Friday, August 9, 2013

In the Infinite Palm of God: First Encounter Beach, Cape Cod

Whenever we can squirrel away the money, pack up the family and go to Cape Cod in the summer. We're on our third trip.

We love it here. The pace is (generally) slow and there are abundant houses to rent on lakes, in which one can swim and canoe, etc. There are plenty of ice cream places and plenty of seafood restaurants (with, of course, clam chowder to die for) and with a quickish ferry ride, one can explore Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard.

Our house, this year, is on a pond called Widow Harding's Pond, which is inhabited (the pond, not the house) by a shy, but massive green fellow I like to call Moby Turtle. He generally stays away from our toes on swims, but I caught him following my canoe a few times.
Our house, from the canoe on the opposite side of the pond.
It's quiet and the wind plays like a virtuoso through the scrub pines around us. At night, the cacophony of nature, broken by the occasional maniacal debates among coyote factions, is, strangely, soothing.

Today, it is raining (my older son's prayers answered -- he loves the coziness of rain) and the lake is pin-holed glass. Down by the pond, sitting in the beached canoe:

Yeah. I could do this for awhile. It's so painfully writerly, here. All I need is to move in my recording studio and I could get fat and pale and produce more artistic wonders that the world may never see.
Sunset on Widow Harding's Pond
My wife always talks about moving up here -- retiring here. My general response is dismissive. "We'll never be able to afford it," is my stance. Of course, this is based on the idea that I wouldn't want to move here unless I could live on a lake. And, of course, lake-front property is a fortune. But, during this trip, my wife asked why I wouldn't be okay with living in a little house that is not on a lake, but near them and the ocean.
Taken during a break in practicing:
even inside is outside in such a place. 
After a trip the other night, I think I would be okay with it. I realized that, for me, a component for a happy location is that I be able to, quickly, and with little effort, be able to put myself in the infinite palm of God -- to go somewhere, even if briefly, where I don't feel compressed by the rude, sweaty shoulders of humanity. We found one such place, on the bay, at low tide, at First Encounter Beach, where, in 1621, a hunting expedition from the Mayflower met the Nauset Indians for the first time. It is a walk away from our rented house:
Krimpet, the boys and me, in God's palm.
Sunsets are dramatic, anywhere; but, here, on the verge of one, is infinity and solitude, reflected in sky and water:

The point is, we could walk forever here, without a person in sight, except, maybe, occasional other lone seekers of peace to whom we could wave knowing waves of "Good to see you feel as I do; now, let's leave each other alone." 

We could tread on the floor of the bay and inspect full pots of clams soon to be collected by some fictitious fisherman or restaurant owner. We could bask in silence, hunt for crabs and look as far as we could look without seeing another human. This is not the Jersey Shore with blinking rides whirring in the background and masses of smiling, sunburned lemmings shouldering each other for a chance at funnel cake. 

At the same time, it is good to look back and see the marsh grass and to pick out the little white houses dappling the distant hills. No one wants to be alone, but how anyone could want to be constantly surrounded, I'll never understand. 

First Encounter Beach is something that is missing from my life. Being there was like putting down a great burden: the burden of being seen; anticipated; evaluated; relied upon; wondered about; judged; liked; disliked; misunderstood and understood. If one could spread one's hands and send beams of light from one's fingertips, one would, I expect, want the beams to travel to the horizon and beyond, and not to slam, truncated, into arms and legs and walls and the fenders of cars. 

And time. Time is there, suspended. Look about one's self on this endless bay stretch of sand and it would be no surprise to see a browned, naked hunter shaking hands with a group of fools stepping out of a rowboat, clad, stupidly and imposingly, from foot to skull in the proper (if impractical) garb of the modest Christian man. (They'd fix the naked thing, in time... As Stephen Ambrose once pointed out, the European explorers found the Eden they sought in all of their piousness and immediately set out to change it into their own mundane world of sin, greed and shame: "If we can't live naked and in innocence, no one can.") 

There, on that wet sand, Nature refuses to allow itself to be bullied. I know it is not for me, but I appreciate the gift, anyway. 

So, yes. I could live here, off of a lake, if necessary. As long as I can find a place to let my soul run after gulls alongside the dog. 

(All pics taken by Karen Matarazzo -- on an iPhone. You ought to see the ones from her real camera; these were quicker.)

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