Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Newcomb Hollow Conjured Up a Pig …

The Outer Cape beaches experienced much erosion during the last series of winter storms, as reported here yesterday. (Read more in the Cape Cod Times.) Sven and I have been exploring these beaches together, taking advantage of relatively mild weather for March and low tide in the middle of the day. At Cahoon Hollow, it was impossible to get down the dune to the beach. The ocean had taken such a bite out of the steep cliff that descent would have been foolhardy. I noticed the DPW had put up a sign to remind visitors to be careful of the "sliding dunes." We then proceeded on to Newcomb Hollow to see if the shipwreck were again visible. No sign of it, not one measly timber.

Susie Quigley, from the library, was also out for a walk.

“Oh, my!” she exclaimed from the parking lot access. “How wide the beach is!”

We agreed. An extensive sandbar had emerged, which made the beach seem wider than usual. Sven suggested Susie visit Truro where there’s considerable erosion that closed the Longnook access road. She said she would and set off towards the north. Sven and I had walked south.

Newcomb Hollow has an impressive clay deposit to the right of the parking lot. Over the years, we have watched erosion move it forward from the dune. Yesterday we found the latest changes quite dramatic. Slivers of clay pointed skywards reminding me of Monument Valley in miniature. Chunks had broken off and tumbled into the sand. Here and there burgundy iron deposits were visible. Large gray rocks poked out from the lighter-colored clay. The clay deposit had as many crevasses as the face of an ancient fisherman. Towards the bottom, one great glob reached out like a massive hand.

Now, why am I blogging about a clay deposit on our beach?

Seeing the clay deposit up close brought back strong memories of my kids’ childhood.

One summer there had been a hurricane. We all trooped down to the ocean afterward, at my mother’s suggestion, and collected clay, uncovered by the storm. My three kids sat out on the lawn, spread with newspapers, and worked the clay to their heart’s content. Everyone made at least one small object. I think my youngest daughter rolled snakes and built vases. Her sister made tiny cats. My son, the eldest, had already learned a few advanced techniques in pottery class and, for some reason, decided to create pigs. (Here he is, dressed in Cape Cod T-shirt, hands coated with gray clay.)

Their oeuvres-d’art were subsequently fired at a local kiln. To our surprise, the clay turned orange. I carted these treasures back to France in my suitcase. The one I remember best was the squat orange pig, created by my son. It soon took up residence on our Roche & Bobois living room shelf.

When I got a divorce and left that house, Paul’s pig was one thing too many. I simply couldn’t transport it back to the United States. Yet, it called out to me from the shelf. “Don’t leave me here! Take me with you.”

But I did leave it. I had to.

That pig may still be in my ex-husband’s possession, or his new wife may have thrown it away. What remains is the memory of that happy time, when my kids collected clay on the beach, wrapped it up in newspapers, and created art on the front lawn here at their grandparents’ home, now Chez Sven …

Sven and I have discovered that one of the more unexpected drawbacks of divorce and re-marriage is having a partner with whom one does not share a history. My second husband often will tell stories of his own children. I listen but never experienced the emotion tied to the events he describes. The stories do not resonate. I may be able to empathize, but I cannot relate.

Have you experienced a similar loss of history after a divorce?

For those of you fortunate enough to have never been divorced, have you seen enough photos of erosion or would you like more? When you get to the Outer Cape this summer, which beach will you visit first and why?