On our final night in Oregon, we drove north after an early dinner, headed for Cannon Beach so we could enjoy one last sunset on the Pacific Ocean.
In our backseat, Varenna (our four-year-old daughter) had acquired a loose receipt and was suddenly (and quite feverishly) drawing on it with the neon-bright “monster markers” she got at a Portland paper store. She used her armrest as a make-shift desk.
“What are you working on, Renna?”
“I’m making a treasure map!” she declared.
She showed it off when we parked — a series of squiggles, X’s and lines — and she would hold onto it the whole evening. If you look close enough in the photo of her jumping with pointed toes (click on it below), you will see it in her little hand. Such is the magic of a four-year-old’s mind on vacation.
If you are a child of the 1980s and Haystack Rock looks familiar, it is because it featured prominently in the opening scene of The Goonies. Towering 235 feet over the surf, it is one of the largest intertidal monoliths on earth, and its neighbors out at sea — the leaning towers known as The Needles — are a sight to behold when they are backlit at sunset.
After a little while, Varenna and I ventured up the beach while my wife and our other daughter — 6-month-old Lamorra — stayed behind on a beach blanket and played in the fine sand.
Varenna’s imagination had consumed her. She leaped, she shouted at the sea, she dialogued with an imaginary friend, she danced in the sunny rays. The whole time, I fired away like a shameless paparazzo, sacrificing my dignity in the interest of capturing some of the best portraits I’ve ever captured of her.
After 20 minutes, we decided to have some fun with Haystack Rock, trying to mess with perspective to create optical illusions.
She was a good sport, but after a couple of minutes of shenanigans, she ran toward the surf and continued to reside in her own little world. In defiance, she tossed handfuls of sand at the waves.
No matter what angle I found, it worked. This was one of those apex moments you get as a photographer: the divine light, the dramatic shadows, the candid display of busy humans and a natural force that couldn’t care less.
Varenna paused on the rippled sand. She grabbed the corners of her orange skirt and held them up to the warm sun, either completely lost in the moment, or momentarily giving in to her fatigue. I rushed up and captured the sight.
“Done,” I thought. “The vacation can be over now.”