last week’s Cape Cod Notebook, if you missed it, about memory and time. And the fog. And I wonder what it would be like to live beyond the horizon line.
click the link above, or right here, to listen
Summer on the Cape and Islands is our busiest time of the year. Now that we are past the solstice, I feel a little sad that each day is getting shorter. There are moments in the evening, around six or seven at night, when a wave hits me, a memory of winter darkness knocking me over. But for now it is still warm and brilliantly bright, and all my essays for WCAI the last month have been, too.
In other writing news, I’m working away on an essay collection about the disappearing places and ways of life on the Cape and Islands, and reading as much as I can.
This week over on A Cape Cod Notebook on WCAI, you can hear my essay about summer jobs. I’ve had a lot of them, and now I have a summer, winter, spring, and fall job. Click to listen/read!
I have been thinking a lot about the idea of timelessness lately. When I was a kid, there were people in Provincetown I thought would live forever, people who never seemed to age. Their houses did, shingles weathering and porches soft and sagging, but their faces looked the same from year to year. I think the salt preserves people who live by the sea.
I moved away, I came back. These people I thought would live forever have all started to die, an entire generation now essentially gone. In a town of only 3,000 people, these figures loomed larger than life–the town historians, the poets, the hippies, and the old women who worked at the school cafeteria in summer and at the fried clam shacks in summer. These were people who’d lived their whole lives in the same three miles of sand, who remembered their neighbor’s lives as well as they remembered their own.
Their houses still remain, purchased by new owners with plans to fix them up, to iron out any inconsistencies. That summer I delivered mail, I nearly fell through one of those sagging porches, so these improvements are certainly needed. The houses show up on a rental site with a cute name, any evidence of their previous owners completely erased.
This weekend in particular has me thinking about time, and the desire to stop or at least slow it. On Nantucket, the last weekend in April is the Daffodil Festival, as it has been for the last 45 years. It is a stunning few days when the weather cooperates. It’s been pouring rain for the last two days and as I write this, the rain looks like it might be letting up in the early morning hours of Saturday. A coordinated campaign to plant thousands of daffodil bulbs along public ways and roads on the island decades ago has resulted in a proliferation of daffodils that bloom each spring.
A hallmark of the Daffodil Festival is an iconic antique car parade. Is there anything closer to time travel than restoring an antique car? There’s an element of bending time to your will, of damning the decades and getting a machine that was built before your grandparents were born to work. I find classic cars entrancing. Or I did, until last year when I started to notice that a few of the cars in the parade proudly displayed the year they came off the assembly line in their windshield–and I found that I was now older than some of the cars considered “antiques.” Maybe I will become one of those timeless people, roaming these sandy towns. Hell, maybe I already am.
It really is something to see the island blanketed with these yellow blooms, each flower lifting their trumpeted heads towards the sun, swaying in the ceaseless wind. One look at my lawn is all you need to know I am no gardener, but there is something compelling about these daffs and how each year they return, with little to no human intervention. The lawn of my grandparents house is littered with daffodil bulbs they planted, and even though they are both dead, their daffodils return year after year.
When the water rises and Nantucket transforms into a new sliver of sand, one I can’t even yet imagine, I hope the daffodils continue to bloom.
I had two “A Cape Cod Notebook” pieces up on WCAI in March. If you didn’t get a chance to listen on-air, here is where the pieces live on line:
A Sandy, Shifting Place This one’s a little look at the island’s stones and why it is seemingly all sand now.
The Gift That Ride in the Waves This is a piece that I am particularly proud of, as I was able to finally give voice to some of the…what I am calling “coastal anxiety” that weighs on me when it comes to sea level rise and these places I love.
It’s raining and windy today, we’re getting the outer bands of whatever storm is working its way up the coast. All the boats have been canceled this morning. I hope yours is a good day, wherever you are.
I know it’s March now, and we are just three months away from June which is making me giddy to think about. Longer days mean more time to be outside, and more time to walk.
The other piece I had on air in February is one about wind. The wind and weather out here just shapes every part of life. I’ve started to wonder if the wind isn’t changing me, too.
Did you miss my most recent A Cape Cod Notebook about house moving on Nantucket? Fear not! You can click on over to WCAI right now and listen: http://www.capeandislands.org/post/nantucket-dream-home.
I’ll also be on next Tuesday, February 5th.
And, if you are on Nantucket, you should come to WCAI night at the Culinary Center on Wednesday, February 6th! You can sign up here and get a free ticket. It’s sure to be a great time, and it’s always fun to put a face to the voices you hear on your radio.
See you there!
Did you miss yesterday’s installment of “A Cape Cod Notebook”? You can click on over to WCAI to listen/read my latest essay all about an attempted hike to Great Point Light. I am lighthouse obsessed these days and thought a lot about the characters in my novel while walking through the sand.
Thanks to all who have offered to drive me out to Great Point after this aired!! 🙂
If you missed last week’s “A Cape Cod Notebook,” you can click over to WCAI and listen online here: http://www.capeandislands.org/post/now-season-night-walking. This essay is about seeing the island shrouded in darkness, now that the sun sets at 4:15 in the afternoon.
Hope you are able to get outside this week for a walk!
Do you use photos to help you with your writing? I took photo classes in high school, mainly because the teacher was so cool and it was an hour I could spend in a darkroom listening to The Doors and Led Zeppelin (yes, I am a throwback through-and-through). Now that DSLRs are so ubiquitous, everyone can be a good photographer with little effort, I like taking pictures here and there but would not call myself a photographer in the way I know in my bones I am a writer.
I write about very real places–virtually everything I write is either set on the Outer Cape or Nantucket. I have a map of Provincetown in my head from my 20+ years living there, and the last 7 of visiting as much as I can. But sometimes I still have to look things up in Google maps, or on Building Provincetown, one of my favorite resources.
If I’m lucky, looking at these pictures can help me feel exactly what it was like to be standing where I was when I took the photo.
I realize, too, that so much of my writing is influenced by the natural world. My pieces for A Cape Cod Notebook, of course, are all about snippets of life here in strange sandy places.
My most recent manuscript, about people living in the Long Point settlement in the 1850s and in Provincetown in 2018, considers the natural world quite a bit. In the 1850s, the Long Point settlement was abandoned because it stopped being lucrative to live so close to the fishing grounds, then exhausted. There’s a line where a character wishes there was some sort of market for sand–as sand is the only natural resource there is on Long Point. In the present day, the novel opens with a storm and a giant summer home sliding into the sea. The bluff edge it had been sitting on had eroded. Now there is a very real market for sand, a dwindling resource in some places, and out here on Nantucket it’s trucked in to protect the bluff.
My characters walk long distances over the sand, as they are lifesavers–people who rescue shipwrecked sailors. There is a physicality to walking through the sand that cannot be gained from looking at a picture of a sandy trail. I walk in the sand a lot, and try to use these muscle memories to influence my writing.