Klean Voices: At the Mouth of a River, Starting a New Chapter

When it’s the end of August, it’s your 40th birthday and your oldest kiddo is about to start kindergarten, it’s definitely time for one last summer hurrah.

So, we loaded up the drift boat, made sure we had the kids’ life jackets, snacks and changes of clothes. My husband packed a picnic lunch, which included a birthday cake and a couple of growlers of beer (he sure knows how to put a picnic together).

Our destination was the mouth of the Salmon River on the Oregon Coast, near Lincoln City. We put our boat in the water and rowed the short distance from the boat ramp down river to meet the ocean waves. The water in this little estuary is so clear we could see crabs scurrying around on the sandy bottom, and some little jellyfish. In addition, kingfishers, herons, cormorants and two seals kept us company.

We anchored on the beach and fished for salmon but didn’t catch anything. We did find many other treasures among the driftwood: crab claws, mussel shells, barnacles, seaweed. The boys quickly went through every bathing suit and pair of dry shorts and then just ran around naked. I love coming to this beach because it is pretty secluded, since you have to have a boat to get here.

At one point while my husband was fishing in the boat, the little one was napping in my lap on the beach and my older son was chasing seagulls. He ran out of eyesight and after a couple of minutes I got nervous that I couldn’t see him. So I put the little one in the carrier and set off searching and calling. I thought he had run into the dune grass, upriver. But he was nowhere in sight. I was slow, with the toddler in the carrier, slogging through soft sand. My biggest fear was that he had fallen in the river, where there’s a steep drop off from the sandy bank. My panic level rising, I called and called. Just as I was about to really lose it, there he was, coming out of the tall grass, crying.

He had gotten lost. He was scared. He had been calling me, couldn’t find me. I knelt down and hugged him, relief pouring off of me. He calmed down, I rubbed his back, we talked about what happened and what we could do next time.

Deep breaths. Growing up, getting older. Life is scary. It’s also beautiful and amazing. We get lost and we find ourselves, or if we can’t, we hope somebody finds us. To be resilient, I think, is one of the best qualities anyone can have, adult or child.

We walked back downriver to our little camp holding hands, to the waves and birds, to our boat, to cake and laughing and singing. To my new decade, to his new school, to starting this new exciting chapter, together.

Klean Voice Contributor Amy Kober is the Senior Director of Communications at American Rivers, as well as the mother of two little boys. She lives in Portland, Oregon.