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A trip to Truro for self-reflection

Mary Bergman

The other week, I was on the Outer Cape, hiding out in Truro. Growing up in Provincetown, I always thought Truro was just one of the many places we had to pass through in order to make it back home. Later, when I started going to middle school in Orleans, the closest the Nauset Regional School System would send a bus to Provincetown was Dutra’s Market. Many mornings were spent driving in the dark along Beach Point in North Truro, past shuttered cottage colonies, the sun only beginning to rise as the yellow school bus lurched to a stop in front of the market.

I stayed in a small cottage on a high bluff looking towards Long Point. Long Point Light and Wood End Light blink back red and green, seeming to call to one another, to all the boats at sea, and to me. I spent so many years looking towards the bluffs of Truro, it is always strange to actually stand on them.

I came to Truro like many others have before me, with the intention of getting a little clarity on my life. Something about the light, the distance from other people, the quiet of the winter beach is all ripe for this sort of self-reflection.

I’m not sure I found it — but I did come across a cold-stunned sea turtle. As Cape Cod Bay gets cooler, sea turtles, like many Cape visitors, head south for the winter. But if they get trapped in the cold Bay, by the very hook of Long Point that I’d been staring out at all week, they get too cold to eat or swim. They go where the tide goes.

It wasn’t the turtle — which I think was a Kemp’s Ridley — that I noticed first. Instead, the little turtle’s winglike flippers had left a few dozen indentations in the sand, creating little pockmarks on the otherwise pristine beach. He (or she) was right at the base of a steep railway, yes, a little rail where a staircase would be — that must have been able to transport somebody who was unable to walk up that steep climb. How strange that the lost turtle had washed up right in front of this contraption. I’d never seen anything like it.

I called Mass Audubon, where the woman on the other line asked me a few questions. Was the turtle big, or small? How small? Like the size of a small pizza? Yes — that was it exactly. It was almost absurd, to think of a small pizza at a time like this. But how wonderful that she had conjured up just the image an average American would understand.

After covering the sea turtle with dried seaweed, and making sure he was above the high tide line, I continued on. I tried to write, I tried to think. But most of what I ended up doing, what I always end up doing, was walking, heading away from the wind, along the empty cottage colonies in Beach Point. There is something about places where the distance between sky and sea is separated by just a slice of land that feels almost magical. Maybe it has to do with how many people have passed along this road, where telephone poles tilt at odd angles, and houses look like they could fit in the palm of your hand.

A few days later, I was happy to see the volunteers had scooped up our turtle friend. One of us is no longer adrift. And I, on the other hand, will never look at a small pizza the same way again.