All these phenomena of the natural world fling forth to the human a challenge to be responded to in literature, in architecture, ritual, and art, in music and dance and poetry. The natural world demands a response beyond that of rational calculation, beyond philosophical reasoning, beyond scientific insight. The natural world demands a response that rises from the wild unconscious depths of the human soul. A response that artists seek to provide in color and music and movement. ~ Thomas Berry (The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future)
The summer crowds are gone and we had a lovely walk at Napatree Point. This time we climbed a side dune and took in some slightly different vistas. I was bundled up in my hoodie while Tim was still in his shorts — it’s that time of year. 🙂
We saw a couple of gulls flying overhead and a couple of cormorants on buoys in the marina, but the beach itself was deserted. Lots of shells.
And there were lots of beach roses still blooming in the dunes, many rose hips and heaps of goldenrod.
After we got back to the car we drove over to find out if there was any way to visit the Watch Hill Lighthouse. It’s a long walk down a private road, but being over 65 has its perks, we were allowed to drive down! So we found out where we could park in the future and then continue walking out to the lighthouse. Watch this space!
My yearning for Cape Cod had been becoming more and more intense in recent weeks so on Friday we decided to visit the next best place, Napatree Point, just over the state line in Rhode Island, the Ocean State. Another lovely warm and sunny day to enjoy before the cold weather returned for the weekend.
We could hear the waves long before we climbed over the dunes. The smell of the refreshing salt air beckoned. Along the way there was plenty of evidence of storms shifting the sands of the dunes over the winter.
It was uplifting communing with the dunes and the sea. Much needed after a long, cold February! And at home, a snowdrop waiting for me in my garden. 💙
Now that summer is giving way to autumn we decided to go to Napatree Point again. An added incentive was the promise of big waves from Hurricane Teddy, churning away out at sea. It was lovely to walk and breathe in the sea air. The tide was coming in and the waves were bigger than usual, 6.5′ according to a surfing website. I even brought a blanket so I could sit on the beach for a while, and soak up the earth’s energy.
And then, much to my delight, two tiny birds flew in off the water and landed in front of us. We watched them for the longest time as they were feeding by the wrack line, and as they ran back and forth between the waves. If I’m making correct identifications, the larger one in front is a semipalmated plover and the smaller one in back is a semipalmated sandpiper. It was fun getting pictures from a sitting position.
Along the shoreline, about 19 miles east of us, the waters of Fishers Island Sound give way to the the bigger waves of Block Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. When leaving Connecticut and arriving in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, the terrain and the beaches feel a lot more like Cape Cod to me. The irresistable desire to hear those waves crashing led me to drag Tim to Napatree Point Thursday morning and he was a good sport about a hike over the dunes.
Napatree Point is a slender, 1.5 mile long peninsula in Block Island Sound. To the north of the peninsula is Little Narragansett Bay, a small estuary into which the Pawcatuck River empties. The small bay is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. ~ Wikipedia
First we walked along the bay side, but not all the way to the end of the peninsula. The water was calm and there were lots of birds busy fishing and flying, but only one herring gull. He was quite handsome and paid no attention to us.
What is it with me and gulls? I won’t say how many pictures I wound up taking of this one. 🙂 But the sound of the waves on the ocean side was beckoning…
Time to take a shortcut over the dune. We made it across without encountering someone coming the other way. With COVID-19 ever on our minds we knew it would have to be a one-way-at-a-time bridge.
The waves were relatively calm, but bigger than the ones at our beach, and the sound of them crashing was soothing to me.
Till my soul is full of longing For the secret of the sea, And the heart of the great ocean Sends a thrilling pulse through me. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (The Secret of the Sea)
There was a family with two children playing there on the beach. When we got closer the parents called the little ones back to their blanket and we hugged the water, putting as much distance between us as possible. We didn’t linger so the kids could quickly get back to their playing by the water. Life in the time of coronavirus.
I’ve been wrestling with several other concerns, though. Perhaps it’s stress, but my migraines have come back and have become very frequent, waking me up almost every night. Fortunately I have a stash of meds but I’m starting to worry I will blow through it before my next refill is due.
