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Community life evolves in time-lapse.

Byline: Bob Welch The Register-Guard

YACHATS - When, in 1936, my grandfather bought a then-lonesome beach cabin for $500, he would have been amazed at what a great-grandson of his would someday do: set a camera on a tripod, point it toward the beach and program it to take a photograph every 16 seconds for 10 hours.

Time-lapse photography reminds us all of the change we seldom notice.

Beachcombers, clouds and waves come and go. The tide slides in, the tide slides out. The sun sets, darkness descends, lights along the beach flash on, then off. Dawn breaks in mere seconds, the 10 previous hours of real time having been condensed to a little more than two minutes - and 2,250 photos.

What makes the changes appear so profound isn't that the camera is constantly shooting; it's that it's not. Only every 16 seconds. Just like when you return to some favorite spot after being away for weeks or months: You have lots of missing time between those mental shutter clicks.

Thus, returning to this swath of coast, I notice how sand packed high on certain parts of the beach has left for other ports of call. Logs that were here last month are gone, hitchhiking currents for elsewhere. And up on Highway 101, where waves from the economic storms have been pounding for a couple of years, some places have washed away completely.

The Landmark Restaurant was in business when I was here in January; now it's not. It opened in 1911, the same year Orville Wright flew a glider for nearly 10 minutes and ground was broken on Boston's Fenway Park. Fenway remains, the Landmark does not.

Across the way, at the Green Salmon, I learn from morning coffee drinkers that some of the Landmark's patrons, like migrating whales, have headed north to Waldport's Salty Dawg Bar & Grill.

Yachats' lone grocery store is still dark, though there's talk that a new buyer will step up soon and doors could reopen come spring.

In Waldport, the new Subway-anchored building just south of the bridge is still looking for occupants, despite opening three years ago this May. And you can forget the "Two-taco-Tuesday" deal at the Seafood Market, just down the street from the closed Alsea Bay Market. It has closed too, sending fish eaters elsewhere.

And so does the beach rebuild itself.

Meanwhile, you wonder how other businesses are holding on, even as you appreciate the marquee humor at the single-register Hill Top General Store just south of Waldport: "Express Lane Now Open."

Beyond humor, I suspect what's keeping some places from being swept away is the human equivalent of "holdfast," that nebulous, Super Glue-like something that keeps bullwhip kelp fixated to the ocean floor despite storm after storm.

Kathleen Dean Moore writes about it in her intriguing 1999 book of the same name: "Holdfast."

"The holdfast is a structure biologists don't entirely understand," writes the Oregon State distinguished professor of philosophy. "Philosophers have not even begun to try."

Whatever it is and however it works, something akin to holdfast keeps Waldport's Big Wheel Restaurant hanging on despite a wheel- spinning January. Keeps Yachats' Village Bean jolting its regulars awake each day with java jump-starts. Keeps some sense of stability alive, even as the landscape beyond changes.

Indeed, with businesses closing and housing projects bobbing like sailboats without wind, what becomes extraordinary here are the places that endure.

Each evening, with the consistency of the tides, folks at the Outta Gas Pizza joint position a sign-sprinkled car sideways to Highway 101, beckoning customers.

Mari's, until recently a virtual bookstore in a closet, has defied the times by expanding to a nook next door, now more the size of an actual bedroom. And the Drift Inn still draws crowds with food, drink and nightly entertainment. When guitarist-singer Richard Sharpless launched into "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" last week, I remembered the same song playing from the cabin's Philco radio back in the early 1960s, a nostalgic anthem to another time.

Life's time-lapse photography continues. The tide slides in, the tide slides out. The sand shifts from place to place. The storms eat away at the sandstone banks.

But some good things still hold fast to this place by the sea.

Bob Welch is at 541-338-2354 or
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Title Annotation:City/Region Columnist
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 2, 2010
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