Running Free

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that driving in any inhabited area these days is a sure fire way to add kilos of stress to the body, to send the diastolic and systolic numbers moonward. For me, driving even on my typical suburban block can be a true pain. One recent morning, for instance, I stepped into my ancient Honda, which was parked directly in front of my home, and saw a young couple 100 feet in front of me. They were putzing around with their SUV, also parked on the street. Their rear driver’s side door was wide open, making passage past their car difficult. Worse, the female member of the twosome was standing in the middle of the street, la-dee-dahingly removing boxes from the back seat. “OK, no problem. I’ll simply make a K turn and head in the opposite direction,” I said to myself. As I gracefully maneuvered the Honda to my left and then backwards, needless to say another SUV headed towards me from the direction in which I now was planning to drive, putting pressure on me to complete the K pronto. Bottom line: Nearly everywhere you go there are just too many people and too many motor vehicles. “Hey, that’s modern life,” some would say. “Get with it.”

Oh yeah?  Arrgh . . . Let me outta here! I need to run free! At least some of the time.

I don’t like congestion, dig? But what’s a person to do? I’ve written a few times online about the sweet spot that Cape Cod occupies in at least two hearts, mine and my wife Sandy’s. Cape Cod is where we head when we want to get away from it all. Not that Cape Cod is free from congestion. Hardly. But if you know where on the Cape to go, and when, you’ll be far far far from the madding crowd and its cars and trucks. And you’ll have fun too.

Cape Cod is famed for the throngs that descend upon it between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. People and cars up the wazoo. That’s why Sandy and I never go there during that period. We were on the Cape last month though, when things were back to normal. We spent plenty of time among others of our species. But we also made sure on most days to bathe our souls in places where the human and vehicular factors would be minimal.

Parabolic sand dunes territory. Truro, Cape Cod.
Parabolic sand dunes territory. Truro, Cape Cod.

“You know,” I said to Sandy on this most recent trip as we stood atop a humungous sand dune. “If you plopped most people down here and asked them where they were, they’d never guess it’s Cape Cod.”  That was true. When the majority of folks think Cape Cod they envision seaside-ey villages and seafood-ey restaurants. But we were miles away from any of that. We were in parabolic sand dunes country, inland just a bit from the Atlantic Ocean in Truro. Truro is a sprawling area of the Outer Cape, and probably the most rural and desolate section that Cape Cod has to offer. The parabolic dunes are by far the Cape’s biggest, undulating 80-feet-and-taller monsters that extend for several miles, covering part of Truro and of Provincetown too. We’d been in this locale a bunch of times before, and as always were knocked out by the vistas. Several parallel chains of dunes ran long into the distance. Between each chain were deep valleys that, surprisingly to me, a low level naturalist, were loaded with small trees and shrubbery and all manner of other plants that I couldn’t give names to. This is a mind-blowing environment, a vegetated lunar-like landscape that, I’m sure, many Cape Cod residents and vacationers barely know about. It is open and wild. I feel alive there. And that’s why I like it.

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of hours scampering up, down and around the parabolic dunes, and even more among the slightly smaller and less dramatic dunes that take over in Provincetown when the parabolic big boys eventually peter out. At this point in my life I’m not going to be climbing any mountains in the Alps or bungee jumping into canyons in the American West. For me, the Outer Cape’s dunesville does just fine as a spot where I can indulge my sense of adventure and feel as though I’m pushing my puny limits. There’s no congestion out there. You might cross paths with a few other trekkers, but that’s okay. They are kindred spirits.

Dunesville is great. But what I like even better on Cape Cod is the Atlantic Ocean shoreline. Most of it is under government protection, meaning that mankind won’t be messing it up any time soon. It’s pure, it’s long — 40 or more miles — and it’s beautiful. What’s not to like? Sky, ocean,  and sand-cliff-backed endless beach.

Its presence of water is why I would choose, if I had to choose, this shoreline over the Outer Cape’s dunes territory. Though Sandy and I aren’t swimmers, we’re big time water admirers. We have hiked hundreds of miles over the years on the Cape’s ocean shore. There’s just something about being there. The power of the water, its changing face from day to day. The rigid coolness of those sand cliffs. The real low numbers of humankind in the off-season. And then there’s our kite, which enhances this scenario. Last year we bought the kite and flew it on beaches many times. We launched it frequently during our recent stay too.

Atlantic Ocean shoreline at Marconi Beach, Cape Cod.
Atlantic Ocean shoreline at Marconi Beach, Cape Cod.
Our kite at Marconi Beach, Cape Cod.
Our kite at Marconi Beach, Cape Cod.

One day last month, on the ocean shoreline named Marconi Beach, the conditions for flight were perfect. A strong but not overpowering steady wind meant the kite would stay aloft sans problem. What we discovered at Marconi was that the kite was insatiable. It kept pulling on the string, begging us to let out more and more length. This hadn’t happened to us before. And so we did. The kite went higher and higher. The amount of string on the reel grew less and less. I hardly could believe it when there was no more string to release. The kite was way up there. How far away I didn’t know.

