Last winter, two friends from Oregon visited us for a weekend. On Sunday I took them out to the dunes of the Provincelands, following a series of familiar sand-marks that I have traced across this ever-changing and forever-unchanging landscape for more than half a century.
The North Truro Air Force Base was located at the very eastern edge of the Highland Plains, and thus afforded a spectacular ocean view to the military personnel and their families that lived there. A double cyclone fence topped with barbed wire surrounded the base: an outer one around its perimeter, including the cliff edge, and an inner one protecting the military compound, the command center, and the radar domes.
In my adolescence I was an avid science fiction reader, and one of my favorite books was Ray Bradbury’s iconic collection of stories, The Martian Chronicles. It was published in 1950 at the beginning of the Cold War and the nuclear arms race. One of the most poignant and quietly chilling of Bradbury’s tales is called “And There Will Come Soft Rains.”
The other day I was walking one of those old, overgrown, and nearly invisible dirt roads on Bound Brook Island – the site of Wellfleet’s first settlement in the late 17th century, and now largely abandoned. I love wandering in such places of unrecorded and unidentified history, history that resides purely in things and not ideas, not even my own.