Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Woman in the Dunes

What was I thinking?  A 70 year old woman who has never camped or lived off -the-grid, spending a week alone in a dune shack on the outer curve of Cape Cod, with the ocean before me and piles of sand behind me.

After inviting several friends, I finally found someone eager and exited to accompany me for the week.  My hesitancy (go, not go, go not go) turned into okay, go.

I drove to the Cape 6 days ahead of the Saturday we were due to be driven in to the shack.  The Provincetown Compact was to provide a ride in a pickup for us, our bedding, our food, and at least 4 gallons of water each.  They would drop us there and return the next Saturday.

Us?  Several days before she was to drive to the Cape to rendezvous for our week, my friend emailed that she was ill and couldnt come.  I would be alone after all.

I have lived alone much of my adult life.  I know how to "do" alone.  I am happy in my own company and can endlessly amuse myself by writing, painting, walking, reading and just sitting around staring out the window.

To be alone was not my purpose in going to the dune shack, yet the universe had other plans.

I'd been applying for the lottery to rent a dune shack on and off for ten or more years.  Finally, in 2016, I was chosen for the week of April 23-30th.  The dune shacks are historic structures, originally made out of driftwood and scraps back in the 1920's to house people rescued by the life saving service.  Or were they shacks for fishermen?  At any rate many famous people stayed in the shacks and wrote or painted through the years.  Eugene O'Neill, Mary Oliver, or was it Annie Dillard, Norman Mailer.   Harry Kemp, poet of the dunes, Susan Glaspell, Jack Kerouac, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and others.

They currently rest on The National Seashore and are under the domain of the National Park Service.  There are 17 shacks remaining.  Many are privately "owned" by families who have passed them down for generations.  However, as there are few deeds the National Park Service really owns them all and allows the families access for 25 years.

I loved C-Scape dune shack at first sight.  John, who drove me out, gave me a tour and instructions on how to use the woodstove, the composting toilet, the outdoor shower, the pump.  One of my biggest fears was I wouldnt know how to do these primitive things.  He even lit my first fire, since it was chill.  I brought plenty of newspapers (on the list of supplies) however there were papers and kindling and a huge stack of firewood already in place.

C-Scape is really two dune shacks put together.  The living room shown here is insulated, the woodstove is a Jotul (insulated) and the room can be closed off from the loft and kitchen via blanket and hatchdoor if you are cold.

With no electricity, kerosene lanterns (using lamp oil) are found throughout the shack.  There is a propane fueled refrigerator (not shown) and a gas cooking stove.  The old metal fronted fridge shown here is where one can store foodstuffs to keep them from mice, although I saw no mice on my visit.

Above see the dish-washing station.  There is no running water.  One must pump water at the pump--water only usable for dish-washing as it is filled with iron.  I can't tell you how many times I reached for a faucet to rinse my dishes.  You use a lot of water to wash dishes.  Every time I emptied the two gallon container of dish-washing water I had to pump more and carry it back to the shack.  I ended up reusing the water a number of times before pouring it down the drain. It both made me appreciate my modern kitchen at home, and become aware of conserving water at the same time.

In the light filled loft were two twin bed mattresses pushed together on top of a plywood platform.  Above the bed hung yards of netting to drape over the bed in case of mosquitoes.  I chose not to sleep upstairs as I often get up in the night and didnt want to fall on the stairway.  I drafted a poem titled "Miss Havesham's Veil" inspired by this mosquitoe netting.

I'll continue this story on another post.  I have done something weird to the formatting and the alignment is messed up.  I have no idea how to fix it.


Lisa Greenbow said...

I remember having to use that pump to water the cattle at my Grandparents house. Not an easy chore. I am sure you felt like a pioneer.

sukipoet said...

definitely a pioneer, Lisa