Is there a more fitting end to summer than a cold, wet and rainy labor day weekend? I think not.
If it were sunny and bright and warm, how much more wrenching it would be to say goodbye! As it is, it is evident that summer has already fled, and we are all just loafing around needlessly, hanging on to something that is long gone.
Like that time I waited until the very last day before Christmas break to leave campus, not wanting to miss a minute of relaxing with my friends after finals in our toasty dorm living room, huddled in front of the fireplace, desperate to put off going home to my embarassing family with whom I no longer had anything in common, and their suddenly profoundly irritating ways.
But by the time the last day of semester dawned, all my friends had already left, perhaps blessed with more congenial family lives and a less burdensome sense of self. I wandered disconsolately across campus as if it were the moors of Heathcliff, wrapped in wool and moods, obstinately waiting out the final hours I was permitted to remain on campus before catching the last depressing greyhound bus back to Cape Cod.
Cape Cod in those days was even more achingly empty and bereft of young people then than it is now, and I can remember vainly trying to recapture some of the magic of my favorite off-campus coffeeshop in Northampton by thumbing through the yellow pages for a cafe in which I could sip thick black coffee and muse over my class schedule for the coming term.
I ended up in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Hyannis, harshly lit and shared only with off-duty cops and construction workers.
The next day I fled my family and sought out what I considered to be my people by escaping to Provincetown for the day, which was, not surprisingly, even more desolate and boarded up than the relative bustle and hum of the mid-Cape. But it seemed to me a splendid desolation, and I bought a styrofoam cup of kale soup and a fresh sweet bread roll at the Portuguese bakery near the wharf, wrapped my wool scarf about my face and carried my lunch out to the pier where I munched and sipped amid the shivering seagulls and noisily tethered fishing boats.
I have since learned to revel in the isolation and solitude of Cape Cod in the winter and, like many year-round residents, to welcome it. I buy yarn in Harwichport all winter, when there is barely another soul to be seen either on the main street or in the parking lots near the shuttered chamber of commerce welcome center.
I love shopping at that yarn shop in the winter.
It’s easy to forget how close so many of our main streets are to the water, having ceded the shoreline to our cherished seasonal guests all summer long. But the yarn shop is a mere brisk stride or two from the Atlantic, and there is a bakery nearby that is favored by locals — their hot buns are far too sweet for me, but their soups are first-rate — and one can easily take one’s newly purchased wool and scarf pattern down to the shore with some coffee and a cardboard cup of soup.
There will be some chilly-mannered seagulls there, squinting into the offshore wind and pretending, badly, to ignore you. They will share some of the blessed quiet and splendid isolation that has been reclaimed with the coming of the cold and gray winter. You may share with them your roll.