Sometimes a day is more than a day. Sometimes the events and experiences of a single day transform it into something larger.
I had such a day last week.
First of all, the weather was glorious (as opposed to the weekend that followed it). Second, I was in the company of our two youngest granddaughters, ages almost five and just turned eight, without their parents: they had been left in our charge for the better part of a week.
I had been invited to join the greeting party for a life-size model of a great white shark that was to be installed in what will become the new shark museum out at the end of MacMillan Wharf. I suppose this would be called a media event. My wife and granddaughters came along. We were met by a film crew, people from the harbormaster’s office, and others.
Of course, the shark was late. It was coming all the way from Portland, Ore., so who could blame it? While we waited, we drifted back and forth on the wharf, killing time and taking in the sights. MacMillan Wharf is surely the epicenter of this town in every way that matters. You can literally spend the day out there and find that out for yourself.
The little girls looked down onto a large fishing boat and the fishermen in their yellow slickers on its deck winding up and adjusting the bristling net on its stern. They inspected the even larger Boston ferry boat docked alongside it. We went down to look at the Dolphin XI, the newest of the whale watching fleet.
Then we spied my friend Agnes Mittermayr, a marine ecologist at the Center for Coastal Studies. I asked what she was up to.
“Surveying for invasive species on the wharf,” she said. “Would you like to see?” She brought us down to one of the finger piers, where she and a group of volunteers were collecting and inspecting specimens growing on the pilings. Every scoop of the net brought new and outrageous organisms into her bucket: seaweeds, grass shrimp, tunicates, and the girls’ favorites: sea squirts. Agnes, a generous soul, spent her valuable time sharing her love of the water, and the little animals that lived in it, with my granddaughters. They peered into the bucket with unalloyed joy and interest.
We finally said farewell and headed back to the shark event: still not happening. But Barry Clifford, the owner of the soon-to-be-vacated Pirate’s Museum, swooped up the girls and gave them a personal tour of the place: pirates’ doubloons and cannons and really cool stuff. He, like Agnes, is a generous soul, sharing his passion for the secrets the ocean can reveal.
Finally, the truck arrived. After a great deal of beeping, it backed up to the museum and Nate Winkler volunteered his forklift to merge the beast with the building. Stephen Wisbauer, our shellfish constable, facilitated the operation. The shark, revealed, was impressive, but it was the people that drew my attention.
The crowd was growing: the film crew, the new staff at the museum, random tourists, old friends, onlookers all. It was like a block party. A large woman, unbidden, grabbed my littlest granddaughter and held her up to peer at the shark. She happened to be the driver of the truck that brought the creature to us. She told me that she had left Wilkes-Barre, Pa. on assignment, driven to Portland, Ore., and then to Provincetown to get this monster to us. Three days of driving, she said.
(My granddaughters saw lots of in-charge women that day: scientists, experts, managers, pier staff, and truck drivers — nothing like what I saw when I was their age.)
A joyous day. See this all through little girls’ eyes: the wonders that are out there, the people who share their best selves. Life is good. But do not misunderstand me: we have all been through a terrible time. Covid is not over — far from it. And the afterlife of grief is still with us. We are all yearning to move beyond it, while recognizing its true effects. We are fractured, divided, damaged. But if you are eight years old, or almost five, you live in the moment and look to the future. It is that simple.
Rilke once said something like: “Beyond your doorstep, the world.”
I say: “You can always trust Provincetown: it will provide.”