In this outer Cape Cod town the week before Labor Day, the locals like to say, “Things are winding down.” The city people arrive in high summer, tense and stressed, not loving the long line for croissants at the boulangerie, or the wait at the small seaside theatre, general admission in a house that seats no more than a hundred patrons. With so many visitors in such small spaces, we’ve been all wound up since mid-July. Now is the time to unwind, not “wind down.” In yoga, unwinding usually comes after a strong twist, turning from the lower belly and the low spine repeatedly, till it’s possible to look out over the shoulder and turn the gaze almost past that shoulder. Breathing in, then slowly unwinding comes last, and then, the yoga teacher might advise students, “Close your eyes, and notice how you feel. “
As I sit at the table on my deck, I close my eyes and hear the wind. There’s the faraway sound of traffic on Route 6, the major road that comes onto the four lower Cape towns. A constant chorus of cicadas in the late afternoon underscores the colloquy of two birds, an avian duet. A rumbling pickup truck full of landscaping implements makes its way down Cottontail Road. The oak trees’ leaves rustle.
Across the road I hear the young French workers from the boulangerie chatting away at their rented cottage. If I wanted, I could pretend I’m in the south of France. As best as I can figure, three men and one woman live in the house this summer. Others come and go, visiting, staying an hour or overnight, riding up the way on bikes, walking up the lane, or driving a noisy, battered Dodge Neon with an expired vehicle inspection sticker. In a few weeks, most of them will be gone, moving on to other culinary adventures, in Florida, or Texas, or California. And then the only ones left in this summer town will belong here, like the flotsam at the topmost ridge of stuff the bay leaves on the sand: the shards of oyster shell, the beach straw, and the occasional perfect scallop shell, which I slip into my pocket. It will take its places with many others on the shelf inside our outdoor shower, alongside perfectly round gray stones made smooth by the bay.
Come Tuesday of next week, routines in Boston—and New York and Montreal—will resume, and most of us will return our usual workday schedules. The sandals and flip flops will be stored until next summer. The swimsuits will be stowed in the back of the closet. The last gin and tonics of summer—or the last cherry popsicles— will be consumed. The winding down and unwinding will be done for this season. Halloween will be here before we know it.