Monday, July 25, 2011

ON THE OUTER CAPE


     NORTH TRURO, Mass. -- Many communities on old Cape Cod are trendy and expensive in these days of the growing super-rich, but some towns have not yet put a price tag on their charm. For the cost of a decent pair of walking shoes and an old pair of shorts, you can amble by Dutra’s Market and the Village Cafe, perhaps linger at either and tune into the tempo of the locals of the Outer Cape. An ordinary coffee, a Boston tabloid or the long-running and still with-it, still-read Cape Cod Times add to the chill-out, which ends only with the time limit of your particular day. No designer clothing required. No Mercedes or Lexus SUV.
Walk up the old Kings Highway, Route 6A, and 500 yards from Dutra’s you see the vantage point that painter Edward Hopper used in “High Road” (1931). The refractive light is the same. You can hoof it or bike down Pond Road to Cold Storage Beach, scene of some of Hopper’s other Cape works. You are just miles from Provincetown, and you can spot in the distance where the Pilgrims first landed (opting to move on to Plymouth). 
There’s an older look here, in North Truro, one probably not all that different from Hopper’s time in the 1930s-1960s. More scrub pine covering what were apple orchards and farms, yes, but the lay of the land is still as God intended, albeit with paths set by Native Americans, then rutted by colonial wagons, then by growth and summers at the Cape.
A certain peace is what enough still seek from a vacation, and if the suburban-like bustle of the mid-Cape now add louder notes, or if bigger, expensive homes or high realty prices sing the wrong tune in some Cape areas, then head north to Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham. 
The Highland Light at the National Seashore will bring you back generations,  when whaling ships and their crews counted so heavily on a beacon in the Cape fog, when this light welcomed many a mariner home. The house and tower were moved inland in 1996 because the coastline continues to erode, but the structure, an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation, is still set close enough to the Atlantic to be a watchfire, as it has been since 1797. Hopper, America’s foremost realist artist, captured it in a 1930 watercolor, bathed in setting sunlight. It changes you, this look at Highland Light late in day, opening a door into another realm. It is a poetic trip to calm.
Artists, writers and individualists have long spent summers in the Truro region, and if spirit can be left to linger, it surely is felt in the Outer Cape today.

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