Note: I started this blog a year ago today as a fundraiser for Provincetown Commons. Initially conceived as a autumn-to-spring project, I’ve got intentions to keep it going longer. While not a promise to write weekly, I do hope to write more regularly again this fall and winter.
Last night I was invited to a bonfire to mark the equinox. This afternoon, I’m reminded by one of my best friends that the equinox doesn’t actually happen until a bit after 9 PM this evening. I’ve emotionally ended summer early. I somehow feel cheated. But I’m also ready.
I’m hardly the first person to say it, but September is absolutely the best month on Cape Cod. The tourists and summer people have largely gone home, the weather is lovely, and the days aren’t too short. There’s also a discernible improvement in the mood of locals — the burden of having to attend to the pleasures and whims of guests having been considerably lightened. We all return to something that more resembles the pace of an ordinary life.
After ten years living here, I’ve come to understand that there are a million stories about the magic of this place — and I accept that they’e all true. But most of them are narrow — a narrative crafted through the lens of a week’s stay, and in Provincetown through the homogeneity of a theme week. Last summer a distinguished artist in town shared his frustration about this: It’s like living in a convention town where one week it might be tech executives, the next week physicians. In Provincetown, it’s Bears or party boys, baby dykes or families, leather folk or fantasia. We shift each week to the vibe of those who populate the town with their particular practices and mythologies. The shifts can be stark and even uncomfortable. Somehow we make it work.
This summer I’ve been trying to consciously cultivate enchantment in my life. In a sense that means that I’m cultivating my particular practices and mythologies in service to finding my own magic in everyday life. So, while my commentary on ‘summer people’ might seem pointed, I understand the impulse to use this place in a search for the sublime.
I’ve recently left a career in higher education. That work required me to privilege and prioritize critical thinking in particular (and often narrow) ways. I believe in the power of critical inquiry, and don’t mean to undermine its importance. But I’m also aware of the ways my career forced me to minimize and suppress knowledge that emerges through the body — things felt or intuited. In my search for enchantment, I’m trying to bring my intuition and rationality into equilibrium. I’d like to experience the world in a more fully embodied way.
For the past few weeks I’ve been regularly attending my friend Jon Richardson’s Piano Bar performances at The Crown & Anchor in Provincetown. I’ve noticed that my painting is better — more engaged, more risk-taking, more fulfilling — every morning after I’ve attended a performance. Jon understands his work as an artist as reaching back to something ancient in our species — gathering people in a circle to collectively sing. I suspect that kind of communion is unlocking something in me, helping my intuitive self to flourish.
Equinox literally refers to the balance of day and night across our planet. I find a sadness in the autumnal equinox as it marks the moment we in the Northern Hemisphere are halfway into planetary night. However, this year I’m trying to find the delight in the balance — and trying to see that balance as an element of the equilibrium I’m seeking within my ways of knowing. There’s something else to be felt and embraced, discovered and celebrated in the longer nights. And I’m up for finding it.
Night sky over Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown MA on 21 September 2022.
Field Guide: Walking & Painting on Cape Cod is a fundraiser to support Provincetown Commons’ artist studios, co-working facility, meeting spaces and exhibition gallery. Please donate at our website: https://www.provincetowncommons.org/fieldguide-walkingandpaintingcapecod