It’s been three weeks since my vacation on Cape Cod ended. I had a great time, and was inspired to do a lot of writing in the time I was there. Before now, I haven’t tried to write about some of the things I wanted to say when I was there, because I either didn’t have the time, or enough computer access, to get those thoughts strung together sufficiently well. I hope I can do this one justice.
An early summer’s afternoon, Duck Harbor Beach, Wellfleet, Mass
The plans for the evening had already been made, without either my knowledge or my input. As a result, I found myself in charge of supervising the two girls–my younger daughter and her cousin–who weren’t old enough to see the movie that everyone else was going to.
The two girls wanted–no, they expected–to watch television to their hearts’ content. But the shows they were interested in were the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon shows where the parents are clueless, and everything the kids say is sparkling and witty and a big hit with the studio audience. I had no interest in three hours of that, and so I decided to find a better show to watch.
I turned off the TV and told the kids to go and get in the car. They weren’t expecting this, but they went along with it, anyway. I had to get this right, or the complaining I would get would be far worse than the dreck being served up on television. But I had a plan in my head, and now I just had to execute it properly.
We started off by going to a roadside seafood place on Route 6 in Wellfleet. The sun was still fairly high in the sky, but the sunset was coming soon. I ordered some mozzarella sticks and rice pilaf for the girls, a linguica roll for myself, and–my ace in the hole–a quart of birthday cake ice cream. I’m not sure if they make better ice cream on the Cape, or if regular ice cream is somehow enhanced just by being on Cape Cod, but either way, we were going to be feasting on it soon enough.
Duck Harbor Beach in Wellfleet is also called “sunset beach,” and with good reason. Unlike most places in the Eastern U.S., this beach offers a view of a sunset into the waters of Massachusetts Bay. And on this night, everything seemed to be falling into place.
There were some amazing cloud formations, that almost looked like the surface of another planet.The sunlight seemed to be dancing on the clouds, turning them into fantastic shades of red, orange, and every shade in between. No artist’s palette could compare to what nature was serving up for us that evening.
We found a spot on the sandy beach and ate the food as the sun sank toward the horizon. We laughed, and talked, and laughed some more. I wanted to ask them whether this show was better than whatever they would be watching on TV at that moment, but I didn’t because I already knew the answer. There was no need to remind them of what I was depriving them of in that moment.
As the sun completed its dip below the horizon, there was still maybe a half hour of twilight remaining. We went down to the water, looking for rocks to skip along the surface. Rock skipping is a lot of fun, but it depends on arm speed and a sidearm throwing motion, neither of which come naturally to young girls. But we looked for good “skippers” anyway, and had fun tossing the rocks out in the direction of the sunset. But we weren’t finished quite yet.
A seal had made its way toward the shore, and was far enough away that all we could see was the very top of its head. Our rock-skipping halted, and a new game of “find the seal” commenced. There were no funny lines of dialogue, and no commercial interruptions, but that scene will live in my memory better than anything television has to offer.
We decided to get going before it got dark, and the mosquitos would overrun everything. But as we walked back to the car, I realized that sunsets like that one have probably always been a show, on that beach and everywhere else. You might even call it the longest-running show on earth because it never has been, and never will be, in any danger of being cancelled. And while you can watch it from anyplace, in some settings the reception is just amazing.