cedars

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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 church advertising “SCOTTISH TAM CELEBRATION CONCERT”
  • 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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Haunted

The pine needles have fallen this week, a thick carpet, suddenly silent footsteps when I walk Baxter, mounds of them on the highway, scuttling across in the wind. October always feels unreal, wavering, storms putting puddles of the sky on the road, the sun making menacing shadows out of everyday trees. Red sunrises, red sunsets. No wonder they believed once that the world is just that much thinner at this change of the seasons, when fall goes from gorgeous and warm to a little wild.

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I’ve had nightmares of ghosts, and of unreal things myself. My speaker turned on by itself in the middle of the night one night; was I sleep talking, turning it on? I heard tapping on the door when I was getting ready one morning, but nothing was there. Dreamed of a spirit who looped me into more and more dreams, impossible to struggle out of. It wouldn’t let me turn on the lights. Stole my voice. Pressed me down so I couldn’t move. “The one thing you blamed me for in childhood that I never did,” it told me. “Any guesses?”

I don’t believe in ghosts, in spirits, but I feel haunted.

I feel a little bit like I’m shrinking. I lie in bed in the early morning or right before sleep and I feel like the world is thin, the line between the me lying in bed at Adams Street, in college, in DC, in Dennis, that border is so thin I could break through. I could close my eyes and wish with all my might and everything will shift, backwards. A time before. The liminal places that aren’t really liminal but feel that way anyway. The world feels like a backdrop, unreal, painted.

 

I’m curling my own world in around myself, a veil, a blanket. Fleece in front of my eyes. Could live in the in-between moments forever.

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There’s magic in the air

DSC01150 I forgot about July 4th, which was lovely and chilly and full of midges and sand and the beach at night with the fireworks exploding overhead, silhouettes of people all around. The Cape has really been putting on a show lately, trying to get me to love it again, and I have to say I don’t know of many places more beautiful, when the light is just right.

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From Paine’s Creek you can see Provincetown and Plymouth, the  bay curling in on itself like a contented cat. The best fireworks show was the amateur one put on by one of the houses fronting the beach. Wildly unsafe I’m sure but worth it for the joy in Case’s eyes, and the momentary feeling of belonging.

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