Off Season

It’s ten p.m., and the memsahib and I have just got back to Brooklyn after spending a couple of days in the outer reaches of Cape Cod.

The Outer Cape is not a popular destination this time of year; unlike the summer months, when the beautiful beaches and charming country lanes are clogged with families from New York, Montreal, and Boston on desperate two-week vacations, in January one pretty much has the run of the place. Most of the taverns and eateries are closed, but there is a cozy sense of community in the few that are open all winter. The clear kettle ponds that ring all summer with children’s voices are silent now and rimmed with ice, and at the deserted beaches the pale January light is almost otherworldly. At night, the winter sky is inky black and blazing with stars, and the air is clear and clean, with the faintest notes of sea and woodsmoke. Above all, you feel, especially at night, what isn’t there: the humming, buzzing, jostling press of millions of other hurrying souls that is the subliminal substrate of life in New York City.

Last night at about one in the morning I went outside to get more wood for the fire, and wound up just standing there, under the pine trees and the glittering sky, listening to the susurration of wind and water, for a very long time.

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