And then there is what I thought were spider bites I woke up with last Saturday morning. Mostly on my belly, a few on my face, and a couple of days later, a spot on my ankle. By the middle of the week I suspected flea bites or chigger bites. But the itching and rash now feels exactly like poison ivy. Which means I’ve got another week or two of this misery to live through. Probably picked it up in the woods on one of our walks. I think I will confine our walks to the cemetery and dirt roads for now.
Seeing the open ocean, hearing the waves, smelling the salty air, picking up a shell to remember the morning, all of it gave me some breathing space. Even the incessant itching seemed to stop for a while.
Try to be happy in this very present moment; and put not off being so to a time to come: as though that time should be of another make from this, which is already come, and is ours. ~ Thomas Fuller (A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, Both Ancient & Modern)
This morning I read that headaches are one of the possible side effects of hydrocortisone cream, which I’ve been using on the poison ivy. Itching, too. So I’m going to stop using it for a while and see what happens. This too, will pass.
I was very sorry to leave but very grateful to have enjoyed our moments there. On our way out we managed to stay far enough away from a couple of people arriving and exchanged greetings from behind our masks. “It’s the new way,” one man observed, as we all did our do-si-dos along the paths.
In October my sister and I spent a couple of nights at the Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge in Orleans on Cape Cod. The big draw was that the motel had a short path to Nauset Beach, a ten mile stretch of seashore facing the open Atlantic. We could hear the waves from our motel room. Pure joy!
Wildlife sightings: from the road we saw wild turkeys and a coyote; hopping across our path to the beach we saw a bunny; and at the beach we saw gulls of course, and a little piping plover running along the water’s edge, and a seal bobbing in the waves.
One afternoon we spent two hours meandering on the beach. Nothing but sand, sea and sky as far as our eyes could see. Beverly, the geologist, was collecting stones, and I was taking pictures. And contemplating the universe, the oneness of all things.
Being awake. Resting in the happening of this moment, exactly as it is. Relaxing the need to understand or to make things different than they are. Opening the heart. Just this — right here, right now. ~ Joan Tollifson (Resting in the Happening of this Moment)
We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves — the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. ~ Pema Chödrön (Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living)
Few places on the earth possess a nature so powerful and so unspoiled that it would remind anyone living in a concrete world that he once belonged to a pre-industrial civilization. ~ Liv Ullmann (Changing)
It was windy and chilly and we were bundled up well. I even wore my mittens when I was not taking pictures. But eventually it was time to go back to our room and get ready for dinner. So back up the path to the motel. Our window was the one on the right in the white section of the building. There are only 12 rooms. A quiet, beautiful, windswept place to stay.
One evening on our Cape Cod trip we went to Race Point Beach in Provincetown to see the sunset. It felt so good to be outside in the salty air, walking on the sand.
I will never forget this trip to Cape Cod with my dearly loved husband of 40+ years. Until 2008 we used to come here all the time – summer vacations and weekend getaways. Sadly, Tim’s grandparents’ house in Provincetown was sold that year and my grandparents’ house in Dennis Port was sold in 2009. Our last trip, to bury my father’s ashes in October 2013, was all too brief.
We did, however, go to Provincetown in May 2009 to celebrate our anniversary and stayed at a bed and breakfast called The Black Pearl. It’s no longer there, we discovered, the house now owned by someone else. We took a long walk on Beech Forest Trail. Six long years since that visit. The town and the seashore have changed. So have we. But we still found healing there, and peace. I think it will always be a place where we will free to be ourselves in times of transition. It will always feel like home.
The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth, it can lie down like silk breathing or toss havoc shoreward; it can give
gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can sweet-talk entirely. As I can too,
One of our favorite stops on Cape Cod is Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, part of Cape Cod National Seashore. The last time we were here was in May of 2009 and we were a little startled by how much of the sand scarp had eroded away since then. We knew the Cape had been hit hard by severe storms the past few winters but somehow we still weren’t prepared for how much of the bluff was now missing.
The Marconi Area obtained its name from the famous Italian inventor, Marconi. From a site here, Marconi successfully completed the first transatlantic wireless communication between the U.S. and England in 1903.
Here, the outer beach is famous for its then steep, forty-foot sand cliff (or scarp) located behind it. Swimmers and beach walkers feel a sense of solitude here because the scarp and ocean provide an unbroken, pristine natural scene in all directions.
