The Miracle House and the Beautiful Sea

It was a gray morning in Coos Bay, and my siblings and I slumped lazily on the couch watching Bride and Prejudice. Finally, knowing that if we were going to go hiking in the afternoon I should make sure my hair was properly washed and dried in time, I left my siblings to enjoy the random Bollywood dance numbers and went into the bathroom to prepare for the day.

When I emerged again, I saw to my surprise that for the first time all vacation, the sun had come out!

I went out on the terrace to soak it up and dry my hair, and presently Steven joined me. Together we looked out across the bay. It was low tide, and people with buckets and boots were spread out across the bare bay bed.

“Are they digging clams?” Steven asked.

“I think so,” I said. “Maybe we should go ask them.”

Steven was a fan of this idea, but unfortunately, at the bottom of the garden was a locked gate with a sign that said “no beach access.” Steven proposed just jumping over it anyway. But I’m not greatly skilled at leaping fences, and instead proposed that we walk down the street to the actual beach access.

So we did, my wet hair still blowing in the wind.

The beach access was just down the street, and after Steven talked to the clam diggers a bit I kicked off my flip flops and we ventured onto the bay. At first it was just the regular beach sand, but then it was soft gray clay between my toes. It reminded me of being in Alaska again, and walking in the clay along the glacial river.

There were tiny living things everywhere, and I carefully avoided stepping on any crabs or sea anemones. We also avoided the kelp forests because they stank, and also, I didn’t relish the thought of walking through them with bare feet. Once we came upon a whole city of tiny, penny-sided sea anemones so close together that we walked around instead of across, and then we found hundreds of tiny piles of some sort of sea poop. Little spirals of gray clay. Perhaps some creatures burrow under the sand, Steven thought, and send their poop upwards.

Coos Bay meets the ocean near a tiny town called Charleston, and the coastline past Charleston is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s full of odd slanted rocks, secluded coves with beaches that are often impossible to access, seals, birds, and overall an abundance of strange and breathtaking geology.

I’ve hiked it probably five times in the last five years, but I still adore it unconditionally. After wandering the paths and peeking into secluded coves for a bit, you’ll suddenly find yourself in the gorgeously manicured gardens of Shore Acres state park. Shore Acres was once owned by a rich man with a mansion and impeccable gardens, but eventually the mansion burned and he sold the land to the state of Oregon to use as a park.

Unfortunately, this year we were a bit too early for the roses. I saw buds, but no blooms. However, we did catch the rhododendrons, explosions of towering color.

(Shore acres also has a path to access one of those hidden cove beaches, but we didn’t go down this time.)

Unfortunately, the burst of sunshine that dried my hair as I walked the empty bay with Steven was the only sun we got all weekend. The Shore Acres hike was cold. And the next day, when we went to Bastendorff Beach before heading home, it was even colder and windier. I piled on clothing, heedless of fashion.

I’ve been to Bastendorff Beach before, but I guess I’ve never walked to the end of it, where the sands meet the cliff. I guess I’ve never climbed on top of the large flattish rock and looked into the tide pools, teeming with sea anemones, starfish, muscles, and barnacles. I guess I’ve never put my ear to the wall of muscles on the south side of the rock, listening to the whistles and snaps of the hidden life within the shells, or peered into the crevices to find the tiny crabs, one with a little barnacle between its beady eyes.

Sea anemones are funny things. Sitting in their pools, spread open like a flower, they are so beautiful. But hanging droopily from the underside of a rock, their tentacles withdrawn and hidden away, they’re unbelievably ugly and unsettling, a slimy greenish mud color.

Of course my first instinct, every time I see one, is to touch their sticky little tentacles and watch them close up.

“Don’t do that!” Jenny said. “You could spread diseases to them!”

She was probably right, but I was very bitter about it. I have formative memories of that shallow pool at the Marine Science center, where sea anemones, sea urchins, and starfish were all fair game to touch with my wee fingers. I’m pretty sure that cemented in my impressionable mind that sea life was safe to touch.


We ate lunch in Charleston, at a seafood shack that was almost a food truck but didn’t have wheels. It smelled delicious, like sea breezes and fried food, and we ate clam chowder and fish and chips while a lame seagull stood around hopefully begging for crumbs.

Earlier, when Steven and I had walked in the clay of the drained bay, we’d had a disagreement about whether or not we’d want to live permanently at the coast. To him, living here would make vacations less special. To me, why would you live in an ugly place if you could instead live in a beautiful place?

