A lesson never learned

DSC02536I don’t know why I have to continually relearn things. How many times, finding myself in the green woods, do I have to say “Oh! I feel better!” As if surprised, as if I haven’t found that reaction a thousand times before?DSC02543

The ground was so dry, the hard packed dirt cracked and solid. But the woods gleamed with good health. Green glimmering, the air green with it, the wood boards quiet under my feet. DSC02545DSC02546

I found the boat launch right off the loop in Fort Hill and I sat on the bench — “hallowed ground” said a granite plaque, going on to talk of someone missing off the 103rd floor of the WTC, a picture of him and his red boat etched into the stone. It was grey and humid and — elsewhere in the wood — hot. But the breeze was freshning and steady off the water, the air smelled of salt and green marsh grass (green everywhere). I watched people come in off the water or go out into it. A man’s mutt escaped from him when he got out of his boat, and despite his increasingly annoyed calls, the dog ended up beside me on the bench, smug, smelly and oh so cute. I told his lovably ugly face that he was very handsome.DSC02549Today is curtains of rain, the traffic outside wet on the pavement. It’s cold, and I stubbornly won’t close the cold out. It’s too rare and precious in June and I will treasure it, hoard it up, haul out the memory when August has me down and know that it will be lovely and green again.





A moment

It’s grey and humid and pretending it’s going to rain. It’s been like this for weeks, although yesterday was glorious and cloud free, the first time I’ve seen the sun in what feels like forever. I walked around the salt pond and smelled seaweed drying, looked at the tracks of a deer in the sand, listened to the birds and the sound of traffic (scattered now, for a week longer, as memorial day creeps closer). It rained in the early morning a few days ago, before I woke up. The sound of the storm crept into my dreams, and when I woke up the linoleum floors in my bathroom and kitchen were wet with condensation. I bought peonies from the grocery store and they’ve exploded into froth. I have no vases so I keep them in a water jug on the counter. They look like a dutch painting, like they are sending out their own light in the drear.

Yesterday again I sat in the sun and shade in my front yard and the occasional breeze would bring the scent of the lilac bush in my neighbor’s yard. I’m always wondering how I’ll remember a period of time, what symbols and moments will stay with me, and I thought “Well: this one, then.” I had a chain of memories of spiders when I was younger — each time thinking “I’ll remember this spider like I remembered that one, and the one before it.” They’ve mostly faded but I do remember the spider in the back porch, the one in the odd covered hole that my dad used to store the gas for the lawn mower, a metal lid covering a small square of concrete in our yard. Anyway, what I’m saying is the smell of lilacs in the sun probably will stay with me, letting me forget the bookends of endless grey mornings.



Might as well be spring


Three times this week it snowed — a fitful, spiteful snow that wasn’t meant to collect. It’s hard, these April mornings, to look out the window and grey and grey and grey. The ground is too cold for plantings, although desperation drives people out into the yard on the rare sunny day to rake and tidy and gather the millions of branches from storm after storm.


I don’t have much of a yard (pine needles coat it so thickly that grass can’t grow) so my desperation drove me into the woods instead, to find the tiny signs that winter really has ended.


They’re there, if you look hard enough.


New greenbriar growth on the old, dead vines


Cedar sprigs in the copper pools along their roots


Fresh growing river grass amidst the brown old growth in the brook at the salt marsh


Broom Crowberry putting out its new growth early.


A good samaritan put cedar sprigs at the marker to enhance the illustration.


Walking across the narrow path through the salt marsh, bordered by switch grass and (alas) phragamites always makes me feel like I’ve stepped into another world, somehow. It feels like a moment out of time, from the instant you step from the woods on one side till you slip back into them on the other.


The leaf litter looks like it is trapped in a pool of resin, a solid surface.


Every year these are the first sign of spring for me —  I THINK they’re young birch (black, at a guess, but maybe yellow).


Unfurling so slowly.


The moss promises spring too with new, soft growth carpeting it.


IMG_1659I went for a walk yesterday. I go for a lot of walks, really, because what’s the point of living within a stone’s throw of national parks if you don’t take advantage of them?

