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Wednesday Sept. 9, I first noted smoke as part of our day. We continued to spend time outdoors as we learned about the AQI (air quality index) and began following it as closely as we do Covid-19 stats. We tried to go out at first, but the air was yellowish with smoke. Oregon’s terribly destructive forest fires are not near us, but the smoke cast a pall over the entire west coast from San Diego to Seattle.

Ecola State Park in the smog

Two days later, we knew we had to stay indoors all day. I had an eye appointment in Portland, but that involved ducking out of the car and into the office, then reversing the process. The days were still and smog-filled. If the sun was visible, it was a pale yellow circle, flat and distant. There was almost no wind at all, when normally the wind always blows, everyone setting up their windbreaks on the beach. The smog hung all around us. After five straight days spent indoors or in the car, we were pretty tired of the inside of our (cute, but small) house, reading books, cooking, cleaning, doing crosswords, and looking at each other. Daily fluctuations in the AQI only go so far in the world of entertainment. Finally, it began to rain and the air became breathable.

More than a week later, it was finally safe to go out, and we celebrated with a trip to Hug Point, where I found a piece of beach glass (surely a good omen), and we saw mussels of a good size for eating. Only Oregon residents can get a permit to collect these treasures of the sea, so I advised my sister Paula to get a permit before she arrived. We collected mussels, Jonathan cleaned them, then they steamed in white wine and garlic. We added salad and french bread, accompanied by more wine, and imagined ourselves in Brussels or Paris.

While we were sheltering from the smoke, the dry season in Oregon appears to have ended, and today there are strong winds and lots of rain. If it lets up we’ll go out, but if not we’ll be indoors once more, this time prisoners of the pelting rain and wind.

When it’s good, it’s really, really good, and the days we’ve been able to get outdoors have been priceless. Haystack Rock is the landmark of Cannon Beach, OR, but as we walk or drive south, we’ve visited Silver Point, Humbug Point, Hug Point, and we’re still going. There are beautiful offshore rocks and long beaches.

One day, we skipped over a long stretch of coast to visit Tillamook, famous for dairy products. The line to get into the factory store proved to be too long for us, and we continued out to the coast to visit Short Beach, a wonderful beach full of driftwood and waterfalls. It is also a beach that people visit with buckets. When we inquired from the third group that passed us, we found that Short Beach is a place that is popular for hunting agates.

We have made the best of our outdoor days. With luck, the rain will let up and we’ll get back outside before the month ends and it’s time to move on.