Friday, March 11, 2011

A Cape Cod Dream

Some of us carry within our being a place that whispers to us from somewhere beyond our door step. It’s an unexplainable longing that invites day dreams of what it would be like to breathe the crisp mountain air, to taste the salty haze of the sea on lips, to stand in the middle of Time Square with the excitement and energy of one of the greatest cities in the world coursing through the body. I have no idea why a certain place whispers a siren song and like sailors of old we jump ship compelled to answer the call. For me, the waves of an ocean lapped from a distance at my soul. For as long as I can remember, I yearned to live near water.

Life takes twists and turns in this journey and I like to say, the universe aligns itself when something is supposed to be.  Call it synchronicity or a meaningful coincidence, but I believe that Carl Jung’s idea that mind and matter is linked swooped into action for me.  Let me tell you about the year 2000.
As church bells rang in not just a new year, but a new millennium, I held the door open and listened wiping tears as they fell. Little did I know that this would become a banner year of life- changing events that would alter much of what had defined me. As of January 1, 2000, I was no longer a wife. After over 20 years of writing those three letters before my name, I dropped a letter and became a Ms. A new home and single life excited and terrified me. Yet, here I was as revelers blew horns and kissed in the New Year, alone with an unopened bottle of Dom Perignon pondering my future. A wise woman would later tell me and be part of the catalyst that propelled me into action that I was young enough to experience all the wonders of the world and old enough to have the wisdom to embrace the unfamiliar and make life happen any way I chose.
I’d lost my mother five years before the new millennium. It was a devastating blow, even though I knew well in advance what the outcome of her illness would be. In April of 2000 my father suffered a massive stroke that rendered him brain-dead. Together my five siblings and I made the heart-wrenching decision to remove all life support. The day my dad passed, my role as daughter diminished.

Less than two months after the death of my father, my son and youngest child graduated from high school with plans of his own.  Of all the hats I’ve worn in my life the beribboned one emblazoned with mother was the most magical and wonderful.  But now that role, too, was declining in importance.  My daughter stayed in Athens, where she went to college, to work that summer and my son, now a full-fledged 18 year old adult about to graduate, no longer needed me as the protective guardian, the teacher, the disciplinarian. While planning the big party, I began to contemplate how I would fill all the days to come. What should I do? Where will I go? What do I want to be?  How could I reinvent myself? All these questions, concerns, and a talk with MJ led to…let’s go on a road trip in search of a new place to call home!
This was it…this was my golden ticket to that great adventure, to go places I’d never been, to not just live, but experience what lies beyond the corn fields and one-light towns of rural northwest Ohio.

The plan was to head east toward Cape Cod, a sandy arm that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and a place I’d read about and pined over for years. We made few plans outside of the date we’d leave. No reservations for stops along the way and not even a clear cut route to follow. I drove and MJ navigated us eastward. I could go into detail about lunch in Amish country, the stop we made in Scranton, PA, witchy days in Salem, time in Gloucester, and gazing on the rock in Plymouth, but that would take far too long. Instead, we’re racing toward Cape Cod, my fantasy and my future. The moment I drove over the Sagamore Bridge and onto highway 6A, I was beguiled and we’d barely glimpsed the ocean, yet.  Winding 6A wends its way around ancient trees that would have been chopped out of the way where I came from. I drove slowly, gawking at the glorious mounds of blue hydrangeas, colonial style homes with flowers cascading from window boxes, and gardens of flowers like colorful welcome mats beckoning me to stay awhile.  I felt the hot sting of happy tears prickling my eyes and as the first one fell I announced to MJ, “This is it.  This is where I want to be.” 

We found it hard to maneuver this new found paradise. Perhaps I was giddy with delight and not thinking straight, but more than likely it’s because Cape Cod has its own distinctive flavor that includes things like rotaries, twisting, turning roads, two secondary, scenic highways on each side, and one major highway, Route 6, that divides the Cape down the middle. Flying by the seat of our shorts, we didn’t bother to carefully read the map beforehand, so we winged it. We found a nice motel just off Route 6 and not far from the National Seashore. For the next several days we played at the shore and wandered the streets of Provincetown. I was smitten.

