Tag: Cape Cod

Cape Cod

Desolation: A Writer's Inspiration

  I was talking to another writer the other day about how my plans to be in St. John right now had been interrupted by one of Mother Nature’s temper tantrums. Her girls, Irma and Maria, sent my schedule into a tizzy, but more seriously affected the lives of so many people who live in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Being “stuck” on outer Cape Cod in the winter is hardly something to complain about, but I do, until I see the pictures of the fires in California and remember the families waiting to see if their children had survived the earthquake in Mexico.            So let me get my complaints out first. The temperature here isn’t terribly low. I can remember a time in February, when the high 30’s felt like a heat wave. But the bone chill of dampness that seeps in when the ocean is less than a mile away in either direction crawls under the layers of my clothes and is difficult to shake off.            Then there are the colors, or lack thereof, unless you consider gray and brown to be colors. They are the opposite of the vibrant shades of green and blue I revel in while in St. John. The dullness of the brown and gray numbs my soul, making me wonder if I am even alive as I stumble around my winter habitat. Even the blue of the ocean that drew me here has turned a steely gray. Only the occasional heroic bright sunset reminds me that times can be very different here on what many consider the edge of the earth.            There’s that too, of course. Three months ago, my complaints were very different. “When will all of these people go home?” “There can’t be single person left in New York, because they are all here.” “Doesn’t anyone teach beach manners anymore?” I grocery shop at 6:00 a.m. to avoid the crowds, frequent secret beaches undiscovered by most (no I will not tell you where they are), and avoid restaurants at all costs. Why would I wait an hour and a half to eat something I can buy fresh here and cook at home?            They are all gone now, except the occasional brave beach stroller I see get out of a car with New York plates. “Those New Yorkers are hardy souls, aren’t they?” I ask my husband with a seasonal kindness I lack at the height of summer.            I explained to my writer friend how Cape Cod can feel desolate in the winter. But then I confessed. “I kind of like desolate.” She agreed and commented it was because we are both writers.            I’ve thought about that during the gray of every day since our conversation. The barrenness of winter is a blank canvas for a writer. While the merriment and colors of summer can inspire stories, the naked branches, brown leaves, and furious ocean make you reach deeper. You can’t escape thoughts about fear, survival and death, which are less prominent in your mind when you are inhaling the fragrance of beach roses and watching children build a sandcastle.              I’ve decided there may be a season and a reason for the desolation of gray and brown for writers. A character I have been writing for more than a year has revealed more of herself to me, sharing a darkness I suspected lay beneath. I welcome her revelations.  I am less afraid to face the challenge of the blank canvas and the shades of brown and gray on my palette. The words find their way onto the page and I am grateful.            By the time the day has ended, which is early in the season of brown and gray, I am eager for a sunset. Any glimpse of light to remind me that there are seasons and that nothing is forever.                          

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COMING HOME (Tales of a Tindominium #5)

Home: 1. Residence; 2. family group; 3. Birthplace; 4. Native habitat; 5. Place of origin; 6. Headquarters; 7. Safe place.            After almost six months in paradise, we left St. John, returning to Massachusetts. But this time we weren’t heading to Scituate, where we had lived for thirty-three years. This time, we were off to live “over the bridge,” on outer Cape Cod, where until now, we had only vacationed.            We arrived at our tindominium in Wellfleet on Friday, the 13th of May, our 39th anniversary. Steve and I had been married once before, a million years ago, each to high school sweethearts, which didn’t turn out so sweet. We intentionally chose to be married on a Friday the 13th, sticking our nose up at any suggestion of bad luck. Almost four decades later, we had come full circle.            The term tindominium came from a writer friend. When I was asked the previous fall at a writing committee dinner where I would be living when not in St. John, I had hesitated. How do you tell people that you are going to live in a trailer? By choice? Even my avant-garde writing colleagues would question my sanity, for sure. I began to describe where and what my new home was, searching for words, when Barbara Ross got it. “Oh, you mean you’re moving into a tindominium,” she said, with delight, sharing she had family who were doing the same. I relaxed, realizing I should always trust my writing tribe to understand writers don’t always do things the way normal people do.            Pulling into the driveway, seeing the tindominium for the first time in a long time, I had an  “Oh shit, what have we done?” moment. Nothing had changed since the first day I set my eyes on my new home, a 1995 Sportsman trailer with wheels that had been flat forever. The tindo hadn’t been on the road in decades. But it had been the vacation home for a family that had been kind and affectionate to it. It just had some wear and tear, and it was dated.            The blue couch and chair with huge gaudy flowers on it felt as if they were from a television set for All in the Family. The bedspread on the queen-size bed matched. The carpet was shag, the linoleum dirty beige, and the “woodwork” dark with gold trim.            The stove was so tiny, the double sinks so miniature, I was sure I was in a Barbie kitchen, grateful at least that it wasn’t pink. There was no dishwasher, no washer and dryer. And all of the work we hoped would be completed before we arrived had never happened. I wasn’t surprised.            But the toilet flushed and there was water running from the faucets. We had electricity and a refrigerator that worked. The stove lit.            Neighbors came by to say hello and offer a hand. Our builder promised us we’d have our improvements in no time.            I knew we had made a commitment to a radical change in lifestyle, but this day, more than any, made me wonder, were we nuts? If I closed my eyes, would I be back in a house with modern appliances and a view of the ocean? I couldn’t help but speculating what my Irish lace mother would think of her daughter living in a trailer park, even if it was next to an Audubon sanctuary. Should we have just stayed in St. John in our little cottage?            No. We knew what we had done and what we were going to do. Giving up living space physically meant we were opening our hearts to chance and choice. We were creating room for the adventures we wanted to share and this was just the beginning.            We celebrated our anniversary with a marvelous dinner at Petit Boulangerie Bistro and then sipped brandy before turning in at our new Home. 

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