Head Lighthouse. The 93-foot-tall brick tower sits at the crest of a narrow windswept bluff that juts nearly a mile into the thrashing ocean. In the wrought iron cradle atop the tower, oil-burning wicks have given way to commercially powered LED bulbs. They light the automated Fresnel lens that blinks tirelessly: two seconds on, two seconds off, two seconds on, 14 seconds off, 24 hours a day.

Social distancing is an undisputed byproduct of coastal winter weekdays: On the beach near Yaquina Head, bundled in rain-resistant jackets, woolen scarves and mittens, we walk south with the wind at our backs most days. We might be distracted by sleek black cormorants skimming the cresting waves or a bald eagle soaring home to a treetop. Sometimes we spot the misty blow from a spouting whale beyond the surf. But seldom do we encounter other people walking our beach. And when we backtrack, ours often are the only imprints we see in the packed sand – except, of course, the fragile signatures left by flings of sandpipers or foraging gulls.

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