Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Race Point

The race:  A fast-moving tidal current caused by a narrow or shallow channel.  The area earned its name because of the strong cross currents that occur and prevail.  Race Point is known for its fierce undertow and strong riptides.  It is also known for its spectacular sand dunes, rugged beach, and deep blue water.

Visiting in mid-October has its advantages.  I enjoyed the absence of crowds, warm weather, cool breezes, and an opportunity to see life on the shore, and in the sea.  I longed for the serenity of a secluded beach, and had planned to read, relax, and do some more reading against a backdrop of the outermost point of Cape Cod.  I desired to commune with the ocean--to stand on the shore like some ancient mariner’s wife, longing for the return of something, while simultaneously releasing anxiety and achieving Satya.  I felt the salt-filled mist against my skin, and breathed the sea into my being.  It was mystical and spiritual.  Mesmerized by the constant of the breaking waves, I lay on the beach thinking, breathing, and anticipating the next break. One could rest in that space for hours, but the cool breeze gently roused me.

My photographs were taken over three days, where the temperature ranged from 40 to 75 degrees.  Upon arrival, the weather was extremely warm, and sunny.  The late afternoon brought a chilling sea breeze that corresponded with the rise in tide.  The next day was cold, raw and wet; yet I still ventured out, however briefly, to experience the sea during a storm.  It was really too much, as the rain pelted my skin like pebbles.  In late afternoon, the storm ended, and it warmed considerably.  Periodically, I witnessed lone gray seals buoyantly riding the waves parallel to the beach, like dogs paddling for a Frisbee or stick thrown from the shore.  After converging into their pod, they paused their frolicking to dubiously observe us on the shore.  It’s no wonder when some believe that the gray seals are a nuisance, and harmful to the local fishing industry.  I was amused by them, and thankful that the law is on their side. 

I stayed in the lighthouse keeper’s home that was built in 1876.  The Italianate house was renovated in 1995; its interior was restored to 1950’s revival.  It was comfortable and thoughtfully decorated, and I relished that I could view the ocean from my bedroom window.  I unplugged and enjoyed the company of the other guests and the keepers.  We amused ourselves with conversation, food, wine, and bonfires after sundown. 

The lighthouse was first lit in 1816, and its first keeper was Joshua Dyer.  I thought about the keeper and his family living in such inhospitable conditions as during a Nor’easter, or one of the many winter storms that afflict the area, and wondered why/how they did it. I understood what the summer experience might have been, but the isolation, especially in winter was heady.   I’m sure it took a special temperament, a love of the sea, and a formidable woman to help sustain the family in such conditions.  With few natural barriers to block the wind and the mist, it must have been, at times, unpleasant to live on the outermost point.  I was, and am in awe of such vocations, especially the women who were keepers in their own right.  Today, the keepers are volunteers of the American Lighthouse Foundation.  During my visit, the keepers were affable, and brought vibrant energy to their duties.  It was remarkable to learn that they could trace their roots to the Mayflower, or to early keepers of the light. 

My mother taught me to love lighthouses.  Raised in the land-locked mid-west, I tend to gravitate to that which is far from my own experience.  I have developed a fondness for the light station at Race Point.  The 25-foot views above the sea were dramatic, especially at sunset.   You could also see the race from the tower, where the depths from the shelf drop more than 180 feet.  While the light is no longer the sole navigational beacon for the point, it complements the modern mariner’s other navigational instruments.  I predict that I will return physically to this space several more times, but for now, it is pleasing to know that it has attached itself to my third eye.