I remember being a child and driving up to “the Cape”, otherwise known as Cape Cod. Our family spent summers on this delicate, but forceful, peninsula that juts off the East Coast into my dearest of friends, the Atlantic. We filled up the ’89 Chevy suburban with all our family related crap, and set out for the 6 hour drive from our suburban NJ existence into a different way of life.
The family vehicle crawled up the east coast via 95 New York, Connecticut (whose 2 hours seemed like an eternity), Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. And then you cross the bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, and keep driving.
Eventually the road becomes a single lane and you are reminded how metaphorically far away you are from the four laned chaos of the NJ Turnpike. This is the moment when your shoulders begin to melt away from your ears. I recall this feeling, even as a child. You open the window and take in the smell of pine cones and salt air, and engage in the typical symbol of freedom: the hand out the window riding the waves of air.
I really remember doing that. It was different from my life back home with its ‘mcmansions’, academic pressures, and the strong desire to “fit in” . The Cape was always just different in the most wonderful of ways mostly related to slow days, play, exploration, and imagination. It always had the ability to allow me to sink into a different side of myself.
After 15 months on the road, I find myself back here. I find myself sinking back into that side of myself. As I walk Nauset Beach on a Sunday morning in January, I feel at peace.
It is that typical cliche you can go searching for something only to realize that what you want is in front of your face, or in your backyard.
I smile to myself as I acknowledge that this is probably the most beautiful place I have been in my travels. It is that typical cliche you can go searching for something only to realize that what you want is in front of your face, or in your backyard. Cape Cod beaches off season are beautiful. The air has a smell which I can only describe as “clean”.
It is the smell of clean. Fresh. Alive. Vivid. And healthy. On a clear sunny day, you will feel the balance of crisp cold air and soft warm sun. The sunlight beams off the little title pools that collect above the tide line. In the distance, powerful waves fold with tails of spray shooting back towards the horizon. It is a perfect balance of strength and softness.
The mother of all beaches is the Cape Cod National Seashore. It’s 40 miles of beach are located along the entire eastern shore of the peninsula. It has rich history of whaling, explorers from foreign lands, and artist colonies composed of societal outcasts. What is better than that? maritime, explorers, and outcasts. Highlights include Marconi beach, home to the Marconi station.
This is where on January 18th, 1903 the first 2 way wireless communication between US and Europe occurred. And then there are the dune shacks of provicetown whose famous residents include Henry Thoreau. “A man may stand there and put all America behind him”
Parking lots are open year round from 6 am to midnight. In the winter you might see a handful of people, at a given moment. Most likely you will have the beach to yourself, along with the company of washed up lobster traps. There is the occasional beach walker accompanied by their four legged friend but, more importantly (and my personal highlight), is the welcome ease of no rules, no payment for parking, and solitude.
Photos (C) 2015 Sara Moran
Sara is an art therapist. In mid-2013 she and her husband Dean set off on a pan-American adventure – New Jersey to Argentina. They’ve recently returned and spent the winter in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.