Parking lots in Provincetown are charging. The Dolphin Fleet is taking people out, and the ferries are already bringing the clack of roller bags down the pier and into town. John’s Foot Long in Provincetown and PJ’s in Wellfleet have fried their first fries of the season. (Yes, I partook and celebrated.) Spring peepers call from every pond, and Fowler’s toads sound their extended and hinge-stuttering croaks across the dark nights.
At the Beech Forest, mornings have become busy with birdwatchers: out-of-towners and locals with binoculars, cameras, and notebooks eyeing each other and exchanging news about exciting visitors — a Cape May! a Tennessee! a Black-Throated Blue! — stopping over as they head north toward their boreal and arctic breeding sites. I love the bright yellow chins of northern parulas and the hopping, curious presence of black-and-white warblers moving along lichen and bark, probing for bugs. I refresh my playlist and try to remember all the calls and wing bars I’ve forgotten since last spring. I come to see the tupelo, blueberry, and sassafras leaf out.
On the waterfront, there aren’t many boats on their moorings yet, just a few houseboats ready to transfer to the harbor’s west end. But the rest will soon come. The dinghy dock is starting to fill up with the annual gang of small-boat players. Commercial fishing boats have been here all winter — and they’re still here — but the seasonal folks, myself included, are just feeling brave enough to trust that the weather will allow them time on the water for fishing, birdwatching, and lounging.
In the West End marsh, green is pushing up through the winter’s brown. Horseshoe crabs have left their trails on the low-tide flats since March, and we’ll watch for the arrival of least terns and other summer birds. All over, oaks, beeches, and maples are moving from their spring flush into summer’s uniform green.
This is all to say: we’re on the cusp, moving quickly and erratically from spring to summer, our progress timed by migration and restaurant openings and vacations. This spring ramping-up is as significant as the autumnal slowing honored by Melanie Braverman’s poem, “Cusp,” which is set in the fall, the season of closing. Yet I can imagine the poem’s reverse: the temperature warming, the town awakening, the self alert to a longer period of daylight and movement.
I invite you all to consider the beauty of attention itself, that stopping to notice anything is its own reward. Happy May. Happy season.
By Melanie Braverman
If the heron comes in low over the marshes, if it shadows the car as you drive west toward the sea, breakwater holding the lip of the coming tide at bay while the autumn sun cast one gold and pink sheen over the grasses like a spell, like all the secrets you tell yourself while driving; if the heron comes in low, great wings beating the air slowly as a woman beats rugs on a line, having pulled them from the basement readying the house for winter (it is a fine, warm day but she is not fooled, having lived her whole life here she knows what’s just beyond the cusp of October); if you stop the car and, getting out, watch the bird hover and dip and disappear below the horizon of the tall grass, wait then, just wait: before the sky loses its light for good, and your hands grow unusually chill in the new air, the head of the heron will bob like a buoy back out of the grass again, as if it had always been there, still as a road sign, and there it will remain, unfazed, patient and voracious in this splendid world.
From Red (Perugia Press, 2002). Reprinted with permission.