The uplands above the beach slope gradually westward, and provide a graceful vista of both the bay and sea horizons of this portion of the Cape. A platform above the Marconi station site enhances this view, and offers vistas southward to Eastham, and northward to Truro.
The Marconi operation at this location was initiated by the young inventor in 1901. However, in December of that year, due to a number of setbacks, he had to use temporary facilities on St. John’s, Newfoundland to prove his theory – wireless could cross the Atlantic! Meanwhile, a new station was built in Nova Scotia while repairs were being made to the Wellfleet station, and the first two-way, transatlantic wireless message was made at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, on December 17, 1902. Not long after, the Wellfleet Station was ready, and on January 18, 1903, Marconi staged another world’s first (and a bit of a media event) by successfully transmitting messages between the president of the United States and the king of England. With rapid advances in technology, the station became outdated in a matter of a few years, and was replaced by a newer station in Chatham, Massachusetts.
~ Cape Cod National Seashore website
All of these pictures were taken from the top of the scarp. When I was a very little girl, my father and I were standing somewhere near here when he explained to me that if we sailed east all the way across this ocean from here we would end up in Spain. I remember being very impressed. 🙂 I think of that conversation every time I come here.
Notice some metal debris, part of the viewing platform now missing, in the picture above. And below, notice the asphalt walkway, abruptly ending at the new edge of the scarp.
It seems no matter how solidly we humans think we may build, no matter how strong the foundation, nature will eventually reclaim what we leave behind. Everything is flowing. Nothing is permanent. Somehow we know this and yet, when the ocean delivers this message so dramatically and suddenly in our own observing lifetimes, it comes as a sharp reminder, not always easy to receive.
This is another of those strangely potent places. Everyone I know who has spent any time on the dune agrees that there’s, well, something there, though outwardly it is neither more nor less than an enormous arc of sand cutting across the sky. ~ Michael Cunningham (Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown)
Almost every time we go to Provincetown we go on one of Art’s Dune Tours to see the Province Lands sand dunes of Cape Cod National Seashore. In the past part of the tour took us down on the beach but we couldn’t do that this time due to severe beach erosion caused by storms the past couple of winters. So we had to be satisfied with exploring the dunes themselves. Unfortunately we weren’t able to book a sunset tour – those have been our favorites over the years.
If I die tomorrow, Provincetown is where I’d want my ashes scattered. Who knows why we fall in love, with places or people, with objects or ideas? Thirty centuries of literature haven’t begun to solve the mystery; nor have they in any way slaked our interest in it. Provincetown is a mysterious place, and those of us who love it tend to do so with a peculiar, inscrutable intensity. ~ Michael Cunningham (Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown)
Our guide kept showing us where the sands have been shifting in recent years, impressing on us the endless flow of nature. How strange that while present there, time seems to stand still, if only for a moment.
An incurable early bird, on the last morning of our little weekend getaway I found myself unable to sleep and so decided to get up and read and gaze out of the sliding glass doors of our room at the Sea Shell Motel in Dennis Port on Cape Cod. It was about 40 minutes before sunrise and there was an intense yellow orange glow on the horizon.
As sunrise approached I decided to bundle up in my coat and my new Norwegian wool hat with ear flaps and walk down to the windy beach to take some pictures and enjoy some early morning solitude. It was the best moment of the day.
Thoughts turned to beloved grandparents who lived in Dennis Port, just up the street. When I was little we stayed with them at their house but sometime in the late 1980s, when my own children were little, my grandmother’s health problems became such that staying in a motel nearby became necessary. There’s no way to count the times we have stayed at the Sea Shell in the past 30 years or so. Each room is unique and charming, well-worn but clean and comfortable. No frills, just a short wooden walkway over the dune to the beach, the sounds of waves breaking close by.
I wanted to come here for old times’ sake. So often on this recent trip nature would vividly illustrate the simple truth that nothing is solid in the boundless flow of time and place, there is nothing to grasp. It was here that my grandparents embraced me with abiding wisdom and persisting love. But now they are long gone, even though I feel their presence still. The waves break on the sand and disappear and yet are still there, like the voices of my small curious children. Cape Cod is slipping into the sea.