Tag: Outer Cape Cod

Outer Cape Cod


 Like any writer, I need an occasional reminder that I can do this thing we call on Twitter “#amwriting.” It sounds so simple. You pick up a pen or pencil and apply it to paper, or you tap on a keyboard. Bingo, you’re a writer.            Not so easy, as most writers know. Somewhere in the brain, between the creation of what you plan to write and when you actually put it into words, an assortment of messages can appear. Once in a while, the message may be, “Damn, this is sweet. Get it down on paper.” More often, the message is apt to be, “No one wants to read your crap. Go watch TV.” Or “You don’t have anything to say worth reading.” Often it can be, “Remember your last rejection? That agent/editor knew what she was saying. Give it up.”            It takes resilience to be a writer, to overcome the criticisms, rejections, and self-recrimination that outnumber the tiny slivers of success by far. I’m always looking for inspiration and advice about how to buoy the human spirit after a plummeting defeat. Yesterday, I found an unexpected one.            I spend more than half the year living in Outer Cape Cod in a town bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Cape Cod Bay on the other. Life is supposed to be easy here. Cape Cod is blessed with endless breathtaking beaches for swimming and surfing, lobsters, clams and oysters for eating, and bike paths and hiking trails inspired by Thoreau.            I’m not particularly adventurous when it comes to outdoor sports, having grown up under an odd admonition about what activities are “lady-like” and constant warnings about what is not safe. I’m working on that, but while I do, I frequently watch and admire others who know no fear. Brave the elements. Fall down and get up.             Surfers on Cape Cod are my go-to inspirations. All year long, young and old, surfers brave the relentless surf. Age and gender are irrelevant. Each summer, surfers compete in the Cape Cod Oldtimers Longboard Classic.              I am as fascinated by these human creatures of the sea as I am the whales, seals and yes, sharks. I go from beach to beach, usually later in the day, to watch surfers in their wet suits tote their boards down steep sand embankments into the frothy sea. I silently send messages out to them when I think a good wave is coming, as if I were their partner, but they have minds of their own and pick their own wave. They climb up, sometimes gracefully, more often clumsily. The moment they capture that wave, ride it triumphantly, even if it is only for a few seconds, I feel their elation.             More often they fall before rising, or never even climb up. No matter, falling is irrelevant. There is always another wave, another chance. You need only to get up and try again.            Yesterday, I rode to Newcomb Hollow Beach where a young surfer died from a shark attack several weeks ago. Much has been written about the tragedy. There I photographed a memorial for twenty-six year-old, Arthur Medici, with messages of love and support. If you look in the distance beyond the memorial, you will see two specks of black in the ocean. Surfers. While you may question the wisdom of taking to the sea, you cannot question the power of resilience.

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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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From Paradise to Eden (another tale of a tindominium)

 For the past month, I’ve been transitioning from living in Paradise to Eden. I know that’s doesn’t evoke a lot of sympathy, but it’s not all palm trees and ocean breezes. Living in a tiny cottage in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands half of the year and in a small tindominium on Outer Cape Cod the other six months does have its challenges, especially for this writer who needs a modicum of space and calm. People have remarked to me, “Oh, I watch Tiny House on HGTV. I’d love to do that.”But is tiny house living all it’s cracked up to be? Here’s the reveal: the good, the bad and the ugly about transitioning from the Caribbean cottage to the Outer Cape Cod tindo.            A confession. After six months of tropical temperatures, azure blue waters, and Tradewinds caressing my body, I actually looked forward to a few chilly New England days when I would slip into jeans and a sweater and warm my feet in my Ugg slippers. I imagined being perched on the comfy couch on gray rainy days with a real hardcover book on my lap.  St. John had begun to change from pleasantly warm to bloody hot and, not to sound ungrateful, I was done with it, at least until November.             Shortly after our return in May, we had three consecutive days of ninety-degree temperatures, followed by a never ending forecast of days filled with endless rain with temperatures in the fifties. My dream come true, to an extreme.            Sure, I got to curl up with books and to write prolifically in the dank darkness of the tindo, but when would I be able to plant my garden? Within days, the intimate coziness of our small living quarters began to feel confining. The clutter that comes with being stuck indoors for days on end mounted and spread like an amoeba throughout our tiny tindo. I realized tiny house living presupposes (at least for me) that a lot of time is spent living outdoors.             But there was the soothing rain on the roof, the birds from the Audubon sanctuary next door visiting our feeders not realizing there’s a boundary between the properties, and the pine trees whispering that we should just enjoy the respite from the heat and “be in the moment.”            We planted our garden during misty breaks from the downpours. The plants seemed happy and so were we. The cool quiet of our tiny gardens was a perfect place to germinate ideas for the stories I would later put to words.              A drive to the beach late each afternoon to watch the seals surfing in the Atlantic Ocean from inside our car while the rain pelted down reminded me that this was the same Atlantic Ocean I had soaked in daily while in St. John. The same ocean, but not the same. One smoky gray, swirling in random angry configurations, smashing against the white sand leaving a foamy froth along the edge. The other an illusive shade between green and blue, warm and smooth as silk, often as still as a mirror, but occasionally moody and agitated.            Internalizing the vastness of the ocean and the openness of the garden helped me understand that it’s not the size of the space I live in that matters, but rather the space inside of me. I can live anywhere as long as I remember to bring the outdoors in.   

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