The cold came on suddenly and after a long, busy week I woke up on Sunday morning feeling vaguely like I might be getting sick and vaguely like I never wanted to leave the warmth of my bed. I turned my heat up, just a tick because I am at heart puritanical. I put on slippers and a bathrobe and grabbed my laptop and told myself it was ok to be lazy for a day because I was getting sick.

Sometime around 4 pm I blinked and felt that awful Sunday malaise, that creeping feeling of wasted time and life-questioning doubt. I felt dizzy with it, and thought, I need to be in the woods. But it was dark. So instead I opened my front door and breathed in fresh air and cleaned, changed my bed, did the dishes — the kind of busy work that lets your brain get on with the work of fixing your mood.

Yesterday morning though, I looked at the grey skies and the forecast of rain and thought, no. I need the woods.

I have three places where I walk. Fort Hill is my favorite — the ocean painted across the skyline, the gently rolling hills of grass. You walk along phragmites and boulders and a crumbling stone wall and suddenly you are in the cedar swamp, and then suddenly again you’re emerging from under an arch of trees and there’s the ocean again, the sweet smell of meadow, the wide open skies. It’s a treasure. But I knew I wouldn’t be alone there, because no one with taste can resist it. Even on stormy days people park their cars and stare at the ocean.

There’s salt pond. It’s lovely, too — a wide, shallow pond where people clam and fish. The path around it is layered with dead marsh grass. Tiny birds pop along the shore line, and in the distance you can see the estuary, and then the mouth of the bay, all suitably dramatic and looking like something out of time. But it’s open, and I needed trees to cover me. IMG_0735

It’s weird, sometimes, how well your body knows what you need before you consciously realize it. If you’re off diet for a bit, suddenly your body craves greens like no other. When I’m feeling especially frazzled, I get the urge to clean — because when I’m frazzled things get messy, and when things are neat I’m calmer. And yesterday I knew I needed the woods.

So then there’s the cedar swamp at Marconi Beach. There’s an overlook of the ocean here, and there’s often people standing at the fenceline, looking down the steep dunes, listening to the waves. You can see up and down the coast here. It’s beautiful. But the paths into the woods are usually much emptier, especially on a dreary Monday morning, early, and…

And let’s be honest. For most of the walk, the woods here are distinctly unlovely. It’s pitch pine and brush, muted in browns and greys in the November light. It’s a prototypical cape cod wood; nothing special, for all the walk brings you up and down stepped hills and round corners where you hope to see something beautiful. Still, the woods are quiet. You can hear the undertone of the surf, and some birds, and the wind clattering the oak leaves still stuck to the trees, but there’s nothing else.

And then the path crosses a wider path and continues on to a part of the woods that are distinctly, almost ominously, dark. Inside these woods, you walk on a platform over copper colored pools of water, hillocks of moss, and tall cedars rubbing against each other overhead. It looks like a different world. I love it. I love the way trees have fallen to lean over the path. Some of the cedars have lost their bark, smooth to the touch. It’s even quieter in the swamp, aside from the occasional rasp of trees meeting. You can’t even hear the surf here.


Usually I walk with a book in my ears, but I needed the quiet too yesterday. It’s a busy week this week for me, and I’m feeling thoughtful about the future, and my Sunday mood hadn’t fled on Monday morning. But in those woods, everything settled back where it belonged. It is its own meditation, a walk in the woods, in these woods. I left them and felt better, went to work, met with clients, and generally settled into a Monday sort of mood.

I put this moment here.

It’s hard to keep the dire state of the world in mind on an early summer night, driving home from kickball. I stopped at the marsh overlook in Orleans to watch the sunset for a minute, backlit gorgeousness. The trees are glossy with good health, grasses waving high, birds calling. The nights are gentle, and quiet — in that in between moment of memorial day and the schools still in session. I was the only car on the road for most of my drive down 6A.

It feels unchanging. It’s hard to keep the thought in mind: this is all in danger.


On the radio, the local community station switches over from bluegrass to — I swear to god — the ukulele hour. Every week, ukulele!  Interviewing some guests, the host says — look outside, look at that light. It’s so delicate. It was, too. Behind me bruise purple, in front of me golden rose. Above, still blue. It was the most delicate sunset. Not dramatic or vivid. I felt at that sweet peace when you have pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and don’t hate it.


