I awaken early to a fierce late January Nor’easter swirling about the cottage. It is simply magnificent, the winds howling, the sky opaque. Every tree and rock, every snowy owl and coyote knows we’re locked into it here on Cape Cod, on planet Earth, land of first light.
I awaken John, here in the midst of moving from California to Somerville where his son, daughter-in-law and grandsons live and where his low-income apartment will presumably be available by late spring.
Time for a morning ride I declare, moving quickly, wanting to be the first tire tracks in the newly fallen snow, every moment pristine, every path portending birth and renewal.
On the ride to the beach in the jeep we stop for two black coffees and free donut centers for Tofu. We drop the tire pressure to 8. We ride out onto the snow-covered sand track South thru the dunes toward Chatham, the wind so high the dog’s eyes are partially frozen closed as she runs with absolute abandon, loving being out in the smells and the wildly excited air.
We can see where previous high tides have cut thru the dunes from the Atlantic side rushing across a few hundred yards of brush and low lying dune gulley, creating temporary tidal rivers running into the tide aroused waters of Little Pleasant Bay to the west. The classic Nauset barrier beach being pounded by surf and stone, by winds and tides, by fragile shell and gravitational forces engorged on a blood rich moon.
By the time we reach the third of seven access cuts thru the dunes and drive down the narrow track to the beach there is no beach, the oncoming tide having swallowed huge chunks of dune wall, reconfiguring the shore lines, depositing timbers, Christmas trees, root systems dislodged after the sawyer man’s cut into crazy impassable barriers, the waves already seeking the road and the jeep’s tires, highest tide an hour away, and me, not without a little anxiety headed in reverse post haste and quickly headed back North into the face of the storm when we see the first waves coming over the road and the sandy gullies and depressions filing.
About 3 miles out from the trailhead there is already a small lake where the road had been, the wipers are barely wiping, the defroster is laughing hysterically, and me, believing that seconds matter, guns the jeep straight into the water, instantly festive showers of mud and sand flying up onto the windshield and roof, completely obscuring my view and me, going what I hope is straight and high enuf above the water line not to challenge my spark plugs, am amazed at the depth of the water over the running boards and amazed we are thru.
I believe any further delay, exploration, or frolic and detour and you’d be reading about the two men lost in the storm, lost in the winds and the surf, close to the very spot where the Montclair went down, herself with only two survivors, in March,1927.