Sometimes I wonder how, in this little corner of the world, in the upper left edge of the country, there can be so many homegrown artists.
That occurred to me once again as I watched 12 singers and musicians perform their own music to the delight of a nearly sold-out audience attending a recent “hootenanny” at the Coaster Theatre.
For three hours they sang deep from their hearts about the perils of fishing in Alaskan waters, about politicians and politics, about cherishing old friends and about the trouble a “perfect” lover can cause.
We were with them all the way, even when Cannon Beach’s crooner-in-chief, Bill Steidel, led us in the evening’s last tune about a farmer who purposely misleads lost drivers when giving directions to a nearby town.
But no one on that stage gave bad directions that night. They all stayed in tune with the show’s purpose: to put on a great “hootenanny” and gather financial support for the Cannon Beach Academy, a proposed charter school.
Everyone there regularly performs at a local restaurant or bar in town. Many of them have other jobs: Jay Speakman and Jon Broderick are fishermen, Julie Adams is a professional photographer, Paul and Margo Dueber and Mike Corry operate their own stores, Steidel is an artist and runs a gallery.
But they find the time to meld their thoughts with a melody and create songs we can all relate to.
There were 12 musicians on stage, but how many hundreds — thousands — of artists of all kinds are gathered on the North Coast? If there were a demographic study of this kind, I’d be willing to bet we might have the greatest number of artists per square mile than just about anywhere else.
We abound with writers, musicians, jewelry makers, photographers, painters, printmakers, actors — oh I can’t even begin to list every artistic endeavor that goes on here!
We even have celebrations — such as the recent Stormy Weather Arts Festival in Cannon Beach — monthly wine walks in Seaside and Gearhart, a Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria and multitudes of artists receptions throughout the area to honor our creative types.
We must be a collected population that thinks outside the box.
And what was it about this area that drew us here? For me, it was the light. There’s something about how the sun slants over the hills and glances across the sea’s surface, the sun’s reflection in raindrops or the sliver of silver that borders the edges of clouds where the sun often hides.
Distant hills hazily outlined in fog early, early in the morning when I head out of Cannon Beach.
A moment at sunset, lingering on the boundary between day and night, searching for that snap of green over the ocean.
Majestic trees everywhere.
Sideways rain and mind-whipping wind. A sudden dry spell. Then more rain and wind.
Winter solitude, warmed by steaming coffee, a fire in the fireplace and a soul-filling conversation with a good friend.
Stars that easily fill the sky and a lack of streetlights to obscure them.
Encouragement by friends and fellow artists to pursue dreams, take chances, be independent, grab life.
Everyone has a personal reason for migrating to this part of the country. But once we’re here, the natural forces seem to demand new perspectives and evoke the need to do something with those perspectives. The muse insists.
Whether it’s through writing, painting, composing or some other art form, we all have our own inner, heart-felt song. And the best part is, we get to sing together.
Nancy McCarthy is editor of the Cannon Beach Gazette and the Seaside Signal and South County reporter for The Daily Astorian.
They find the time to meld their thoughts with a melody.