Now it’s grey — rainy days, the June gloom. The overlook is gorgeous, but in a moodier way.


School’s out this week and already driving is a bit more white knuckled. But I remind myself, nothing but time. In between appointments I think about what I want my business cards to look at. My client’s son gives me a paper fan to keep myself cool at kickball. I am working on habits again. Bed made, dishes washed. Pictures taken. Words written. Even, sometimes, cooking. I’m always shocked when something I cook tastes good. Last night it was angel hair with raw tomato sauce — all bright and bursting with flavor. I did a little dance in the kitchen when I sampled the sauce.



A Ramble.

People don’t really use curtains or blinds around here, not even the people fronting route 6. As you drive around, you catch glimpses of lamps in windows, little pools of light spilling out. During the winter, most windows are lit with electric candles, beacons against the long dark.

I light real candles in the dusk, year round, because I want my windows to glow with that light. Welcome the night gently. When I walk my neighborhood, I keep my head down, because staring in open windows is rude. Exception: the window of the garage on the corner that is always cracked open; I can see squares of light from the garage door on the walls and floors. Light draws my eyes.

I’m insatiably curious about my neighbors. There’s a small, neat man who walks to Russ and Marie’s for dinner a few nights a week. In the fall and winter he carries a flashlight to light his way. His lawn is perfect moss, well tended. Everything about his house proclaims neatness as a virtue. I’ve exchanged helloes with him as I walk Baxter, but this is New England. We don’t introduce ourselves to neighbors, just nod and say hello.

I stopped to talk to my landlady a few nights ago as she shoveled dirt into her new planter bed. She wants to be self sufficient this summer, fewer trips to the grocery. She gives me a little neighborhood gossip — this neighbor just moved, this other neighbor is looking to switch to his rental. “But,” she says, “I wasn’t born in Wellfleet so I’m not a native here. Snobby.” Truro and Eastham are just as bad. “Whatever, I’m from fucking Provincetown, I don’t care. Who doesn’t love Provincetown.”

I’ll be a washashore for the rest of my life but I am putting down roots, tentatively. Kickball this summer. Clients spread out across the mid and outer cape. I drive backroads, take the long way home, not really in any hurry. 6A is slowly blooming, gorgeous from the canal to Orleans, tiny little main streets in tiny little towns. I take long walks in the woods, write every day religiously, draw and talk to friends. I’ve stopped checking twitter in the morning, stopped my ludic loop habits. I’m happy.



A collection


Things I have made note of:

  • a handmade sign saying simply “you win with flynn” stuck into the side of the road. No other information.
  • A Whitey Bulger 2012 bumper sticker
  • A bumper sticker that simply says “Bumpah stickah”
  • A pair of men in the supermarket, discussing history: “If you haven’t been to a boston tea party reenactment, you haven’t lived”
  • A pair of french travelers on a foggy day rolling up to Marconi viewing station, trudging to the platform, seeing nothing through the fog, marking something off on a waxed list, and putting the next destination into their gps.
  • Two clergyman and a woman in formal dress walking down the muddy path towards a hidden chapel in the woods
  • A crow with a wide white stripe on his wing, hopping around the parking lot


Laundry Day

I was thinking about my grandparents today. I think about them a lot; my parents, my grandparents. My uncles and aunts. The formative people in my life. I miss so many of them, it seems unfair, but that’s growing up I guess.

By the time I knew them, they were semi retired on the Cape. The tiny apartment in Quincy, near the church, was where I spent sick days or holy days with my grandmother. It smelled of the orange juice my grandfather had before work, the table covered with a vinyl tablecloth, felt back. The pens he used (still my favorite – fine point pilots, sparkly barrel with a yellow ring on the top), the newspaper. The tiny tv, UHF, manual channel changes.


