Four-fifths of Oregon is cowboy country, all dry and pastel and sage-dotted, but when most people think of Oregon what they see in their minds is the Willamette Valley, which is green and protected by blue, snow-capped mountains - snoring volcanoes, technically.
And those of us from between the snoring, soaring Cascade Range and the evergreen hills grow up "pitying people who weren't born in a vale", who grow up on a street like Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, which you could just roll down forever, with no interruptions in the grid to stop you from rolling off the edge of the world.
So when we drove down to Cannon Beach, I was a bit perturbed to see the ocean looking so very flat. At seven I was taught never to turn my back on the ocean; now it seemed tame and short. Since when are you, beloved Pacific, such a New York avenue, huh?
That might be the nature of this particular beach; or maybe we caught the tide at the wrong time. But the ocean at Cannon Beach was still broad, and impressive, and extremely cold and windy. Cannon Beach has become a bustling little town, but the beach itself is not like the cozy, friendly, pebbly beaches I remember from New Jersey. When you leave the pines and cross the dunes, you leave behind all feelings of civilization.
I remember my grandmother reading a picture-book that mentioned the lonely seacoast of California, and pausing to observe that "Oregon has an even lonelier seacoast." It occurs to me only at this moment that hers was an isolated literary reference: that grown-ups probably do not go about comparing the loneliness of seacoasts the way they compare gas prices.
But, Oregon's is a lonely seacoast.