A week into our trip, tragedy stuck MJ. A phone call home would change her life forever and the next morning I drove her to TF Green, the airport in Providence, Rhode Island. In stunned sorrow, MJ flew home to be with her mother who died several days later.

On my own to traverse the east coast, I had no plan and no time frame. MJ and I were going to keep going until the money ran out or until I’d decided if I truly wanted to relocate my life, turn a fresh page, and start anew. I nearly headed home, the loneliness and worry about MJ and her family’s loss overwhelming, but for some reason I can’t explain…I didn’t. I did drive west though. I went into the interior of Massachusetts, stayed for a couple days in Worchester and wandered about Marlboro, Sudbury and walked about the historic Longfellow’s Wayside Inn. I spent a day at Sturbridge Village soaking up more history.

 Along the way I met a smart, funny man and we struck up a friendship over wine and oysters on the half shell. He took me on a whirlwind tour of Boston before we parted ways. I continued west to the Berkshires and Springfield, eventually turning southward toward Connecticut. I made it as far as Baltimore where I drank wine on the Inner Harbor, but still that whisper in my ear sounded and like a mad woman, I drove the nearly 400 miles back to Cape Cod.

Somewhere between Boston and Baltimore, I’d made a decision. Cape Cod is where I wanted to be. Here I could get a fresh start, reinvent myself, and become what I’d always longed to be. I needed a job, so I spent the evening sitting at a picnic table at a little roadside restaurant called Cobie’s Clam shack eating seafood and gleaning possibilities from the Cape Cod Times. There it was an ad for a floral designer on Nantucket. The next morning I called the number, explained my situation, and the manager agreed to meet with me the following day. The ferry ride exhilarated me and I didn’t mind that the wind and sea spray turned my hair into a frizzed mess. I pulled my hair back into a ponytail before disembarking and wandered the cobblestone streets of Nantucket until I found the shop and office of my interviewer. The ocean ride back to the Cape provided quiet time for thinking. The interview had gone remarkably well and my heart raced with excitement as my head spun with plans and how to achieve so much in so little time. I’d promised that as soon as I got back to Ohio, I’d send a resume that included a portfolio of my work with flowers. Yes, this was turning out to be the adventure of my life.

The next morning, I woke early, paid my bill, stopped at First Encounter beach to gaze at the ocean while the wind blew my hair before beginning the long trek back to Ohio. I kept going until sometime after midnight. Exhausted from thinking and driving, I pulled into a Pennsylvania rest area and slept in the backseat of my car beneath a blanket with the hood of my sweatshirt pulled up, covering my face. I woke as dawn cracked the eastern horizon spreading fingers of light. By late afternoon I was putting things away in my little house in Bryan.

MJ and I had left in July for our road trip and I returned in August ready to pull everything together and make a monumental move to a new place. I worked on the resume, created what I thought was a great portfolio with photos of previous floral designs and my credentials. I mailed it off, with fingers crossed.

Through computer research I found several houses and apartments for rent. I called and set up appointments to view two places one in Onset and the other in Centerville, near Hyannis. I couldn’t miss seeing my son play groomsmen standing up with one of his friends who was marrying his high school sweetheart. The need to attend the wedding put a wrench into plans, but the universe was positioning itself for me, opening up to my wants and needs as the landlords agreed not to rent out the houses until after I’d had a chance to view them on Monday. That meant wedding and reception on Saturday night and heading back to the Cape on Sunday. In all the excitement of going back to this paradise and looking at homes, sleep eluded me. I crept out of Bryan in the wee hours of the morning.

This time I’d outlined my route with a bright highlighter pen. I zipped from the western border of Ohio to the eastern side on the turnpike and across Pennsylvania on 80. The plan was to avoid I-95 through New York City and the George Washington bridge by taking a short excursion through New Jersey, over the Tappan Zee bridge landing north of the city and into Connecticut.

