In a year that seems to have brought as many visitors as ever to the Outer Cape, including some who say they’ve come to stay, we also heard from people whose usual pilgrimages seemed too risky. Waylaid, they described decades worth of memories of salty air, birds, the blink of a lighthouse — meditations on the Outer Cape from afar, for now.
Diana and Leonard Goldstein did not make their usual trip to Truro this year. “We have not missed a summer since 1980,” Diana says. The couple live the rest of the year in Milwaukee, and the long drive seemed especially daunting because of the coronavirus.
Diana is going to be 90 years old. Her husband, she reported, is 93. Though this is the first time in 40 years they have not made it to their Truro place, there is no bitterness in her voice. “We were just talking about what a wonderful life we’ve had,” Diana says.
Orleans was, at first, the Goldsteins’ summer vacation spot. Back then, they lived in New York City. When, after renting for a few summers, they began to look for a house of their own, Diana remembers, “There were wonderful houses with beautiful lawns in Orleans.” But they didn’t find the right place until they drove to Truro’s Ryder Beach.
“When I saw our home in Truro, I knew: this is it,” she says.
A schoolteacher, she was able to spend June to September in Truro, while Leonard commuted every weekend from New York. The long stays gave her time to get involved in the community. She loved reading for story time at the Truro library. “I had a wonderful group of children,” she says. “They are grown up now and have their own children, but to this day some still come up to me and say, ‘I remember you!’ ”
Can they envision being back in Truro? Diana’s reply: “Oh yes, that is a must. We are lucky to be independent and healthy.” And she believes that the many years she and her husband have spent walking in the woods and swimming in the ocean and bay have a lot to do with that. “We were in the water every day we could be,” she says.
In 2006, the Goldsteins donated two acres to the Truro Conservation Trust. “I’m a nature lover,” Diana says. “We wanted to preserve the land as it is.”
Wendy Doniger is a retired professor of Hinduism and mythology at the University of Chicago who spends summers writing books on the deck of her Truro home. “I always drive cross-country in May,” Doniger says. “It takes me two days — I stay with a former student in Athens, Ohio, then another in Ithaca, before arriving on the Cape. So, it’s a very classical Greek trajectory.”
It’s a trip she has made since 1993. But this year, the drive felt too risky. “I just didn’t dare do it,” says Doniger, who turned 80 in November. “I didn’t know if I would pick up the virus along the way.” Then, in June, came another reason not to travel: Doniger found out that she needed a hip operation. She stayed in Chicago for that.
“I found that the best way for me to manage the pain of surgery and the recovery was to meditate on being in Truro,” she says. She would imagine herself on her deck, “on a day when there was a light breeze moving between the trees, looking out over the Pamet River, listening to the sound of the birds and feeling the ocean breeze.”
Another long-distance comfort for Doniger was that her nieces came to stay in Truro. “Knowing that my house wouldn’t stand empty took some of the sting out of it,” she says. “The thought that no one would be there made me almost as sad as my own selfish wish to be in Truro.”
In Chicago, Doniger kept writing. The work shapes her memories and her thoughts about the future.
“That is what I am looking forward to most when I think of next year,” she says. “Sitting on my deck with a cup of tea and my dog beside me, looking out onto the marsh, writing.”
“I can feel my whole body change once I get across the Sagamore Bridge and open the windows to the sea air,” says Jane Leavy, a sports writer who splits her time between Washington D.C. and Truro. But this year, she was was worried about the influx of tourists during a pandemic. She didn’t come.
“I didn’t realize just how much of my heart I had given over to Cape Cod until I missed a summer here for the first time in decades,” she says.
Leavy has spent summers on the Outer Cape since she was three years old. “I learned to swim in Long Pond in Wellfleet,” she says. Her family came every summer, most often to Provincetown. “I have a photo of myself at Herring Cove as a teenager. We must have just arrived, and I am throwing my arms up at the sun in glee.”
Later, Wellfleet took on a remarkable significance for Leavy’s own young family. “Both my kids were adopted as newborns,” she says. “Each time we got the call that they could come to us, we were on vacation in Wellfleet. They arrived three years apart on the same date in August. Now they consider Wellfleet their coming-home place.”
About her Truro home, she recalls, “I watch the lighthouse on Land’s End blink every night when I go to sleep.”
Walks here have inspired a favorite pastime, Leavy says. “I began to see shapes in tangles of brush and pieces of driftwood. Then I got into dumpster diving. I would schlep all this wood, metal, and other junk home.” Wanting to do something with these treasures, Leavy learned to weld from a friend in Provincetown and started making sculptures.
Each year Leavy leaves an unfinished project behind. When she arrives in Truro the following year, she picks up where she left off. Last fall, Leavy found pieces of an old treadmill behind a friend’s house. “I looked at them and saw a horse. So, my biggest regret,” she says with a laugh, “is that I didn’t get back to finish that horse.”