Cape Escape

Our 21st century lives place more demands on us all the time. Life seems especially hectic and sped-up for Americans.

In my own life, work, family, writing, commitments to be fit–all of these place increased pressure on my personal speeding train that sometimes seems precariously close to jumping the rails.

For the past couple of years, Mary and I have gotten away for our birthdays. She got it all started with my Nifty Fifty celebration in NYC in January, 2012. Generally, the goal was to pick a destination that wasn’t too far away, with the celebration being extended out over a long weekend.

Mary’s own work and the demands related to selling are such that when she has a major furniture installation, it can really put a crimp on getting away on a Friday. By not using Friday for travel, it basically turns an extended weekend and some leisure into another stressfull endeavor.

Wanting to avoid that at all costs,  we decided to celebrate her birthday  a week early, and headed for Cape Cod, Friday morning.

Cape Cod is a nether region of New England filled with lore. The first “official” Americans, the crew of the Mayflower, dropped anchor at Provincetown on November 11, 1621, before heading up the coast to Plymouth where they would settle, with that latter locale becoming what got burned into the synapses of every young school child in America.

The Cape is a place complete with rolling dunes, blue sea, and possesses a mystical aura, especially the Outer Cape, which pushes out a bit from the more tourist-y, developed parts of the region, and is flanked on both sides by miles of beaches all the way to tip of the island that Cape Cod ultimately is, since the Cape Cod Canal was cut through the isthmus of the peninsula that existed prior. It also happens to be one of the largest barrier islands in the world.

The week beginning last Monday has been a remarkable week in many ways. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, or you’re a hermit, you’ve been touched by the 24/7 media coverage. A number of families were affected personally.

As I indicated in an earlier post, we were fortunate that Mary’s cousin and other family members were not at the finish line when the bombs went off. If circumstances were changed slightly, they could have been.

I have had conversations about this with those close to me. We’ve talked about other aspects of the bombing; the media coverage, the way certain narratives and stories have been framed, the inability to accept alternative story lines; I’ll save that last one for another post, perhaps.

The last time Mary and I had been on the Cape was 2006. This was during the closing days of what had been a 14-year baseball odyssey for our son, Mark.

From his first organized baseball experience in t-ball, to being the clean-up hitter for a team that was one game from winning the Division III Baseball World Series that year, we were his parents and along for the ride.

Harwich was the setting in 2006. It was an inclement three days as the assembled college teams dodged rain drops to play a series of games that ended up favoring Wheaton and took players, friends and families to  Appleton, Wisconsin.

We stayed in Yarmouth at a three-star hotel bordering the ocean. Between baseball games and raindrops, Mary and I got to see a few of the sights of that part of the Cape. We made it over to Dennis and Chatham, but that was the extent of our sightseeing.

Afterwards, we talked about returning, possibly off-season, in the fall. Seven years later, we’re finally back here, not in the fall, but still during the slower season, in April.

Last year for Mary’s birthday, we stayed in York Harbor. Being near the ocean is an important detail if you want to make Miss Mary happy. I tried to arrange a nice birthday weekend at a historic property, but a gathering of beekeepers limited the options and we were jammed into a tiny room that was a disappointment.

This time, I was determined to make the weekend work. I did my homework, searched the interwebs, and found a wonderful B & B at Fort Hill, a historic neighborhood in Eastham. I couldn’t have picked a nicer place. We had the private cottage (there are two other romantic suites in the main house), and we have been surrounded by breathtaking views of Nauset Marsh and the Atlantic Ocean.

Mary leaving our cottage at Fort Hill on Friday.

Mary leaving our cottage at Fort Hill on Friday.

Not far from our wonderful accommodations are a wealth of breathtaking beaches. One of them; Coast Guard Beach, just up the road, is where Henry Beston, writer and naturalist, came in 1925 and built the 20 X 16 house and lived for a year, which he recounted in The Outermost House. That book is considered one of the seminal books of the modern environmental movement.

In making this trek back to the Cape, I learned that Beston actually had ties to our home state of Maine, as he lived in a farmhouse in Nobleboro, moving there in 1944, and wrote the book, Northern Farm, which some refer to as “The Outermost Farm.”

Being on the Outer Cape, which is comprised of the towns of Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro, I immediately knew is was different than the Upper and Mid-Cape, where we’d been before. Quieter, less developed, protected by the Cape Cod National Seashore. Each of the three towns that make up this part of the Cape, and part of the Lower Cape (with Provincetown) are distinct. The dune-backed beaches that characterize this part of the island appear to stretch onward forever.

These qualities were perfect for Miss Mary who revels in being by the ocean. Plunk her down in the sand, with a bag or pail to pick up rocks and she’ll easily lose an afternoon.

I’ve loved our time away from the hustle-bustle of life and making a living. I’ve also enjoyed spending three days with the woman that captured my heart at 17 and has managed to love me and understand me in a deeper and more meaningful way than I ever deserved, or thought possible.

Our hosts at Fort Hill Bed & Breakfast were gracious, charming, and oh what breakfasts they put on for their guests each morning, at 8:30 sharp.

Jean and Gordon have been at this for 24 years and it’s obvious that they love what they do and genuinely care about their guests. Thank you for making this one of the best mini-vacations we’ve ever taken.

Life goes on and work is what almost all of us have to do to grind out a living in a world where hyper-capitalism has run amok and offers few respites. I no longer believe there’s an alternative, and I’m not in a position or anywhere close to being able to do what a Henry Beston was able to do, although reading a book like Henry Bestons’s Cape Cod, by Don Wilding (one of our cottage’s many local-themed books), makes it tempting to believe something a little less maddening might be possible.

An actual whalebone at the Penniman House, Fort Hill, Eastham, Mass.

An actual whalebone at the Penniman House, Fort Hill, Eastham, Mass.

However, I do think Miss Mary and I are beginning to understand the ebb and flow of our lives better, knowing what matters, and maybe what’s not that important, too.

I’m hoping that those qualities and our experience the past few days offer more opportunities to spend time in places like the Outer Cape, and even make it back sooner, next time.

Early AM, just after sunrise, Sunday.

Early AM, just after sunrise, Sunday.

Sometimes we stop for lobster rolls, too!

Sometimes we stop for lobster rolls, too!


The JBE on the Cape Cod Rail Trail-burning off some breakfast calories.

The JBE on the Cape Cod Rail Trail-burning off some breakfast calories.


One thought on “Cape Escape

  1. I think I complimented Mary on that cut when she first go it, but I’ve got to say, it’s really wearing quite well. I just can’t look at you two and see someone (cough cough) our age.

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