I realized I’d missed a sign along the way when the traffic slowed to a crawl and the New York skyline loomed ahead of me like a gigantic monster waiting to devour me. I flipped off the music that had been playing for hours and tried to concentrate on the cars ahead of me. The only words coming out my mouth were “Shit! Shit! Shit! My heart raced with fear as a panic attack began to rise from my chest. As if this wasn’t bad enough, I’d been downing water like it was my job to keep from getting dry mouth and now nature was screaming at me to find a bathroom pronto. With both hands clutching the steering wheel I took deep breaths forcing myself to stay calm. While I was able to will away the panic attack, the need to pee kept my legs jiggling in an awkward seated dance. I started telling myself, I can do this. Just as I reassured myself that all would be well, I noticed the gas gauge, it was low. It was WAY low and the traffic needed to move, NOW! Of course, traffic eventually started moving. I maneuvered the George Washington Bridge, saw the Welcome to New England sign and breathed a long sigh of relief as I stepped on the gas pedal, anxiously searching for the closest rest area with gas and a bathroom.

Sunday evening I spent a restless night in a hotel room in Fall River, Mass. Alone in the room with brochures of Lizzie Borden as the main sightseeing attraction, I began to wonder if perhaps I was as insane as she was. Who did I think I was impulsively moving over 800 miles away from everything I’ve ever known? Away from siblings, my friends, and my children. Away from the undulating summer fields of wheat, corn, and soy beans. Away from conservative, small town life. I was moving to a place where I knew no one and didn’t have a job lined up, yet. Could I really do this? What did I honestly know of being alone? I’d never been truly alone in my entire life. I’d always had someone to talk to, to do things with, to bounce ideas off. I was a newbie money handler. The wasband had always taken care of our financial life. I had no experience in much of anything beyond being a wife and mother or so I thought.

Onset is a charming village overlooking Onset Bay, just off the Cape. It was the first stop on my house viewing trip. The owners, a friendly, artistic couple, lived in the downstairs and I, if I decided to move in, would live upstairs. We had a wonderful chat over iced tea and never once did I feel like I was being interviewed. The upstairs apartment was charming with old wood trim and deep window sills. The rooms were small and the kitchen smaller. I asked the lovely blonde lady, “How will I get my piano up those stairs?” She threw her head back in a musical laugh and insisted we’d figure it out, but I had my doubts. Before I left, she told me once again how much she hoped I’d take the apartment.

I drove across the Sagamore Bridge that hovers over the Cape Cod Canal, the directions to the next house sitting on the seat beside me. I turned off at exit 6, but then made a wrong turn and found myself lost. I stopped to ask how to get to Wequaquette Road, but not being the best at directions I found myself wandering in circles. I still don’t know how I ever found the house, but suddenly I was on the right road. After pulling into the drive I sat in the car for just a moment to catch my breath. A dark haired woman walked out the door, smiling and waving. She took me on a tour of the house. It didn’t take long. The house was more like a cottage, but it felt like home. The open layout of the kitchen and living room made it one big room with plenty of cupboards, a fireplace, and cathedral ceiling. The bathroom was small, but quaint. Two bedrooms were perfect, the larger one for me, the smaller for guests. Large windows overlooked the brush and shrubbery that grew between this house and the next. A wooden fence graced the front of the house and a deck added living space to the side. The neighborhood was a nice one, with well-maintained homes and a sidewalk across the road. We talked about art, music, and culture. She was quite certain that I’d love living on Cape Cod.

Then, she asked if I had a job yet. I told her of my interview on Nantucket and that I was hoping to land the job as a floral designer. She gave me a long look and then said, “Do you really want to fly to Nantucket every day? Rain or shine? When it snows and blows? She went on to tell me about planes that went down between the Cape and Nantucket.

