Finding Peace on the Ponds of Cape Cod after Labor Day

Sep 19, 2017

It’s been a nearly perfect week of early September weather, temperatures in the 70s, southwest and northwest breezes, clear or scattered clouds. Yesterday I stopped to have lunch at Gull Pond. It was warm and calm, and the only other people at the public beach were an elderly couple with metals detectors and those long flour-scoop sieves with holes slightly smaller than dimes.

Post-Labor Day Gleaners, I call them, scouring the beach and parking lot for what the summer people might have left behind.

It’s always wonderful to see the large ponds clear of people again, reclaiming their space. The blue of Gull Pond was only slightly deeper than that of the sky, and the rounded green bands of the hills rolled unimpeded between them.

On Thursday evening I took one of our kayaks and paddled around the perimeter of Long Pond. The kayak is easy to paddle, and maneuvers well into the wind, but I do not yet find it as satisfying as canoeing. Part of it is perspective. I like the more elevated view a canoe provides. I also prefer the movement of a canoe paddle, the little J-shaped stroke at the end which, if executed perfectly, keeps the canoe on its smooth straight glide through the water. Now the surface is dimpled with the movement of water striders and water boatman, aquatic beetles that ride the surface tension of the water, capturing small insects that fall onto the pond. Invisible strands of gossamer—cast off by migrating spiderlings—fall across my face like the sheerest of scarves as I paddle along.

The reeds at the fringes of the shore have a late-season, pale blue-green color at their bases. They appear to glow in the early evening light, so that it looks as if their stalks are burning upwards from their bases. A few tupelo and blueberry leaves along the shore have turned bright red, and many of the bordering swamp maples and shadbush trees have faded to a premature rose color. Dozens of migrating tree swallows bank, arc, and skim with sweet dexterity over the waters as a soft irregular lid of shade slides out over the pond.

I am always surprised at how quickly most of the houses on our ponds close up after Labor Day. Although the density of houses around the shore of Long Pond is greater than those of most ponds within the National Seashore, the presence of these dwellings does not seem excessive. Their use is still mostly seasonal, giving the pond – and me - a chance to reclaim ourselves. Now and then a shred of human voices punctuates the soft evening air. From a house on the far eastern end of the pond a young slim girl of about twelve, wearing yellow pajamas with a blue fringe, walks down to the dock. Her face wears a large, open smile. She gives me a friendly wave and said, “Hi, my name is Anya.” Before I can reply, a fatherly voice, invisible inside the house, calls gently, “All right, now. Time to get back into bed.”

And that was it—just a small encounter, but it somehow made my day and seemed to reconcile, for a moment at least, the competing claims of man and nature.