Nurtured by Wind and Sand

written by Lori Tobias | photo by Talia Galvin


On a day in August 2000, I wrote my column for The Rocky Mountain News looking out over the beach on the central Oregon Coast. It was a gray day, the fog drifting over the dunes, gulls diving from the sky. My editors had no idea I was more than 1,000 miles away from the Denver newsroom. At lunch, I joined my husband, Chan, and his prospective employers at a crooked little restaurant with a glimpse of the bay, a setting that felt light years from the metropolis of Denver. That night, we slept with the hotel door open so we could listen to the surf.

Monday morning, I handed my editor a magnet that read, “It’s OK to wake up smiling.” That was how the Oregon Coast made me feel, I told her. Also, I told her I was moving, leaving journalism to pursue my dream of writing fiction. And then I cried.

It was a move inspired years earlier while living in Southern Oregon. Weekends we camped—Bandon, Brookings, Coos Bay. Occasionally, we’d strike out for a weekend in Portland. One day, as we headed home, I decided we should take a detour on Highway 101. We ended up in Newport, the rain coming down sideways. Within hours, I knew that if we ever settled down, it would be in that little town between Yaquina Bay and the Pacific. Chan was a “tramp” lineman, the name given to powerlinemen who follow the big jobs, and we could pretty much go anywhere there was a need. Alas, that was not the Oregon Coast. And so we left Oregon and bought a place in the Denver suburbs. But our mantra remained, “If we ever settle down …”

And now, our dream had come true. Chan landed a job with the local utility district and we moved west. I loved the Oregon Coast, but I was miserable. No longer Lori Tobias with The Rocky Mountain News, I was now just another struggling writer, up at 5 a.m., working daily on writing that went nowhere. And then came the offer from the major daily newspaper to cover the coast. For ten years, I raced up and down the 360-odd miles of headlands and beachfront. In between news stories, I plugged away at the novel, but was met only with rejection. I began to give up, but still I had my Oregon Coast and the privilege of writing about it—until 2013, when I became another victim of the changing newspaper business. Once again, I was just another struggling writer. One year later, as I sat editing the memoir I’d written about my years covering the coast, the phone rang. “Lori,” she said. “My name is Peggy. You sent me your novel. I love it.”

And so the dream I brought with me to the coast came to fruition, nurtured by the wind and the sand, the waves and the rain, the solitude—the gift that is Oregon.

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