The Making of Blue Adventures

November 21, 2016

blueadventurescoverIn December of 1989, my mom, Jean Burns, began an incredible journey. She
set off to walk all the west coast beaches, one at a time, savoring them, first
walking from her Southern California home to Mexico, and then turning around
and heading for Canada. I was 25, just before I became pregnant with our first
child, (and my mom’s first grandchild). I was vaguely aware of her project at
the time, amidst our busy swirl of new parenting, but as she made her way up
the California coast we’d hear more stories during her visits and looked
forward to her 65th birthday party crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, (which
didn’t end up happening as planned), and then heading northward.

Years went by and many grandchildren later for her (and a second child for me) I
was finally able to join her when I was forty, for one of her walking trips up the
Oregon Coast.  It was October and misty, and we drove her blue-green honda
up 101, taking every left turn in search of coastal access.  I’d drop her off at a
stretch of beach and meet her a few miles up the road on the other end.  We got rained out one day and waited out the storm at a beach side motel with a fireplace and the waves crashing outside.  I share my mother’s love for the
ocean in all its forms and also for firesides.  So it was kind of heavenly.  That day we sat by the fire and took a first look at the manuscript she had been compiling.  She had been writing about every beach since the beginning,
sometimes 4 or 5 pages, so by this time she already had quite a tome, and it was daunting.  At that time, we were both still too busy to work much on it and the idea of a finished book was a distant one that we weren’t sure would ever come to be.  We looked at the beginning chapters and made a few edits and left it at that.  The next day was glorious, golden sun and low tide and out we went again, perfect walking conditions.   160708h

Five years later, when she finished at Cape Flattery, I was more than impressed.  She had given up the idea of a
book long ago, preferring instead to keep adventuring.  I could understand that, but something in both of us kept the idea alive until finally, six years after she completed her journey, and after I had finished making a book of my own,
we could now both see that it just might be possible to pull it off, and if we were going to do  it, we’d better do it now! So she spent months editing down her journal entries, re-typing, scanning and sorting, with maps and timelines.
She had taken some photos along the way, but many of those were now lost and whole stretches of the early beaches were missing.  So this year we set off on two photo collecting expeditions, this time in my blue Subaru, first down
and then up Highway 1, revisiting the beaches, this time from the road, snapping ocean views to fill in the missing photographs.   These were wonderful times, in May driving down the California coast from San Francisco, then in July heading north all the way to Coos Bay.  We covered every inch of Highway 1, which is now our favorite highway.  And just as mom’s original trip had a life of its own, the book project did too, and was quite an adventure in itself, and a fantastic collaboration.

When people ask her about her great accomplishment, she brushes it off as “just a hobby.” But I am here to say
that what she has accomplished has great value to all of us, in that her deep appreciation for the coast, and her adoration of the natural world, is a high act, and her sustained vision is an epic work of art, a magnum opus.  Her
adventurous, independent spirit and original odyssey she created for herself is deeply inspiring. Good work mom!  You’re a badass beach walker.  May this book inspire, uplift and encourage the adventurer in us all.

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