Escape to the Provincelands and Euphoria

Oct 24, 2017

The dune shack Euphoria.
Credit Kerri Schmidt www.kerrischmidt.com/ampersand/

I remember the first time Kathy and I spent a couple of days in Euphoria, one of the dune shacks in the Provincelands managed by the Peaked Hill Trust. It was the last weekend in October and we arrived just at sunset. All the way out the light grew more and more intense, igniting the dune crests. A gibbous moon hung in the southern sky. The wind was stiff out of the northwest and growing stiffer. We dug the key out of its hiding-place and went inside.

Euphoria is a small, low-pitched shack with wide bunk beds, a small wood stove, two gas burners, and a gas refrigerator. It is full of windows. The thermometer outside the north window read 45°, but the shack is fairly tight, and the stove, whipped by the stiff wind, started up fast. We were soon comfortably warm as we heated some two-day-old kale soup and day-old sautéed endives for dinner.

Kathy has always praised the location of Euphoria, and I can see why. It is set on the outermost dune crest, with a wide, grassy terrace separating it from the beach, affording a panoramic view of the ocean to the north and the high dunes to the south. After dinner we walked outside and could make out a nearly continuous line of foam breaking offshore over the Peaked Hills bar. A single bright double light from a large ship glowed steadily on the horizon, and the diffuse smudgy reddish glow of Boston was clearly visible to the northwest.

How long the wind had been blowing before we came out I don’t know—probably all day—and it continued to blow unabated overnight, with gusts over 40 knots. Sitting in the middle of the shack, we could feel the walls and the floor shake, feel and hear the table and the bed frames vibrate, and watch the flames of the oil lamps quiver.

In the middle of the night I went outside to take a leak. With the moon down, the stars were preternaturally brilliant—diamond shards flung across a velvet sky. Suddenly the brightest meteor I have ever seen careened in a downward arc over the outhouse. It was as bright as a skyrocket.

In the morning the dunes were alive with light. To the east the terrace of beach grass seemed like blades of living glass, an ocean of moving light. I went down to the beach briefly. The blowing sand kept me from facing west, and all objects on the beach—stranded lobster pots, trunks of driftwood—were blurred and covered as if by driving snow.

Later in the afternoon we walked down into the dune hollow where the pump is and picked three pints of bayberries. Just before sunset we took a walk through the Great Swale as the sun made a smooth descent out of the cloud cover, igniting the flanks of beach grass and the castled, hairy peaks of dunes. Coming back along the beach, the waves—great blue-black volutes laced with foam—were as large as I’ve ever seen them on this beach.

For our last evening’s dinner Kathy made a delicious sauce of dried mushrooms and canned tomatoes served over polenta. We drank scotch and wine and went to bed before nine, where by lamplight she read aloud the last, lovely, sad chapter of Peter Pan, as Euphoria held us, Wendy-like, in her wooden embrace.