveling at the myriad ways in which it is reflected in me, just a version poetically interpreted and magnified. We are most all aware that our bodies are composed of the same 70%-ish of saline solution that Earth is. That we too are made of the carbon stardust comprising all of the heavenly bodies in the currently known universe.
That the same hot red lava thousands of meters beneath my feet pumps from my own heart too.
That if you were to look under a 1000X microscope, our own skin’s topography mimics the corrugated mountain ranges blanketing the surface of the earth.
I see the both hefty and miniscule bones of my skeleton evoked in tree trunks, boulders, and the subdermal mantle that scaffolds the muscular toil of daily life.
In our forest systems that serve as the “lungs of the world” in their vital exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere.
The grasslands, foliage, and flora akin to the hair that shelters, warms, and protects us from the elements.
If you look at a map of continental river systems you will see capillaries feeding into veins, contributing to arteries, routing themselves toward and away from a heart the size of an ocean.
And let’s not even begin to talk about my own emotional weather.
Bearing witness to these poetic similarities floods me with the serenity of knowing we live in a construct wherein I can be at once smaller than a speck, while also as big as all there ever could be. But perhaps the most personably notable of these metaphoric correlations always seemed to escape me, though it seems one of nature’s most entrancing ones. I have never grasped the “poetic equivalence” of the hypnotic rhythm of waves washing into shore. I suppose I had resigned myself to it as something that just didn’t correlate directly. A Way of the Tao kind of thing whereby when you put your finger on it, it vanishes with no meaning to be found.
I stood on the dampened velvet sand of Third Beach, with my headlamp off, immersed in the bewitching black suction where midnight sea and sky meet when an assertive wave crashed into my thighs, and it suddenly hit me. I finally made the symbolic connection of what waves bursting to shore are to me–the Earth's contractions.
Now, before you write me off as some drug-induced Phoebe Boofay (I was and am not) stay with me. The waves at LaPush come in fiercely, while others are more gentle, much like an imperfectly timed student symphony. There is variability in the strength of uterine contractions, though they do build in intensity as labor progresses as if in a unified crescendo. Like individual waves washing into shore they build, slowly peak, then retract. And while not all waves roar like a gleeful fourth grader defiantly crashing brass cymbals into each other, sometimes such an outburst of exhilaration just comes with the territory.
The Pacific is taking deep breaths, in and out, out and in, to manage the surging waves, just as all mammal mothers do. Breathing and birthing are inextricably linked. Abdominal breathing during childbirth keeps muscles relaxed, oxygen levels up, and lets your baby know that the Momma Motel has check-out at eleven and it’s already noon. Each “wave” falls in line with a series of uterine push-ups that help shoulder your cozy guest out the door.
The power of this moment and this place feels undeniable; the location remote enough that if one is unprepared and lacks a certain reverence, he or she will be outright rejected by it. So much like a birthing mother’s relationship with guests in her birth room, you must earn her embrace, and if you do, you are hers forever. My heart feels so full in this blissful interrelation with all women and that of my own “tides” as influenced by the moon, that when I recall the fact that I am standing on land known as LaPush, the sense of synchronicity just about bowls me over.
Sidenote: In case you are curious, LaPush, located on the traditional territory of the Quileute people, who have lived and hunted in this area for thousands of years, reportedly received its name following the arrival of European culture brought to the village in 1882 by schoolteacher A.W. Smith and his school. LaPush is Chinook jargon for “ the mouth,” a distortion of the French “la bouche”. What one won’t learn from the town’s wikipedia page is of the critical relationship between the mouth and jaw of a laboring woman and their pelvic floor. I am personally a proponent of keeping the mouth open and relaxed during early and active labor and closed during the pushes of transition.
I must admit, coming back to the tent to describe all of this to my beloved data scientist boyfriend was a bit like explaining apples to an orange :-). In his defense, he listened intently and appreciatively until I fell asleep to the nearby water’s roar. Danny became nervous in the middle of the night, thinking the tide might continue coming in to waterlog our site, but I felt oddly assured that tonight would not be the night for an unusually high tide.
We spend the next morning strolling the beach, examining coral reefs brimming with vibrant sea anemones, reflexive cucumbers, and nestled starfish. The afternoon is spent perched on a behemoth upended tree trunk watching and sketching beachcombers dotting the coastline. I peer over my shoulder to take in the backdrop that envelops us like
warm shoulders under a shawl. Twisted cypress tree arms gnarled by the wind are enshrouded in salty mists that form silver thought clouds narrating the ineffability of the scene.
Our adventure ends the next day and I return to our now more familiarly temperate Seattle home, deeply moved and inspired by the experience. To such a degree in fact that I finally agree to become an actual (eep) website blogger, but solely if and only if my homage to LaPush will be my very first one.