JODY MELANDER / EXPLORER & MAKER / TRURO
In the ’80s, when Jody Melander arrived in Provincetown, it was love at first sight. But over the decades, P’town has changed. The town is less gritty, and some legendary characters have died or moved away. A year ago last spring, Jody moved to Truro. Here’s Jody in her own words. You can listen to a longer recording online at provincetownindependent.org.
So, I came to Provincetown in 1984. I didn’t know anybody at all. I got a job at Bryant’s Market [now Angel Foods]. It was kind of a hub in the East End. It was a really good way to get a sense of the place.
I totally fell in love with the town. I’ve had a relationship with the place that’s been like a relationship you have with a person.
It was a place that I came to because I could be who I was. That was true of people who had been coming here for decades. It didn’t matter whether you’re gay or straight, if you had money or no money. You were who you were, and people didn’t really care. That was one of the reasons that I immediately felt like this was home.
I’ve made pretty much all the decisions in my adult life based on staying here. I’ve worked in restaurants. I’ve painted houses. I launched weather balloons one year. I have mentored kids at the school. I’ve done anything that I needed to make it work and to stay. If somebody asks me what I do, I don’t have that quick short answer to explain and justify myself. It doesn’t fit neatly into a package. That’s the part that I like actually.
I’ve walked Provincetown for 36 years, and I still find paths that I have never seen before. I’ve walked the dunes. I’ve walked the woods. You can walk the bike trail — there’s all kinds of paths that go off of that, and then there are deer paths that go off of the paths. It’s very wonderful when you’re in a space where you feel like it’s possible that nobody’s been there for at least a year. And I know I’ve been in some of those spots.
I’m interested in tracking, as this way to have a sense of what mysterious things are happening when you’re not around. I’ve bought game cameras and set them up in the woods.
The thing that I absolutely am nuts about is we have river otters on Cape Cod. I’ve found a few places that are Otter Central! And if you put up a camera there, every day there’ll be a couple different otters coming through and sniffing around and seeing who else has been there before them.
I have spent three or four days following the tracks and crawling through the brush at the edge of the pond, going for miles over land to different ponds. You can be walking on a trail, and you can see a little offshoot to the side. And you know, because you’ve crawled through it, that’s an otter run!
If I’m all by myself, or if it’s just me and the dog out in nature, it’s like meditation, being totally present in that space and in that moment, hearing it all and seeing it all in a way that’s not distracted. I love that. When I’m on my deathbed, what are the things I’ll remember? It’s those kinds of experiences, really.
For years, I would’ve said I will never leave Provincetown! And now I’m in Truro. I was so in love with Provincetown, and I still am, but there’s things that started to become really frustrating to me.
Part of it is that landmarks have changed. Practically any street, almost every house or every intersection, I could name 10 things that happened there, or that have meaning to me. And more and more, the houses are different. You see a real estate sign go up, and then you see the place is gutted. It’s not changed with any thought about what was there before and what was worth saving. It’s just changed to look pretty. At some point, that’s just heartbreaking.
You don’t look at the house and say, “Oh, I used to have dinner there. And perhaps I’ll meet whoever lives there now and have dinner again.” You look at the house, and you say, “Well, you know that part’s done. And that place is done.”
There’s been so much shift that it feels like it feels when you’ve broken up with someone and you’re still family. But I’m not deeply in love anymore. It’s a great fondness, but it’s a different kind of feeling.
Being in Truro now, it’s 15 minutes down the road, but it’s like I’m miles and miles away. I can put my attention on something that’s new and exciting. And I can let go of angst over the parts that I’ve loved and that are different than they were.
I got lucky. My mother was interested in going in on a place. Late last winter [in early 2020], there was a house that went on the market on a Sunday. And by Tuesday I had put an offer in. I have a yard; I can have a big garden. I have a basement. It’s crazy. I put a pond in, and the frogs have moved in, and the birds like it, too.
I feel like Truro is a new chapter. It’s not an entirely new book, and I was afraid that it was going to have to be a new book, but this is a new chapter in the old book.