Sunday, May 5, 2013
The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Thursday, July 20 1961
Today I bring you Thursday, July 20th, 1961. Where Wendell goes on an expedition to find The Outermost House, the house popularized by Henry Beston in his book The Outermost House, A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod. There are some beautiful nature passages. I know my father admired Beston, Thoreau, and other writers of nature. [No scans of his pages this time, just my transcriptions of his longhand.]
Last Friday, or was it Thursday, July 20th, I drove to Eastham and the Coast Guard Beach. I parked in the farthest lot behind the big dunes, slung my sketching bag over shoulder, and trudged along the tracks left by beach buggies through a notch in the dune wall.
A young boy about twelve fell in step with me. He looked bright and alert so I said to him, “I wonder if you can help me?”
“You want to know where the Outermost is,” he replied as a fact.
“You can’t see it from the ocean side but it’s the next to the last house on the dunes. It’s more over on the dune-side. The Audubon Society has it now. You can’t miss it. It’s white with blue shutters and they have put up a new stove chimney.”
“How far down is it?”
“You see down about the last dune that juts out. About there.”
We had come through the notch and down onto the shelf of the beach. And here surely was the Outermost Beach for it bowed out into the ocean and looked to be the most Easterly of shoals. Bathers and swimmers dotted the shimmering sand to our left but there were only a few people to the right toward Beston’s old home for a year. (Editor's note: Henry Beston is the author of The Outermost House, A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod.)
Once on the beach side, the one prominent, persistent part of the scene was the waves. Big and small. Up and down the beach there was always white water curling over and down and on this day with a stiff off-shore breeze, the waves approached the beach fighting the wind, each wave with its mane of white, making them the seas horses that “men call such waves on every coast of the world.” (The Bird in the Waterfall: A Natural History of Oceans, Rivers, and Lakes by Jerry Dennis.)
Henry Beston’s description of a blue wave rolling in toward the beach is a superb piece of writing. It’s found in his chapter “The Headlong Wave,” and carries from mid-ocean and the pulse of the earth that sent the wave coursing westward until it crashes on the beach at Eastham. (Editor's note: As far as I can find, this is a paraphrase of the quote, "Somewhere between this Spanish land and Cape Cod the pulse of the earth has engendered this wave and sent it coursing westward though the seas.”)
I left the boy then and trudged along the ridge of dry sand above the farthest reach of the surf. My sneakers that I wore only bogged me down so I took them off and carried them the rest of the way in my pack. But the hour was late—getting on towards 5:30 in the afternoon—so I never reached the Outermost House that day but turned back half way to the last dune the lad had pointed out.
Much as I seem to read slowly the books I enjoy, so I take my time in finding Beston’s house. It would be there. Like the book it had held fast to its place in the world for thirty years or more. It would be there next week, or the week after.