Of all the sacred places on the coast, none is more comforting than where rivers join the sea. By the rivers’
disappearance we are reminded of life’s passing, while by the
ocean’s beauty we accept it, in a hope we cannot explain.
At the end of the Columbia River there is an especially complex weaving of suggestion. This is the farthest point to which
Lewis and Clark traveled in their exploration of the American frontier. Today the shore of the estuary is becoming crowded
with human activity—there are condominiums, malls, airports, mooring basins—even while the estuary itself remains home to
a reduced but still significant population of marine animals. The air is usually clean, but the river carries dioxins from
paper mills and radionuclides from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.