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Harmony on the coast

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Our evacuation to the coast during the Almeda fire was Harmony’s first and only ocean trip
Photo by Paul HadellaA marine-themed mosaic near the harbor at Port Orford.
Photo by Paul HadellaThe otherworldly Blacklock Point.
Photo by Charlotte HadellaHarmony takes in the view at Paradise Point from inside her carrier, with Talent writer Paul Hadella.
Photo by Paul HadellaHarmony rests in her home in Talent.

We had our little gray cat of 18 years, Harmony, euthanized a few weeks ago. Her kidneys were failing, so it was time.

Mixed with our sorrow was our satisfaction that we had given her, a shelter kitty, a long and comfortable life. Also, we had taken her on a grand adventure to the coast before her life ended.

It wasn’t a planned adventure but an evacuation from the Almeda fire last Sept. 8. Because our truck is always packed for camping, we needed to grab only a few things, plus Harmony, before exiting Talent ahead of the flames.

By the time we pulled into a private campground north of Port Orford, we had learned that our home for 30 years was still standing, though hundreds of other homeowners weren’t as lucky.

Surprisingly, Harmony was mellow during the long drive — nothing like the nervous, restless cat who would yowl all the way to the vet for a checkup.

We first showed Harmony the ocean at Battle Rock, the popular wayside along Highway 101 in the center of Port Orford. I held her up so she could look over the dashboard while we were parked.

We discovered moments later that Harmony liked fish and chips. Just the fish, actually. She ate bits of it from Charlotte’s fingers.

We wound up staying 10 days at the coast, returning to Talent only after the air quality improved from toxic to somewhat bearable. With COVID on the loose, Charlotte and I hung out mostly at secluded Port Orford locales, accessed from roads off the highway.

At Tseriadun Beach, waves slammed into rock ledges, creating quite a splashy show.

Blacklock Point gave us an otherworldly feeling. After hiking through the woods to reach it, we had the fog-shrouded cliff all to ourselves.

Paradise Point delighted us with its long, sandy beach — and with its very name. I collected a trove a bird feathers there.

The 1.2-mile trail atop Port Orford Heads, 300 feet above the ocean, has many viewpoints, and we had lots of time. So we invented a mental exercise of sitting still for five minutes at every bench, our senses tuned to nature.

Returning to our truck after an outing, we often startled Harmony out of a nap. Sometimes she would be wide awake and gazing out a window. Gulls strutting around a parking lot were her favorite things to look at.

Charlotte and I saw squads of seals and pods of dolphins during our evacuation trip and, one sunny afternoon, a sea otter resting on a rock. We never tired of watching flocks of pelicans glide in formation just above the waves.

A stranger approached us one day as were admiring a marine-themed mosaic near the harbor. Looking like a sailor off a ship in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” he asked if we had spotted “the great white shark.”

“Um, no,” I replied.

“They been tossin’ fish heads to it at the harbor,” he said. “Thought you mighta seen it.”

We took Harmony out of the truck for some air now and then, but always in her carrier. When the resident campground cat, Spike, dropped by, she didn’t even hiss at him.

At night, she slept peacefully with us in the back of the truck, a happy camper.

Over the years, neighbors who filled Harmony’s food dish while we were away on trips rarely saw our domestic diva, because she would hide in a closet or under a bed. Yet it never occurred to us that she might rather make like Willie Nelson and get on the road.

In short, she was a pleasure to travel with. What a relief. Because our mood, though buoyed by the beauty of the Oregon Coast, was melancholy, given the disaster back home.

If we had had a cranky, stressed-out cat on our hands, the trip could have been an ordeal.

Maybe Harmony behaved so well because she was too old to give a darn. Or maybe, as we prefer to think, she truly enjoyed the adventure, from the rumbling of the ocean to the swaying of pine branches at the campground.

Maybe she wondered why we hadn’t done it sooner, under better circumstances.

Paul Hadella is a freelance writer who lives in Talent. Reach him at talenthouse@charter.net.