It’s been years since Robin and I have been to the beach. It’s not so far, but it’s difficult to get away, what with our busy and conflicting schedules. But there we were, at one of my favorite spots, Colonyhouse in Rockaway Beach. Colonyhouse is owned by Oregon Writers Colony and is used as a writer’s retreat and a place for small workshops. We were there visiting with OWC president Marlene Howard, her husband, Spud, and Brad and Laurel (whose last names I never learned). The purpose of the gathering was to discuss and prioritize improvements and repairs that could and need to be made on the place.
Robin and I arrived just at noon Saturday, and, after settling in, each of us wandered through the house with notebook and pencil. Then we had a lengthy and lively discussion around the dining table about things we’d like to fix or change. We talked about small things like replacing wall decor and big things like remodeling the kitchen and much in between. In the end we agreed taking care of the kitchen had priority.
Business out of the way, Robin and I took to the beach. We had left Vancouver that morning thinking it would dreary and wet, but once we got into the coast range, the weather cleared. Our walk along the beach, just as the tide was on the ebb, was bright and clear with only a slight breeze.
The evening brought lots of conversation, much of which took place around the dining table. We ate bowls of minestrone, which Spud had prepared in advance (you may have guessed he is a chef), followed by Tillamook ice cream and a heaping bowl of popcorn cooked in lard. I’d never heard of such a thing, but Spud has been making that way since his father taught him how.
The expected rain came in overnight, and the morning was foggy and wet. Robin and I didn’t get up until 9:30, which is the latest we’ve slept in, possibly, for several years. After several cups of coffee and handfuls of left-over popcorn, we headed home.
I joined Oregon Writers Colony in 1984, just a year after it was founded. That year I attended my first-ever writers’ conference, which OWC held at Silver Falls State Park. I became friends with—among many others—co-f0unders Marlene and the late Lola Janes, who were students of Portland writer Don James at Portland State University’s Summer Haystack Program in the Arts.
Since then I’ve been an on-again, off-again member of OWC, as different projects, responsibilities, and life changes influenced how I would spend my time and resources. But every time I reacquaint myself with OWC I’m inspired by being around people who simply love the craft of writing.
In the early days, OWC’s dream was to have a place at the beach where writers could work in solitude or gather with other writers. In 1988, thanks to a bequest from the estate of Lola Janes and a generous gift from Jean Auel, the dream took shape in the form of Colonyhouse.
There may be a more ideal spot for a writer’s retreat, but you’d have to do some searching. Just two hours from Portland, Colonyhouse is situated on a hill between Lake Lytle to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Where else could you find two distinctively different waterfront views? But there is more than the location that makes Colonyhouse a spectacular writer’s retreat. It’s a log house built by John Steiner, son of Henry Steiner, who together built dozens of exquisit log cabinsin the Mt. Hood area.
The previous owner had covered the outside with aluminum siding, which seems a desecration. But who knows what toll the coastal weather took on the place? The inside, with the exception of the kitchen and bathrooms, are in fabulous shape. The workmanship is exacting. It’s hard to imagine the patience and skill it took assemble the rough-hewn timbers and the massive stones for the fireplace.
Yet OWC has ambitious plans for Colonyhouse. If money were not an object, instead of a few repairs, the ground/basement floor would be extended to the east, with a meeting room, more bedrooms and a large bathroom. Spacious decks would extend east and west, and an elevator would rise from the front parking area to the main floor. Already there are rolls of blueprints to pore over, but until OWC can generate the funds to start, we’ll have to settle for a kitchen upgrade.