This past weekend, I went on a camping trip in Cape Cod. I’ve never actually been in the summer, oddly enough, but from what I’ve seen the Cape is still beautiful in the cold.
We finished a hike through a wildlife reservation and found a beach across from it, Marconi Beach. After grumbling about the $25 entry fee, I pulled my car into the parking lot. The lot was on a hill, so we couldn't see the ocean yet. We descended some stairs down a sand dune, and the view was breathtaking.
It's hard to put into words and the shaky video I took doesn't do it justice. The waves are big, rich, and foamy; somehow they seemed more solid and substantial than the same ocean I'd seen at Revere or Hingham, closer to Boston. It was high tide, and the sea foam was ever creeping up the shoreline, threatening to snatch away the sand beneath our feet. On the drive to the Cape I thought about how Massachusetts often feels like the worst of both worlds, especially now— neither spacious and full of natural wonders, nor home to a particularly pleasant breed of people, nor dense and vibrant enough to feel full of opportunities that outweigh its expenses. There’s a reason people call Boston a “starter city”. But at least the Cape is okay, and “okay” is as much as I can ask for at this time.
I asked V if he wanted to walk down the shore with me but he preferred to sit. I went, walking a tightrope between the ocean tide and the dune cliff for the first half of the journey. The most imminent danger was merely wet shoes, but it was cold, and the waves, when I looked at them--I didn't want to take any chances. The waves seemed to demand respect.
It was peaceful, quiet. No one followed me, presumably because of the high tide. For ten minutes, I had that feeling of being alone in a natural place, or alone with no one else around, in a good way. It was a rare feeling in New England, and one that I took for granted in Colorado. There was ample space in the place I grew up; I could go on a neighborhood walk without passing anyone else sometimes. Here, I'm always stumbling into people and hearing them through walls and ceilings--not always a bad thing, but it's nice to have some time apart. At Marconi Beach on a cold day at high tide, it was just me, and waves.
I looked closely at the dune cliff and realized I could see sedimentary rock forming in real time. The water lay deposits in the sand that I'd seen in hardened rocks before--but in this place they were soft to the touch, and still crumbled beneath my fingers. I wondered if this sandy cliff face, too, would become hard, layered rock someday, long after I was gone, maybe after humans were gone altogether.
I walked at first in someone else's footsteps, then I had to make my own. It was an awkward trek at times, where I tread along a slope but in the wrong direction, with the higher end to my right and the lower to my left. There wasn't dry, flat land due to the high tide.
It was a good opportunity to think, in the same abstract way that I am writing now. Sand turning to rock, ocean waves washing away all the footprints. People look at stars and feel tiny, I felt some of that on the beach too, thinking, literally, about the sands of time, about the vastness of the ocean, deep and unknowable. Or maybe it was that I felt the opposite of tiny, like I was part of that vastness, like I was something unknowable.
Making my own footprints, I thought about writing this blog post and felt the faint wisps of thoughts in my head that would later organize my words on this page. I wondered with a laugh if there were anything more to say about the ocean; hadn't so many great writers already said everything?
But why not, I thought, walking back now, treading the path of my own footsteps, ones others were now using. The tide was a lot lower and the path was easier now, the ocean less intimidating. I bent down to catch some sea foam between my fingers; the cold wind was still whipping my hair around my face but my body was warm from the mild exertion, my cheeks flushed.
Why not you? I said to myself. Why not write about the ocean, but mainly, why not believe you are capable of greatness, vastness. In trillions of years, there has never been you before, and there will not be you again.