Thoughts on Moving to a Sandbar
Updated: May 20
photo: East End tidal flats at low tide
I've written this post six times since we moved to Provincetown a little over four months ago. One version was all yay-I'm-the-luckiest-girl-in-the-world (TRUE) and the next detailed all the unpleasant surprises (record snow requiring shoveling four times a day, wild animals tormenting Stephen, a complicated partially wooded yard to care for, the amount of bird shit left on our deck furniture every day), listed all the things that have broken (microwave, our car), all the things we had to buy (microwave, additional car, wood for the fireplace, more wood for the fireplace, a dishwasher, a grill, deck furniture, a shovel, a vacuum), and the endless list of things on the To Do List.
I thought we'd be completely settled in by now because I have imagined this life for a long time. Provincetown was my home before I moved to Boston when I was not only in my 20s, but in my EARLY 20s. When everything was about the person I wanted to become -- where would I live? what would I do for a living? who would I marry? would I have kids? what great adventures were in store for me? And now that I am The Person That I Would Become, coming "home" has been a mixture of unexpected feelings and in-your-face practicalities that never appeared in any of my daydreams.
I had envisioned stress-free days writing and reading, eating lobster rolls, taking long peaceful walks with Stephen, and wandering through town on my own taking photos of anything that caught my eye. I've had some of that, to be truthful, but not nearly as much as I had envisioned. Recently, someone said to me, "well, you're on vacation." Living where you vacation is not the same thing as being on vacation (see above.)
The other day I think I finally accepted the chaos that is created by uprooting your life twice in 10 months and what that can do to your sense of equilibrium. When the Mr. and I decided to move here, we agreed on two intentions:
1) We wanted to simplify our lives.
Our life in Hingham was the most complicated it's ever been. And after moving here one week before the first blizzard hit and all the WTFing began, I thought we had made a turn in the wrong direction. I've since come to believe that "simple" does not mean the same thing as "convenient."
The number of decisions I have to make in a day, the number of people I have to respond to, the number of things I have to finish have all been vastly reduced. The pace of my day is comfortable and self-directed. And even though everything we ever needed isn't delivered to our front doorstep by someone else and we're doing the errands and housework that we used to pay other people to do, our overall objective for our life is simpler: stop striving and straining and enjoy it.
2) We'd be all in.
Living in the burbs for a year while still maintaining our usual lives in Boston left us with a neither-here-nor-there feeling. I'm still working on this since I have one foot left in Cambridge for work, which will continue a bit longer than originally planned. However, I'm way more Here than I am There and, after June, my time commitment will be limited even further. Whenever I do make the final transition, the next step will be something small and something local. No more world stage organizations and agendas for me.
Being all in has mostly meant that we wanted to be an active part of the community. The Mr., being the outgoing extrovert that he is, is making friends all over town (bartenders holding the highest percentage of that group.) Stephen has started his own fan club here and is often greeted by name as we walk down the street. I'm just happy to follow along in the path they both forge for our Provincetown lives.
I crave routine. Crave it, need it, hope for it, yearn for it. But until we truly settle in and all the newness fades in the ethereal Provincetown light, I am content with noting the adjustments we've made in the short time we've been here:
I've stopped wearing Spanx. And eye makeup. Ok, I'm not really wearing makeup at all now. I've even let go of my gel manicures. (But pedicures and hair color are non-negotiable. Gurl, please.)
I'm fine leaving the house in my yoga pants or with unwashed hair piled on top of my head. I've started looking at my closet and thinking what do I actually WANT to wear? (Not what can I get by with at work? or what will other people be wearing? or what is appropriate for this event?)
Stephen now often sets the pace for the day. Sleepy? We nap. Ready to play? We play. Wants to go out? We go out.
I've gotten used to the foxes running in front of me from all corners of the neighborhood. They hardly register at all anymore. Unless of course, Stephen is there and does his bonkers LOOK EVERYONE! EVERYONE! I MEAN EVERYONE!!!! THERE'S A FOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! bark.
My visits back to Boston have become painful. I hate being separated from the Mr. and from Stephen.
We walk on the beach twice a day -- the town beach is only two blocks from our house -- and it's become perhaps the first foundational piece of an actual routine. Weather and tides dictate the timing and the location of these walks and it's nice to be bound to nature's rhythm and not the MBTA schedule.
I now drive an SUV. Which is completely stocked with sunscreen and hats, both of which are necessary for all the time we spend outdoors. I even moved a giant bin of both next to the front door -- a place that used to hold my fully stocked commuting bag.
I've stopped using filters in Instagram. How could you possibly improve the light out here? I want my photos to look like real life. And real life has bright colors.
"Buying local" has taken on new meaning for us. We want -- no, NEED -- to support those who live and work in this remote town. Their livelihood is our livelihood.
We are really good recyclers and Saturday mornings now include trips to the transfer station.
We've grown accustomed to having to use the words "husband" and "wife" to explain our relationship. People are always surprised when we tell them we live here (and we're not just a straight couple visiting town). Sometimes we let the confused ones suffer as they try to figure it out.
But mostly, mostly I've been cleaning the house. I miss having a cleaning service. But I do have a new vacuum cleaner.
Sidenote: For those of you who may have missed it, CBS Sunday Morning did a wonderful piece on Provincetown. I've watched it at least 10 times and I tear up every time I watch it because it just gets this place. You can view it here: A Walk in Provincetown.