Alone, in Homer, Alaska
I cherished the solitude of the occasional walk on the beach between Anchor Point and Homer—nineteen miles of vertical cliffs overhanging the mysterious rocks, tide pools, beached seaweed, and sixteen-foot tides. I had to time the ten-hour walk carefully to assure there was at least some walkable beach the whole way to Homer.
I thought the rocks mysterious because I couldn’t fathom how so many of different colors and compositions, and sizes and shapes, and in unlikely combinations, seemed strewn so haphazardly by an agent unseen. I imagined they had been spewed over the eons by the two volcanoes across Cook Inlet that I could see on a clear day, Iliamna to the northwest and Augustine to the southwest. I later learned the movement of glaciers over millions of years had pushed surface debris hundreds of miles from any direction and left them all mixed together here along the shores of Cook Inlet.
I loved these rocks. My associates at work, I knew, thought me slightly mad, having collected and placed interesting rocks throughout my office as objets d’art. The large black stone which I temporarily placed on the boulder in the above picture was the largest I collected, weighing 90 pounds.
Yes, I was mad—was not quite with the regular world, or, rather, not with the world I left behind in California. The solitude I enjoyed in this sparsely-populated region of Alaska had brought me to a new mental space. One grows both smaller and larger in Alaska. Smaller, because the landscape is beyond a human’s ability to perceive it whole; larger because each person seems to count for something more in such a sparsely-populated place than in the frightful, crowded urbs and suburbs rural Alaskans have left behind. I felt at home in a place in which I was not born, in which I owned only my personal goods, where I had no family (they lived elsewhere then), and where the people were individualistic and private.
I was at home with myself.
To emphasize the value I found in being by myself, especially along this beach, I tell friends a few short stories from my travels along it.
I once saw an eagle dive into the surf to catch a salmon and carry aloft to its aerie on the cliffs above.
I once failed to time the walk properly and had to navigate between the water and the cliff, between successive incoming waves of the rising tide.
I found shapes sculpted by wind and water and unknown powers.
On my last day along this beach, in 1995, I saw two mature eagles with their young one, who looked larger than they because of its fluffiness, guiding their offspring by flying at her sides, keeping their wings under hers as she wobbled in the air on, perhaps, her first flight.
And, finally, I recount to friends how I never felt alone if I could see another person on the beach, even a mile or more away. I was startled once to suddenly see a distant someone behind me. I hurried forward to get around a bend in the cliff so I could rid that person from my view. It took me a while to recover from the intrusion.
inner voice is quashed
by clamor of others’ thoughts
solitude grows ears