Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Journal Archives: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Cookie-Free Zone. Or Maybe I’m a Luddite?
I’m staying in a New England coastal town. It’s the off season, which I like — no crowds, little traffic, but there’s the company of friendly locals so that one doesn’t feel isolated. The weather is beautiful: sometimes sunny and mild — and sometimes chilly, blustery and raining.
Today I’ve returned to the spot where I come every day, and many other people seem to feel about this particular place the way I do. The few tourists that are here at this time of year, as well as ‘year-rounders’ — retired residents out for a stroll, workmen at lunch or on their way home at the end of the day, teenagers out of school for spring break — every few minutes people pull into the car park where I’m sitting overlooking the sand bars stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean beyond us.
Some, mostly tourists like myself, take pictures. A few people descend the stairs to the beach to walk their dogs, search for shells, fly kites, play catch or just amble. Others sit in their cars or stand on this bank above the beach and gaze at sand interspersed with sea that expresses itself in some inexplicable combination of ease and power.
A few point at the beach and ocean, turning to their companions and discussing… what? Whether that is a gray seal or just a log way out on the sand bar this early in the year? (Seals!) Anticipating the unusual appearance of the Great White Sharks that have come in recent years to hunt the seals and wondering if they’ll appear this season — is there a chance that’s a fin way out in the water?
Earlier in the week, I spoke with a man who comes here weekly from a nearby town simply to see how the shape of the sand bars has changed.
A minute ago, a middle-aged man came up from the beach. It’s cold today, but he was barefoot! Well dressed, balding, tidy jeans rolled up. I said to him, “Like your shoes!” He laughed and gave me a ‘thumbs-up’.
There are dunes to the right of here, then, beyond, more ocean. Far down the coast are shoals — nicknamed ‘Turner’s Terror’ — which caused the Mayflower to turn back in 1620 while it was attempting to reach the Hudson River to set up a settlement in the New World. These shoals are the primary reason that New England was started first at Provincetown on Cape Cod, and ultimately at Plymouth [Plimouth] rather than on what is now Long Island, New York.
During a hurricane a few years ago, this was one of the places which was charted to be ground zero. I remember seeing a television reporter standing on this very beach, being almost blown away by the near gale-force winds, trying to anticipate with some accuracy what was to come within the hour. Fortunately, the hurricane moved off its expected course and spared what lies in front of me now.
It is mesmerizing, calming, yet moving to be here. It is peace. Along the coast, and particularly in this spot, are the only places I’ve been in a long time where people just come, sit, look and think. There is no intermediary here between oneself and the natural world — — no one interpreting, screening, collecting your ‘cookies’ in order to send you Google ads that fit your profile.
One almost never sees people here driving around speaking into their cell phones, nor do people in restaurants talk on their mobiles or text. Instead, they talk to each other animatedly over dinner or while sitting in a pub over a pint. I don’t know why it’s that way, but I like it.