After an hour or so we decided it was time to move on, to say goodbye to Marconi Beach for the day. It took a long time to reel in the kite. Later I checked out the kite manufacturer’s website where I learned that our polyester friend came equipped with 300 feet of string. I was impressed. At Marconi Beach we had overseen a long-distance journey.

Congestion . . . bad. Running free . . . good. End of story.

(Photos by Sandra Cherrey Scheinin. If you click on a photo, a larger image will open)

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A Kite, The Moon, Sandy And I

Few if any ideas are unique. But many ideas are good ones. Last year, for instance, I came upon a good idea while perusing a bunch of websites pertaining to Cape Cod, where my wife Sandy and I would be vacationing a few weeks later. We’ve been hitting the Cape for many years, and we always try to amass a long list of potential activities before our vacations begin. One website was crammed with suggestions about fun things to do on Cape Cod. One of the author’s notions connected with my sweet spot. Go fly a kite, the writer said.

Our kite soared above Cape Cod beaches many times last year.
Our kite soared above Cape Cod beaches many times last year.

Sandy and I did just that. A few days into the vacation we bought a cute and colorful kite in a toy store and headed straight for a section of Atlantic Ocean beach to test it out. I hadn’t flown a kite in at least 50 years. Sandy, surprisingly, never had. We took to the kite as if it were a long lost pal. Over the course of our sojourn the kite, when not aloft, lived on the back seat of our car, always on hand and ready for action. We flew it on beaches all over Cape Cod and in an inland park or two. During the trip, we spent at least ten hours holding the reel of the kite tightly, watching our yellow, purple and blue amigo ride the air currents far overhead. To fly a kite was a very good idea.

Another good idea visited me recently. And it morphed fairly quickly into a better one. Plopped as usual on my living room sofa one day, half listening to WRDV, a low wattage suburban Philadelphia radio station, I heard a song that I’ve always liked. Dancing In The Moonlight, by King Harvest. This happy tune from 1972 got me thinking, as I had been looking for a story idea for my blog. “Ah yes,” I said to myself. “Let’s write something about the Moon.” I hoped that I’d soon hear other Moon-related songs, and then be able to put them into a bit of context. A few days later, example number two arrived when WRDV played a most obscure tune, a sultry and quiet jazzy bonbon from 1939, Dancing On The Beach. It was written by Bulee “Slim” Gaillard and performed by Slim and his then-partner Slam Stewart. The dancing described in the song’s lyrics, admirably delivered nonchalantly by Slim, occurs at night, under moonlight.

I felt that I needed to hear at least one more moony song to increase the meatiness of whatever I might end up writing. But the next one that I caught, Yellow Moon, by The Neville Brothers, was a bad fit for my thesis-to-be. It concerns a guy who, uncertain about his girl’s degree of devotion to him, asks the Moon to tell him what it knows about the lady’s love life. I put Yellow Moon in the discard bin.

A couple of days later though, out on a drive, I turned on Sirius radio and was taken aback by the first tune that emanated. It was Van Morrison’s iconic Moondance. There, the pieces had emerged. Three songs about letting go, about moving freely with someone you love, in partnership with the mysterious energies and powers of Earth’s nearest neighbor. It was time to analyze the songs, compare their calibrations and then start typing.

I studied the songs’ lyrics. In their essences they didn’t diverge very much. In each, under the moon’s spell, folks are grooving and open to the possibilities. “Dancing in the moonlight/Everybody’s feeling warm and bright.” “Dancing on the beach ‘neath the moon above/ Dancing on the beach with the one you love.” “Well, it’s a marvelous night for a Moondance/With the stars up above in your eyes/A fantabulous night to make romance/’Neath the cover of October skies.”

But I saw at least one difference among the tunes. Each, it seemed to me, inhabited a distinguishing milieu. Where else but in a meadow, one undoubtedly full of blissful and merrymaking hippies, could Dancing In The Moonlight be taking place? As for Dancing On The Beach, well, duh. And Moondance, to my reading, finds its home in none other than Van The Man’s grassy backyard.

The Moon illuminating the Scheinin backyard.
The Moon illuminating the Scheinin backyard.

With those and other thoughts in mind, I began to write. But my intent soon took a sharp change in direction when it dawned on me that the end game was not to turn out an essay about the intriguing aura that monnlit dancing casts upon the human psyche. Instead, I came to believe that the musical gods had held a meeting and decided to send a message my way. Sure, they had experienced brain freeze when they allowed me to hear Yellow Moon, but they quickly had regrouped and set things straight by showering me with Moondance. Their message was a simple one: Dance in the moonlight, fella! It’ll be fun. It’ll be good for you.

In my adulthood I’ve been a reluctant dancer. I give it a try at weddings and bar mitzvahs and other celebrations, but other than that, no. But this moonlight idea is intriguing. It might take awhile before my first dance occurs, but I’m going to coax myself. I can see it now  —  Sandy and I in our compact backyard, soft moonbeams filtering through the trees, the two of us flowing as one to the tune playing on the iPhone. Which of course is Moondance. And after that, before year’s end, we dazzle a lunar-lit stretch of sand and sea somewhere as Dancing On The Beach accompanies us. And then a meadow, where Dancing In The Moonlight shapes our movements.

(Photos by Sandra Cherrey Scheinin. If you click on a photo, a larger image will open)

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