Saturday, April 15, 2006

Why We Recommend Duck Harbor Beach

We all have favorite beaches. Mine is Duck Harbor, on Cape Cod Bay. In the summer, there's no lifeguard on duty, so families choose to swim elsewhere, which is fine with me. The fewer people, the better. Here is Sven, at Duck Harbor, also one of his favorite beaches. We never tire of visiting the National Seashore, where Nature reigns supreme. One goes thirsty and drinks one's fill.

When my children were small, I took them to the ocean. I would leave them at Newcomb Hollow and head in the opposite direction, up beach. I would walk the wild coast, showing off my tan to other seasonal visitors. The Atlantic suited me then. Now that I live in Wellfleet year round, I walk a bay beach in Quiet Season. I go as to church, to receive a blessing.

Beach grass delineates the edge of civilization. I cross the dune and stand on firm ground, above the line of the tide. The first beings once crawled across a beach like this one. It's a special place and solicits respect.

Stepping forward, I break the crust of wind-dried sand. Feet sink in as if on down. The beach supports my weight, yet carries me along, weightless. An involuntary sigh escapes my lips. Beach walking is like flying. It imparts power. I glance back and rejoice in my footprints, proof of passage. In the space of their trail, I become the first man.

(To the left, beach and dune; to the right, Truro and, further along, Provincetown, in the distance. Everywhere you look, exceptional beauty, like this hollow at Bound Brook. The Pilgrims paused nearby at Corn Hill, before exploring Provincetown harbor and crossing the bay to Plymouth. One can only imagine their delight at the "discovery" of these amazing pristine shores, home to Native Americans who must have observed them from the cover of trees on bluffs like this one.)

The sand is like watercolor paper, ready to receive my mark. Stick in hand, I weave my way down to the water's edge. There I pause to confide a secret valentine.

I follow the shoreline, playing cat and mouse with waves. I worry at all the bits of plastic, washed up by the tide. Such flotsam is a reminder of what man has wrought. Starting now, I promise myself to better represent humanity.

The wind plays hymns as I walk along. Sea spray jumps up to meet me. The sun sparkles on waves. Trumpets sound. On the beach, I become Robinson Crusoe, challenged by the elements, yet able to survive by wits alone.

Before retracing my steps, I pause to listen to waves. Their lapping calms the soul. Waves are like a mother's heartbeat, heard in the womb, regular, dependable, never-ending.

At Duck Harbor, I meditate on where I have been and where I am going. With wind in hair and the sky shimmering pink and blue, I rejoice in the glory life provides. Pilgrimage over, I return to the humdrum of daily life, restored.

I wrote the above lines several years ago when I belonged to the Wellfleet Writer’s Guild. I still feel the same way about Duck Harbor. Sven shares my appreciation for this extreme corner of Wellfleet. It takes longer to get here, but you drive along Chequessett Neck, past the Herring River Dike, then right on Griffin Island Road, finally reaching scenic Duck Harbor Road. The incredible views feel like a just reward. After Sven’s parents and brother passed away five winters ago, he would walk Duck Harbor at sunset on a regular basis. It is a place for meditation and renewal.

We always tell our guests about Duck Harbor. Those who take our advice and go there, do not regret the extra effort.