The Edge of the World

On Tuesday I got in the car with my dad and took a 6 hour drive out to Provincetown, Massachusetts.

After we arrived, we took a twilight walk over to where Mary Oliver lived, there was a small grocery store about a block away from her house.

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An interesting thing about Provincetown is that its at the very tip of the spiral peninsula of Massachusettes, the geographical location has a poetic quality to it, and I was reminded of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty when I looked up where Provincetown is on the map.

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Provincetown culture, I discovered quickly upon arrival, is almost exclusively gay. It is also very wealthy. Which makes sense geographically; that a group of people who don’t feel comfortable in a heterosexual society and can afford it, would move out to the edge of the map and form a safe zone.

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The landscape itself, however, was the real reason for traveling. I wanted to survey the land of the ponds and the House of Light that inspired Mary Oliver’s poetry.

Due to Covid, there was almost no one around at the natural destinations, it felt very apocalyptic.

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The landscape itself also had a devastated quality to it. Mostly sand, the plants that grew were all of a desert-nature, hardy and resilient. Which is a particular type of beauty.

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Around the ponds the green became more green. We saw a black snake moving toward Black Water pond, and black birds too. Around the ponds the life increased, and then moving away from a pond the natural life would transition back to a desert-quality.

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We walked about 9 miles through the landscape, stopped on a bed of pine needles and ate PBJs and protein shakes and then kept walking. We eventually made our way out to Race Point beach, where there was huge dunes and a wide beach and an ocean that seemed to wrap all the way around us. My dad jumped in the ocean and I laid on the beach in pants and got hives on my very pale skin from the sun.

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We drove back to the air bnb and showered and reset and then made our way out to the Breakwater Jetty, that goes out to the edge of the peninsula, which is also where the Pilgrims first landed on this continent. Which felt somehow a strange place to be at this moment in history.

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At this point I was somewhat aware that I was looking for a secret entrance to Heaven.

There were very few people out on the jetty, and as we got further out, there were less and less.

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We finally made it to the beach, the jetty is probably a mile or two long. There was no one anywhere. My dad said if I wanted to make it to a lighthouse I was on my own, he was going to save his body, and he sat in the sand. I sat for a minute and decided I had come this far and that I should make it to the lighthouse, so I started walking.

Along the shore were stones; I got lost staring at the stones, I started filling my pockets with ones I had particular fondness for. Staring at the glistening stones and walking became a slightly mind-altering experience, and at some point, I think feeling my own delight, I said outloud in a whisper, I think I’m in Heaven. A few more steps and I remembered the light house and I looked up and I was there.

So i walked up the beach to the lighthouse. There was the strangest sense of both presence and absence. I walked to the back of the lighthouse and balanced a few stones as an offering. Then I walked to the front, and noticed that there was a few stones balancing that resembled what I had just made, which felt strange, like an inter-dimensional echo.

On the front of the lighthouse there was a window with thick squares of glass, shielded by iron bars that had rusted and made a beautiful orange painting with decades of rainwater. At the foot of the window, grown out of the rusty rainwater, were wild white roses.

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I said a prayer and returned in silence, found my dad laying in the sand. The tide was going out. We walked back over the jetty as the sun set and returned to the world.

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