The ocean can do craziness, it can do smooth
it can lie down like silk breathing
or toss havoc shoreward; it can give
gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth
like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can
sweet-talk entirely. As I can too,
and so, no doubt, can you, and you. - Mary Oliver
Before I say goodbye to summer, I wanted to share 3 special treasures from my time on Cape Cod last week. In some ways 'The Cape' (as the locals call it) feels just as much like home to me as Vermont, having grown up on the South Shore of Massachusetts and having spent all of my summers there as a child. Each visit I make deepens my relationship with this wind-swept, wild and magical place. Being on the Cape is like being on a giant playground, full of unexpected delights and surprises, like paddling out on Nauset Marsh right into a pod of Gray Seals enjoying their breakfast of Striped Bass. As an offering to her, I'd love to share 3 treasures, less tangible, but just as important that I have taken home from this journey:
1. A Deep Appreciation for the Natural Beauty and Protected Areas of the Cape:
On the first night of my vacation, we enjoyed a wonderful outdoor concert at Salt Pond Visitor's Center by the Cape Symphony, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Organic Act and the creation of the National Seashore. I realized that part of what makes Cape Cod so darn special is it's protected coastline that would otherwise be full of houses, hotels, shops and stores. The Cape's natural charm and breathtaking beauty has come from the dedication and hard work of people who recognized this place as a national treasure and worked hard to protect it. My heart overflowed with gratitude as we listened to the music, overlooking the salt marshes and watching many bird species dance in the clear summer sky. Each day that I dipped my paddle into some wild area filled with life, I said a little prayer of thanks-giving to everyone (on both a local and national level) who has helped preserve these sacred lands going all the way back to the Wampanoag People, who inhabited (and still inhabit) this place that is their home and that I call my second home.
The treasure I will take home here is to ask myself what I can do to take a stand and be a more outspoken, active and involved citizen on behalf of the Osprey, turtles, seals, sharks, and sandpipers that live here and to do the same in my home community of Montpelier, Vermont.
2. The Value of a Simple Practice to Come Home to Myself:
My first morning on the Cape I took a yoga class with a Kripalu Yoga Teacher who is new to teaching. The class was simple, gentle and uncomplicated. I felt all of my cells exhale as I entered the class which was held at the Old Meeting House (Unitarian Universalist Church) in Brewster. For all of our striving as yoga teachers and students, that class helped me to remember that it doesn't take difficult poses or intricately designed sequences to simply come home to yourself and relax. With that class, I landed back in my body again after a very busy couple of weeks back home. Part of the challenge of self-care, I believe, is simply carving out the time. When we go headlong into the wind of our day, sails set on our plans, intentions, and projects, we can sometimes forget to let the ebb tide flow, to empty out, to pause for a moment before the tide rushes in again and in the words of Anne Morrow Lindberg, "... lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea."
The treasure I will take home with me here is the ability to balance doing and being, ebb and flow, high tide and low, effort and surrender. And, the remembrance that a life of balance comes a bit easier when we truly carve out time, just for ourselves, to pause and be for a little while.
3. Life is Unrepeatable:
My Partner and I had one of those blissfully perfect mornings mid-way thorough our vacation, adventuring to a new spot to paddle and explore in Welfleet. The temperature was pleasant, the winds were at our backs, and the tide was flowing with us. There was plenty of water to paddle in the marshes and we even got to witness Audubon volunteers releasing baby Diamondback Terrapins, the size of oatmeal cookies. We found a spit of soft white sand to rest and swim, as we watched another perfect summer day on the cape take shape. Later in the week we decided to bring my cousins there. I informed them that 'the paddling would be easy and that it was the perfect place to go for a sunset cruise!'' They rented paddlboards and we pulled up to the same body of water only to find that we were in for a surprise! The tide was out in the channel where we would put in, making it an oozing muddy mess of clams, sharp oyster shells and other hazardous objects that we would have to walk over. The wind was howling against us and the tide was just beginning to turn, making our paddle extremely difficult. Our brief dinner on our lovely sandy spit (which was still beautiful) was cut short by tiny biting insects flying up our noses. At least the paddle back to our cars was fairly easy!
The treasure I will take home here is the practice of living in the moment, knowing that as much as we might want it to, no experience is repeatable- each moment and experience is a new one. If we have expectations of things being exactly the same (weather that's with a great meal or a paddle or anything) we are sure to be disappointed! Seize the day, but live in the moment is what the sea whispered to me that evening.
Even though I want to hold on to my time on the Cape, and to summer, I know that the seasons are changing and I can only hold these things in my heart. Although I want to stay and linger much longer, I will allow for the tides to sweep me into the clear beauty of Autumn, sails set down a new channel, currents swirling and taking me to the next place I need to be.
Inspirational Readings (by lovers of Cape Cod):
“Hold your hands out over the earth as over a flame. To all who love her, who open to her the doors of their veins, she gives of her strength, sustaining them with her own measureless tremor of dark life. Touch the earth, love the earth, honour the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places. For the gifts of life are the earth’s and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach.”
― Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod
I am in love with Ocean
lifting her thousands of white hats
in the chop of the storm,
or lying smooth and blue, the
loveliest bed in the world.
In the personal life, there is
always grief more than enough,
a heart-load for each of us
on the dusty road. I suppose
there is a reason for this, so I will be
patient, acquiescent. But I will live
nowhere except here, by Ocean, trusting
equally in all the blast and welcome
of her sorrowless, salt self.
- Mary Oliver