Speaking of beautiful places, let me backtrack a bit and talk about The Miracle House (or, I should say, the miracle apartment.)

I feel like I’ve mentioned this quite a bit on my blog, but my family members have spent the last year living either here with my parents or in Ben’s house in Corvallis. It’s been a unique experience, as for the previous ten years or so we were all scattered hither and yon. This trip was meant to be our last hurrah of sorts before Amy moves back to Thailand, and who knows when we’ll all be together again.

In August, Jenny is moving to Blacksburg VA to go to grad school, and I’m planning to move with her.

Now, when I dream of houses I dream of places beautiful and small. I dream of hardwood floors, sunny windows, and quirky arched doorways. I dream of golden morning light, a record spinning on my stereo from the ’80s, tea in hand. It has to be pretty, it has to smell nice, and it can’t be too big or too falling-apart-in-the-corners or else it doesn’t fit into my daydream.

Jenny had dreams too, but instead of windows and floors, she imagined living only a short distance from campus. A brisk walk in the morning breeze, or a few minutes on a bicycle, and voila! She’d be at her building. No more endless commutes. No more hastily-defrosted morning windshields. No more fruitless searches for a parking space.

But daydreams are one thing, reality another. Jenny and I started compromising more and more on our ideals while watching apartment after apartment get snatched up.

We were beginning to feel stressed and desperate. We pawed through pictures of dim places with dirty carpets. Was it worth it to pay the $40 application fee when we might not get it? We don’t really have a choice, do we now? Unless we want that other place that’s $200 over our budget?

It’s just a year lease…we can survive anything for a year, right? And look for something better once we’re there?

We both prayed, but Jenny prayed harder and was rewarded with The Miracle.

It happened like this: During class one morning, she absent-mindedly clicked on the Blacksburg Craigslist tab which was still open in her browser. It automatically refreshed, and Jenny saw that there was a new listing. It had only been posted 2 hours before!!! Jenny texted the owner immediately.

When I woke up she excitedly showed me the pictures. I couldn’t believe it. It was all there…a 2-bedroom apartment with hardwood floors, sunny windows, and quaint arched doorways. It was a mere jaunt from campus. And $200 below our budget!

But would we get it? That was still uncertain. “The landlord is contacting the current tenant, and she’s going to give me a virtual tour,” Jenny said.

“Honestly, at this point I feel like we’d take it sight unseen,” I said.

“Yeah, well, it was sort-of a ‘have you stopped beating your wife yet’ situation because he asked me ‘do you want a virtual tour or an in-person tour?'”

We laughed.

The next day at noon we had our virtual tour, and I was able to fully admire the quaint corner windows and odd closets. I tried not to get my hopes up, because two other potential tenants were in the zoom call with us, but it was hard. Were they ahead of us in line, or behind us? We had no clue.

Immediately after the tour, scared of wasting any time, Jenny started texting the landlord saying we want it if it’s available. Turns out we were technically second in line…that is, someone else had responded to the Craigslist ad before Jenny had. But the landlord had a 1 bedroom he hadn’t listed, and apparently he convinced the person ahead of us to take that one instead.

He did tell us that he wasn’t going to promise it to us without a deposit, and Jenny was like “well, here’s my Venmo, I can pay that right now.” So he requested, and Jenny paid, and it was ours!

Seriously, it was that easy. I mean obviously we signed a lease too, but there were no headaches of applications and proof of income and all that. Jenny just said she was a grad student, and he’d never had any issues with grad students, so that was enough for him.

We’re moving in August. How I’ll miss August in Oregon, but then. If the world burns again this year, I’d rather miss it.


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6 responses to “The Miracle House and the Beautiful Sea

  1. You have a beautiful way with words! God is amazing in the way he answers prayers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Makes me want to visit! 🙂 Except if you offered me tea, I’d probably ask, “Do you have Coke?” How a person can like teacups and saucers, but not tea? Don’t ask me!


    • Emily Sara Smucker

      Haha you’d have to warn me ahead of time to have coke on hand, I don’t usually have any kind of soda 😆. But when Amy and I were little we put grape pop in our tea set and called it “purple mint tea” so maybe I could serve you that 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. birdyandnerdy

    Better than none, I suppose…although grape-flavored anything isn’t my favorite, either! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so good! Nice houses are super important, and stories of how the perfect houses popped up just make me happy.

    Liked by 1 person

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