I’d not considered the daily flight over to the island. Now I had one more thing to ponder. She quickly changed the subject and showed me an overgrown rock garden that a previous renter had built. Three stone steps down and I stood in the middle of concentric circles made from stones. I envisioned returning the tiny garden to its former glory with shade plants like bleeding heart, johnny jump-ups, coral bells, and so much more. Yes, I loved this place, so I signed the papers, paid the deposit, first and last rent and business was finished. After a night’s stay in Swansea, I headed back to Ohio to gather all my worldly possessions, get my ducks in a row, and say my good-byes. My goal…to be moving into my sweet cottage on Cape Cod Labor Day weekend in September.

This is just the beginning of my Cape Cod story.  It’s a short version.  To go into greater detail would take much longer and I don’t think most blog readers want to sit and read a novel.  Yes, everything I’ve written truly did happen.  I’ve been asked, many times, if I regret moving to Cape Cod on a whim.  The answer is a firm and resounding, No! I’m glad I lived in the place of my dreams, even if it was only for five years.  Living alone in an unfamiliar place taught me lessons I needed to learn.  Some were hard to take, but through it all I realized how strong I can be and that it takes courage, determination, and the universe aligning itself to follow a dream.  If I could, I would do it again today, but knowing what I know now, I’d do it differently.
There's a cool site with a camera aimed at my favorite beach on Cape Cod, Coast Guard Beach. Wanna take a look? Just click here.   

The photos were taken by me or MJ. My absolute favorite is the one with the huge anchor that MJ took.
Have you taken a risk to follow a dream?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments or even better, write a post on your blog about making your dream come true. If you let me know, I promise I'll read it. 
If you're chasing a dream, it is my fervent wish that you capture it and hold on tight. 


  1. Teresa - this is spell binding. Hope for another chapter of your story. Next Friday?

  2. Oh, Teresa, this is beautifully written. Can't wait for the next installment!

  3. Can't wait for the next chapter!

  4. Dear Theresa, I was mesmerized by your story, but I want more. Did you take the job on Nantucket? Why did you leave Cape Cod? I have a dozen more questions, so please don't stop here. P x

  5. Teresa, So sorry I spelled your name wrong. P x

  6. Who says that we don't want to read a novel????

    This is fascinating reading and you do know when a place is your 'soul's place' For me it is Ireland. Although I no longer live there, its sprit draws me.

    And it would take a great novel. together with photographic illustration. Indeed, I will buy it if it materialises ... and it could well do.

  7. Diana...I'll work on the next part of the story this week. I'm glad you enjoyed it. were there through a good hare of this part of my story and I'm so glad you were!

    Robin...stop by this Friday and I'll have the next part of the story up.

    Pam...You've asked all the right questions and you'll get some answers soon. Don't worry about the "h" it happens all the time.

    aguja...I wonder if everyone has one of those soul places. I've always wanted to visit Ireland. I regret so much that I did not take more photos while living on Cape Cod. It's such a beautiful place.

    It's been suggested by various people that I write a book about this part of my life. It's certainly something to ponder.

    Thanks to each of you for commenting about my experience moving to the place of my dreams. I left out alot about my travels before moving and if I were to ever write that book about it, I'd have to divulge all my secrets. I'm not sure I'm ready for that.

    *Hugs to all*

  8. I can't express how much I've enjoyed reading your story. It resonates with some of my most deeply felt yearnings -- not just the place itself (which I love, too), but also the adventure. I hope that you will write more about your five years . . . and why you eventually decided to move back to Ohio.

  9. Bee... I'll be posting a story about my move to Cape Cod this Friday. I was insistent on having at last one great adventure in my life, and so far this was it. I'm taking this journey backwardand and enjoying it for the most part, but as in the telling of any story, there's the happy and the sad. I look forward to sharing more.

  10. Oh I just love this! I don't even know where you live now lol but I'm assuming it is Ohio as this is my first time visiting your lovely blog, but it doesn't matter. You sounded so much like me by writing this especially trying to avoid driving through New York and the feeling of an anxiety attack looming over you.

    I can't wait to read more!


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