Sunday, October 17, 2010

Homesick Yankee Ramblings Part 5 - Cape Cod

provincetown 2
I just checked Dr. Timothy Dwight's Travels in New England and New York out of the library and it's got me plenty homesick. Dwight was a Congregationalist minister and the president of Yale from 1795-1817. He was also the grandson of the famous Northampton minister, Jonathan Edwards of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God fame. Travels, which spans four volumes, reads like a journal. Dwight stitches together detailed notes of many, many towns, villages, cities, natural sites, and various short biographies of notable people. The book was published in 1822, a few years after Dwight's death in 1817. Needless to say, I'll be posting some more quotes from Dr. Dwight here in the near future.

From Travels in New England and New York, Vol. III, Letter X:
"It has been a frequent opinion that this beach, and not improbably the whole township of Provincetown, will one day, and that at no distant period of time, be swept away by the ocean. I was not able to obtain satisfactory information concerning this subject, particularly as judicious persons differed entirely both as to facts and probabilities. Some averred that the beach has been greatly diminished within a moderate period. Others, particularly one, a discreet man, insisted that what it lost on one side it regularly gained on the other. It is now more than one hundred yards wide, and appears to the eye of a stranger as if every vestige of it might be easily swept away within two or three years."
"This remarkable object is an enormous mass of sand, such as has been already described, fine, light, of a yellowish hue, and the sport of every wind. It is blown into plains, valleys, and hills. The hills are of every height from ten to two hundred feet. Frequently they are naked, round, and extremely elegant; and often rough, pointed, wild and fantastical, with all the varied forms which are seen at times in drifts of snow."

Provincetown 1
provincetown 2 reverse
Luckily for us, Dwight's fear that Provincetown would be washed away was never realized. Sitting out here in the desert, I'm sure the Cape's as beautiful now as it was when the Nauset lived there, or in 1620 when the Puritans arrived, or in 1800 when Timothy Dwight stood speculating on the beach, or when Thoreau called it a "wild, rank place", or when Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, and Jackson Pollack hung out there, or when Scott and Connie loved the water, boats, and stores in 1967, or when Erin and I and her family had a fire on the beach in 2007.
Triangles and Rhombuses

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