A second day at the Cape

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Habits die hard. I woke up with the light just as I do at home. No sleeping in for me.

This trip, I am staying in Chatham, instead of Provincetown. Mostly I chose Chatham because I wanted to walk the long spits of sand that jut out into the ocean, and those are on the western end of the cape.

But there are some other benefits as well, I have learned. Near the tip of the cape, nearly everything is closed this time of year. Try finding breakfast out in March in Provincetown. Not happening except on Saturday and Sunday. Here in Chatham, I had a choice of places and ended up in a little family diner shortly after seven this morning.

And what did I do? The same thing I do most mornings. I wrote. I had a paper to write, part of my continuing requirements as a pastor and I cranked that out. I did a poem. I tinkered with some ideas for my mystery.

Habits don’t go away just because we do.

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Writing done and out of my system and I headed towards the end of the Cape. I turned off at a place called Fort Hill. Not for any reason, just because I liked the sound of it.

Fort Hill turned out to be a tiny little historic district, maybe a dozen old homes. My favorite was the yellow, freshly restored place in the picture above. It was a whaler’s home, built after he retired at fifty-three.

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The entryway was, yes, a set of whale jawbones made into an arch. This is actually the third set of jawbones since the house was new. The first two came in the age of whaling and over time, deteriorated as such things are apt to do. This last set came from a whale that got stranded ashore in 1965.

The gentleman who lived here, wrote soon after he built it that if he could live another ten years there, he would call himself the most fortunate of men. He lived to 93 – forty years in this home on the hill.

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The house is still a work in progress, mostly restored outside, with the inside still a bit rough, and empty. There is also a carriage house that is rough indeed. A project, but a lovely one.

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Crossing over the hill past this bright yellow vision, and you come to the salt marshes.  I have become as enamored of the marshes in my trips here as the ocean itself. They fill and empty with the tides, the contours, and shapes always in flux, a living piece of abstract art that shifts with light and wind and tides.

The marshes are protected now, but that was not always the case. At one time they were considered an eyesore, an interruption of views, blocking the ocean from sight. They were often destroyed in the name of progress, or building, or simply vanity.

But science prevailed. We now know that so much of the wildlife we treasure makes it’s home in these marshes. So much of the health of the shoreline depends on them, and now they are left to live in the natural flow of weather and seasons, living art we almost murdered a few generations ago.

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It was a longish walk above the marshland, through red maple woods, through a swamp. The path was well kept. Here and there trees had been cut down or had fallen, their remains bleached with sun and salt to an almost-glowing white. And the stumps, strangely ameba shaped, created art of their own.

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Something looked familiar in the almost green landscape, and it took me a while to grasp it. Everywhere I looked there were vines starting to rise from the freshly mowed fields or freshly cut paths, with their sinewy growth starting to put out the smallest green leaves.

Could it be, I wondered? It was. Virginia Creeper. Everywhere. My southern indoctrinated soul laughed. We lost the war, I thought to myself, but we did indeed rise again. In another month this humble vine will cover the ground and trees and hold it captive until winter comes around again.

I have a strange sense of humor, sometimes.

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From Fort Hill, I drove to Provincetown, which was mostly closed. Everywhere there was peeling paint, worn out wood, and craftsmen working and painting, trying to reclaim the buildings along Commerce Street from the winter.

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I had coffee and lunch in the Governor Bradford Inn restaurant a largish bar and grill near the fishing piers. “It has been a hard winter.” my waitress told me. “Everything needs repairing.  Hardly anyone comes in to eat. Even our Drag Karaoke night is down.”

Yeah, you heard me right. Provincetown is that kind of place.

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I don’t know if it official or not, but Provincetown may be the gayest place I have ever visited. Go there, particularly in the off-season when the population is not polluted by a billion and a half tourists, and I am pretty sure heterosexuals like me are likely a minority.

I’ve had a chance to meet a fair number of the residents since I began coming here. They are a friendly lot, asking lone rangers like me to join their tables, even when there are several couples together dining. That doesn’t happen anywhere else I travel.

It’s a place they tell me, where people can just be who they are. It’s not about being gay or not being gay, it is simply about being accepted. Imagine that. I have to tell you, it’s kind of nice. When people are accepted, they are at peace. There is a joy to them. And that joy is part of Provincetown. It’s infectious.

It began to snow about 2:30 and I decided to head back to Chatham. I stopped at some art galleries and pitched a few paintings. It was odd – they all said they liked my work, that they could sell my paintings, they thought, but that I was way underpriced.

Gave me something to think about, but that’s likely another post for another day.

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I stopped at the piers briefly, but most of the boats were still out. There were a few minutes of calmness and then the snow began again. I climbed in my old Trooper and made my way back to the room.

Most days here, on all my trips, were full of lessons. Today was full of simply being. Yes, I think there are some lessons to be had, but they are the kind you think on, not the kind that slap you across the face.

I’ll head out to dinner soon, and think on them. Or not.

It’s nice having choices.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

 

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