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.
In the belly of the furnace of creativity is a sexual fire; the flames twine about each other in fear and delight. The same sort of coiling, at a cooler, slower pace, is what the life of this planet looks like. The enormous spirals of typhoons, the twists and turns of mountain ranges and gorges, the waves and the deep ocean currents – a dragonlike writhing. ~ Gary Snyder (A Place in Space)
Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have a clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule. ~ J. R. R. Tolkien (The Return of the King)
Contemplating the lace-like fabric of streams outspread over the mountains, we are reminded that everything is flowing – going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks both in solution and in the form of mud particles, sand, pebbles, and boulders. Rocks flow from volcanoes like water from springs, and animals flock together and flow in currents modified by stepping, leaping, gliding, flying, swimming, etc. While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood globules in Nature’s warm heart. ~ John Muir (Meditations of John Muir: Nature’s Temple)
Not a day goes by that I don’t take a walk on the beach. The beach is truly home, its broad expanse of sand as welcoming as a mother’s open arms. What’s more, this landscape which extends as far as the eye can see, always reminds me of possibility. It is here I can listen to my inner voice, shed inhibitions, move to the rhythm of the waves, and ask the universe unanswerable questions. That is why when I found myself at a crossroads in my marriage and my life, I ran away to Cape Cod and spent a year by the sea, I was sure this place, so full of my personal history, would offer clarity. … The beach to me is a sacred zone between the earth and the sea, one of those in-between places where transitions can be experienced – where endings can be mourned and beginnings birthed. A walk along the beach offers the gift of the unexpected. Scan the horizon and glimpse the endless possibilities. Stroll head down and encounter one natural treasure after another. Tease the tides and feel a sense of adventure. Dive into the surf and experience the rush of risk. ~ Joan Anderson (A Walk on the Beach)
The surge took large chunks of stone from the top of the wall separating the sandy beach from the grassy playground. The playground was now covered with sand and rocks from the wall. The sidewalk running along the playground side of the wall was badly damaged, too.
A thousand miles beyond this sun-steeped wall Somewhere the waves creep cool along the sand, The ebbing tide forsakes the listless land With the old murmur, long and musical; The windy waves mount up and curve and fall, And round the rocks the foam blows up like snow – Tho’ I am inland far, I hear and know, For I was born the sea’s eternal thrall. I would that I were there and over me The cold insistence of the tide would roll, Quenching this burning thing men call the soul, – Then with the ebbing I should drift and be Less than the smallest shell along the shoal, Less than the seagulls calling to the sea. ~ Sara Teasdale (Sea Longing)
More wildlife from Cumberland Island National Seashore… I should also mention that we only visited a small portion of the island – perhaps in the future we will allow more time in our plans for further exploration of its charms…
The crab below was on the Atlantic side of the island.
The crabs above were on the Cumberland Sound side of the island.
We weren’t sure if the barnacle-encrusted horseshoe crab (above) was alive until its tail moved. When we took a peek underneath its shell it started moving swiftly away from us.
Methinks the horseshoe crab was relieved when we finally left the scene.