Empty Places

Small, coastal towns take on a new vibe when they are empty.


Annabelle Stuelpe, Page Editor

Most people flock to the beach like seagulls on warm days when the sun is beaming. This is why I prefer the beach on its coldest, most desolate days. I love the winding drives through fog and farms, navigating the roads until the sea can be seen through the fog. I crave the feeling of standing near the edge of a cliff, gazing at the deep gray of the water meeting the pale sky, while the wind combs my hair. I’m always cold, no matter the layers of coats I pile on. The chill echoes in my bones and I feel connected with the day. 

Small, coastal towns take on a new vibe when they are empty. Something about empty places that are typically packed with visitors has always fascinated me. The beaming pink stripes of the Patrick’s Salt Water Taffy building–juxtaposed with the insipid gray sky–seem extracted from a film. I often look at life through a frame, as if I am seeking to transfer my experiences into a form of art. Unremarkable beach days–numbing, forbidding–are remarkable to me because of their peculiar nature.

My favorite coastal day occurred at Salmon Creek. It was a spontaneous venture–my favorite–with my closest friend. We had grabbed coffee, and didn’t know how to spend the day. The Dutch Bros barista recommended we drive to Salmon Creek beach. The wind blustered so strongly we struggled to get a blanket down. It was the late afternoon, foggy, and the sand stung our faces as we lay with our sweatshirt hoods pulled over our heads. We tried to eat the picnic foods, but sand clung to every bite. Typically I despise dysfunction, yet gazing at the moment through an artistic lens, it was exciting. We soon meandered up Highway One in our car, deciding to stop on the side of the road, on a cliff overlooking a small beach. I matched the bleak undertones of the sky with my charcoal colored jeans and black shirt. We were near the town of Jenner, standing lonesome without the typical influx of beach-goers. 

Quiet, freezing beach days are reminiscent of film. Art reflects life, so as I live life, I let my life become art. No one longs for glacial beach days. Yet, the sleepiness of overcast days soothe my mind. They bring images of black coffee, clinging to its warmth; rain, creaking doors, the pale filter encasing everything. Vivid green, coastal pastures with lone cows hidden in haze. Old panes of glass, seeping cool air. Empty beach houses. Crumbling barns. Oatmeal with brown sugar and blueberries. There is happiness in these moments. The simplicity of these days allow me to breathe, and reflect on how life is enthralling. I am captivated by moments of stillness, pauses in conversations, smiles between strangers. They manifest contentment.