Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Short pines

Back in Maine after a week in Massachusetts. It was a beastly hot and enervating week that cleared only after Earl glanced at the coast and decided to stay away, leaving us free to go to the Cape for a couple of days. Amazing what dry and pellucid air will do for the spirits, and it wasn't even Maine air.

The Cape is of course ruled by the ocean and a more malign Earl would have wreaked havoc like an Anglo-Saxon lord. As it was, the beaches on the bay side were thick with seaweed, quite a few large dead bluefish, some happy gulls and vultures getting fatter, and, according to our hosts, obviously more erosion of the dunes underneath the houses on the edge; and the ocean side was loud with huge surf and the timelessness of real dunes, i.e., no houses built on sand.

Except for the National Seashore the coast of the Cape is almost completely privately owned and developed, like the coast of Maine. There, however, the similarities stop.

Cape woods are thin and stunted. Cape houses quietly nestle into their sites. The way of life is palpably attractive. The interior Truro dunes, where our friends' house lies, roll gently with a covering of gorse and bush and grasses and short pines. Roads twist and wind, always with a house in view. Provincetown on a Sunday afternoon seems to contain more people than live in all of Maine. The wind is constant. The Cape's beauty is a quiet one (except P-town!) and it invites a calm, contemplative way of life, halfway between the rush and energy of the city and the rocks and exhilaration of the country. Well, at least the outer Cape does.

We hadn't been to the Cape for some years, inevitably going north instead of south. But on a perfect September weekend, it was a wonderful substitute for the place of tall pines.

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