But the cape is what I think about the most. My grandfather would work outside all day whenever he could, steady work. He was the steadiest person I’ve ever known. He wouldn’t hurry. You could watch him, raking the seaweed at the shore into the wheelbarrow, or gathering the fallen twigs and sticks. Watch him clearing a path to the hidden beach that I loved so much, just a little further down the shore. Painting a dock. Even when the weather was awful, he’d work in the workshop in the basement, smelling of turpentine and paint, wood shavings. Everything ordered, neat as a pin. I think he had a radio down there; I don’t remember noise though. We made ornaments together once, it was our big project. One hangs on my wall now. He cut the tiny shapes that I traced from paper, and I helped paint them red, and spread the glitter. Mice and elephants and horses.


My grandmother kept the house pristine, even full of guests. Bed linens washed, floors vacuumed of sand and salt. She’d make sandwiches for lunch, fig newtons for desert. She’d do the crossword, and read, and hem our clothes for us. Laundry got hung out on the line. She tended her flower garden, arranged the wild flowers. You had to shake the clothes down for ticks and spiders, but it was worth it for the sun baked into them. Towels off the line were stiff and felt so good. There’s no cleaner smell.


I was thinking about them as I washed my sheets today. The sheets in their house, kept neatly in the linen closet, were the same for all my years. 20 year old sheets, worn so thin over the years, so soft. The patterns were distinctly of their age — flowers and browns and mustard yellows. Pillows were nearly flat from use. They kept things and they cared for them. There wasn’t a lot of waste in that house. They were children of the great depression, and adults of WWII. They worked so very hard — my grandmother as much as my grandfather, raising 5 kids, being a hostess, tending my grandfather. They kept what they had because they valued it, and cared for it. Everything felt well tended and loved in that house. They weren’t sentimental about THINGS, but they…


Well. They gave me something to strive to. I want to be like that, that thoughtful. I want to be someone they would be proud of.


I live here.

There’s a dead fox on the road, just past the speed trap at the drive in. I know this because earlier I switched lanes to avoid hitting it, as if it mattered now to the poor thing. I briefly thought of waste, and sorrow. The tiniest moment to recognize the pain the poor thing felt.


But now the fox is blocked by the speed trap’s police car, lights on. From a distance I thought, hah, she got someone. There’s a woman on the sidewalk, hand pressed to her ear so she can shout more effectively into the cell phone against the other ear, walking away. The cop is talking to another woman, notebook out, looking concerned. The second woman has her steepled fingers pressed to her lips. Give me strength. There’s no car that was pulled over.


I wonder, for 2 days, what that was, what that weird little scene meant.


At the grocery store, there’s a woman in the car across the row from me, bouncing along to music while she does her bills. She’s in her 50s, blond permed hair a triangle around her round face. I bet she’s got a smoker’s laugh, a bawdy sense of humor. Drinks spiked seltzers, has a dog, maybe cats. Sits on her pine needle covered lawn in the summer, in a beach chair, with music and a magazine. Has a lot of friends.


At the door, there’s a pair of indeterminately aged men. The taller one has a shock of pure white hair, and he’s walking away stiffly, a perscription or paperwork in his hands. “I will,” he calls back. “I will let you know.” The other man grins, moustache yellow white, smokes a foul smelling cigar. I spare a smile since he’s looking at me, but I don’t say hello. You don’t say hello to people you don’t know here.

Doesn’t love a wall


It snowed, and then rained, and snowed again. It’s so cold that the icy puddles don’t even thaw in the sun, and every day I drive over them gingerly. Baxter and I go to the vet twice a week for shots, and my upper body strength has increased greatly from lifting his butt into the car. He’s greeted with love by the vet and everyone there, because he’s lovable. He follows me around my tiny cabin, always lying close. If he’s asleep and I move, he wakes up concerned until he sees where I am now. Shadow.






67AC74A8-9518-4E10-906F-56FC292F7824 C4D0238E-98F2-4F98-9728-CBB0ECCFB04E C9D9B60E-3184-4062-8F13-E6FF9C42E8FB IMG_0020 IMG_0026 IMG_0395 IMG_0445I take walks sometimes, thinking about how nice it is to walk through the woods with a book in my ears. I’ve read so much lately, and I look at my dwindling to read pile with pleasure. I’m writing, and taking pictures, and generally trying to keep heart. I’m on a social media diet; found myself caught in a ludic loop. Plus the part where I’d read twitter first thing and then find myself questioning the need to get out of bed at all. Sometimes things are dark.



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