Monday, April 03, 2006

Living on the Edge

For nine years Sven and I have been walking north on Newcolm Hollow Beach, using the house on the edge of the dune as our turning point. We always wondered who owned it. How did the owners feel about the site’s precariousness? When the house was built, did the ocean seem far away? What would they do if beach erosion condemned their abode?

The first thing I noticed was that the house had disappeared. I closed my eyes and opened them again. Sure enough, it was no longer there, either swallowed up by the sea over the winter and now floating north as bits of driftwood, or relocated elsewhere. Sven was examining a coil of rope, carried in by the tide, so I quickened my step, eager to be the first to know. This adventure would be all mine.

Up the dune path I struggled. There stood the house, propped up on wooden pilings. It was an ugly thing: gray, non-descript, barrack-like, not much of a prize to rescue. Obviously the owners had cared enough to hire a team of specialists, despite what appeared to be asbestos siding. I imagined the heavy machines as they rumbled through the National Seashore and up the narrow dirt road. It must have seemed like quite an unusual event to the local songbirds.

Under an old fruit tree I found cement pilings, PVC pipes, wooden planks that must have been steps or a deck, and several lounge chairs, which belonged to the homeowners. They would sit there on the edge, with drinks in hand, perched above the rest of us beachgoers. Implicit was the fact that they had the advantage. At the end of the day, these lucky people didn’t have to go home. They were home already.

The landscape matched the sky today. You know the expression, “When it rains, it pours?” That’s the way Cape weather is. When the sky is blue, the world sparkles, but low pressure has the opposite effect. Everything loses its luster: the sky, the water, the traditional wood-shingled buildings, even the bushes. Still the gray-tone view wasn’t bad. Dune, beach grass, ocean, sky. I took it all in and reported back to Sven. I followed him to the parking lot, beach treasure slung over his shoulder. I still had questions, but answers would have to await another day.