October Days and Slowing Down
I can’t help it--I always bring the car to a crawl when I drive down Shore Road in North Truro. Something about all those cottage colonies, all those motels, the scene of hundreds of thousands of summer vacations compels me to drive a little slower. I want to look in every window.
A couple weeks ago, I spent a week in Beach Point, that narrow stretch of land between Provincetown and Truro. This time I was without a car, exploring the neighborhood on foot. It was early October, and most everyone else around me seemed to be there for the fishing. I stayed at one of the identical Days’ cottages--now no longer rented by the Days’ family, but by individual owners. From the outside, the cottages appear unchanged, each clad in white vinyl siding and seafoam green shutters, their flower names the only way to distinguish one from the other.
The fishermen are up early in the morning, before the sun rises, which isn’t hard to do these days. There are many morning hours spent in the deep blue-black of pre-dawn. The fishermen lean on the bumpers of their trucks, drink huge mugs of coffee, and fill their coolers with ice. At night, they return to their cottages and clean fish on the cement steps, the sound of the radio and the waves overlapping, headlights trained on the fish.
I spend most of my time there walking, out the old fire road into the dunes or along the spindley causeway into Provincetown. I walk when I want to untangle a problem, or get lost in the rhythm of my footsteps, of the waves, of the cars on the road. I don’t know if you’ve turned on the news lately, but I walked nearly 60 miles that week. It feels good to move so much.
This time of year, there is hardly anyone in the dunes on a weekday morning. My footprints are the only ones in the tire tracks left by the dune tours, even the dune shack dwellers are spending this foggy morning inside, probably sweeping sand.
In the distance, I see a colorful group gathered in the dunes. At first, they are so far away I can’t quite tell if they are people of or they are the buoys used to mark the path from the backshore up to the shacks. They are getting closer, larger. It is a group of about twenty or more children out on a field trip.
“Bet you didn’t expect to see us out here today,” one of the teachers says. A girl proudly holds up a plastic container of cranberries and her classmates take turns popping the tart berries in their mouths. They walk in each others’ footsteps, trying not to disturb the landscape.
There were just seven kids in my class when I went to school out here.
“No,” I say, “I wasn’t expecting to see so many of you.” But I couldn’t be happier the kids are out here on a brilliant fall day, it reminds me of all the October days my mother picked me up from school for a cranberry picking adventure of our own.
Back at Beach Point, the sun is slipping away, the little orange outdoor lights are just coming on at the cottages. Everything is awash in an orange glow, a sort of faux sunset. A cars and buses pass occasionally. They all slow down as they pass Daisy, Phlox, Peony, Rose, Lilac, Bluebell, Cosmos, Dahlia, and on and on. Who knew there were so many flowers?
A couple with Quebec plates parks their car in front of the cottage and start taking pictures of the clothesline, my bathing suit and towels snapping in the increasing wind. I look out the window at them, as they trespass. How many times have I done the same thing? A few other cars stop and take the same photo, as if mine is the only clothesline they have ever seen before in their lives.