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May 27, 2009
In his best-selling 1990’s book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” Dr. John Gray popularized the notion that men need time in “caves” in order to relax and cope with stress. Gray’s description gave guys across the planet (Earth, not Mars) a term that legitimized their need for time alone at the end of a long day. Now, I don’t have a problem with “cave time.” What I take issue with is the assumption that women don’t also need it. In fact, most women I know would love to retreat to a cave now and then for some solitude.
On Saturday, as I drove by myself along our beautiful coastline, my car became my cave. It was fabulous. These days, I am rarely without my 2-year-old son Owen, but on Saturday, I drove from my home in Milwaukie up to Clatskanie, where I grew up and where much of my family still lives, to give a workshop at a writing conference. Owen stayed home with his dad (my husband Alex). They went to his toddler soccer class, then headed down to Rockaway to enjoy the holiday weekend with my in-laws. I joined them that evening.
In Clatskanie, I taught my hour-long workshop, had lunch with my parents, and then began the long drive to Rockaway, with plenty of warnings to “Drive carefully and watch out for idiots.” Clatskanie is located on Highway 30, thirty or so miles northeast of Astoria. To get to Rockaway from there, you connect to Highway 101 and follow it down the coast through Seaside, Cannon Beach, and some tiny little towns before reaching “Rockaway by the sea.” On a regular weekend, it may take a little more than two hours. On a holiday weekend, especially a sunny one, I expected it to take three.
To my surprise, traffic wasn’t so bad. It was mid-afternoon and most people, seemingly, had already reached their destinations. With my cell phone quiet and my radio off, I wound my way along the edge of the coastal forest, taking in the silence and the beauty of a truly spectacular drive. Maybe because it was so pretty outside, I could hardly think about anything else. So, I focused on the road and the sights out the window, leaving more complicated thoughts for a different day. Worries and annoyances and stress are not permitted in “cave time.”
As I left Astoria and crossed the long Young Bay’s Bridge, the sun glistened off the water. The white-capped river moved rhythmically out to sea. Near Cannon Beach, sun seeped through trees beside the highway, marking the road with shadows. Kayakers paddled along the Nehalem River. Blooming Rhododendrons colored yards. The ocean, out of my sight for much of the drive, began to make brief and stunning appearances.
At about 5 p.m., the highway straightened out. I was already there. I drove passed Lake Lytle and Rockaway’s downtown businesses were upon me. American flags dotted the sidewalks. I made my turns off 101 and parked in front of the beach house.
“How was the drive?” they asked.
“Great!” I answered. And I meant it.
### Erika Weisensee is a writing mom. She lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism at the University of Portland.
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