Summer feels expansive until it’s over. Recent days have been punctuated with resignation: I won’t go swimming in the ponds everyday; the joy of hiking in blazing heat has passed; my energy is pulling back with the waning light; the garden is fading. I try to be philosophical, and remind myself of all I have done and accomplished — and all that might yet arrive.
A consequence of living in a ‘vacation place’ is that you witness other people’s vacations (and enable them) while you remain at work. Vacationers often miss this distinction and express envy for your ability to live where they crave to be. But my reality is different from their imagination. I worked through the summer and in some intangible way feel like I missed it. That might explain the vague sadness in my peripheral vision.
And yet, last night after a few glasses of wine I found myself saying ‘I haven’t been this happy in thirty years.’ Something’s shifted for me. I feel it psychologically, but also in my body. I have an impulse to be glib and say it’s due to stepping away from a toxic workplace, but that’s too easy. I’ve done some work on myself — not just recently, but over the past decade — and it’s starting to pay off.
There are two beliefs about Provincetown — among many others — that are often held in opposition. Some people refer to it as ‘Problemstown’ because of its low threshold for drama. And others talk about it as a healing place because so many of us come here looking to unravel and reweave sections of our experience. The Venn diagram of these beliefs is strong, of course, because the unraveling process is often tempestuous and prolonged. Healing gets talked about less and may be less evident because many folks move on after they’re gathered the solace they crave. Drama is pervasive in our lives for this reason. But I’m ultimately a lot more interested in healing.
In my imagination, in my experience, these two ways of understanding Provincetown are geographical. Problems magnetize in town, and healing emerges within the Provincelands. As charming as Provincetown is, it’s become increasingly urbanized in my decade living here. The ‘season’ has extended with only a short period of real quiet in the dead of winter. There’s a demand for food and experience that mirrors urban life, and increasingly restaurants that were uniquely of this place are being replaced by placed that could exist in any city. This shift makes it increasingly difficult to leave behind the everyday while in town, to experience nature on the street. In nature I find the world’s rhythms and consequently can feel and hear my own. The time I spend in the Provincelands, in the National Seashore, allows me the space to reencounter my own instincts and way of encountering the world. It helps me stumble upon enchantment.
Enchantment is easy to find in the summer. It’s more elusive other times of the year. But I’m learning to see it more, and that’s what’s making me happy. In my last post I spoke to my intention to seek enchantment, and in a new way, I’m coming to see that enchant is the theme of this field guide. And maybe the theme of this next stage of my life.
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