Monday, April 21, 2014

Dune Shacks, Thalassa

Here is some information about the Dune Shacks in Cape Cod (see my previous post!). The shacks were originally built to house life-saving personnel or serve as shelter for shipwrecked seafarers. I believe there is a bit of the seafarer in me, one who has lost her way and needs a place of respite.

The structures were built in the 19th century and today there are only 18 left—most incorporated into the National Park Service, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. They are weather-beaten and storm battered. The boards like bleached bones. Airy, mice-ridden, more open to the elements than protecting from them. None has electricity, running water, or toilets. You come to commune with nature or find your muse amongst the sand or the saints who have gone on before.

Apparently the playwright Eugene O’Neill, who spent many summers there with his wife, Agnes Boulton. O’Neill wrote Anna Christie (1920) and The Hairy Ape (1921) while living in his shack.

My shack has a name: Thalassa, named after a goddess of the sea. The woman who currently “owns” the shack is Hazel Hawthorne Werner and, a longtime figure in the area of Provincetown. I can’t wait to say P-town and refer to Boston as Bean Town! Mrs. Werner first came to the dunes in the early twenties.
Thalassa is the smallest of the shacks maintained by the Peaked Hill Trust (since 2000) for one and two-week sojourns for artists. It was built in 1931 by the surfmen, and brothers, Louis and Frank “Spucky” Silva, who salvaged its windows from Eugene O’Neill’s life-saving station, gave it a front porch (now gone) and called it “Seagoin’. They sold it to Werner in 1936. Her guests included E. E. Cummings, Norman Mailer and Edmund Wilson.

I was inspired to write an application for an artist residency at the Dune Shacks in Cape Cod not because of all the authors who have written there, but from reading a monograph about Edward Hopper. Hopper began coming to the Cape in the early 1930s and after marrying his wife Jo, they rented and then built a cottage. Hopper spent nearly 40 of his 84 summers in Truro. His Cape paintings reinforced his basic themes of isolation, stripped down wide open spaces, figures turned away—overwhelmed by the surrounding landscape. Hopper loved the light on Cape Cod—it suffused every object, even a blade of grass, the side of a barn, offsetting shadows. The golden tones, the somber hues, the ever-changing water.

Snip from The New York Times:
“The light here has color,” said Rob DuToit, a landscape painter who has been living year-round in Truro since moving there from New York 22 years ago. “Blues are more blue, reds are more red. It’s similar to the south of France: the luminosity is so refractive; sea and sky mirror one another.”

Below are Cape Cod Morning, Cape Cod Afternoon, and Cape Cod Evening. Enjoy!
Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Morning

Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Afternoon

Edward Hopper Cape Cod Evening  If by any chance you—both of my readers—feel compelled to send a donation of $20 to help with my travel expenses (I’m not biking, the woman laughed, “honey you couldn’t ride over that much sand”) e-mail me or leave a comment. I surely would appreciate it—and I’ll send you a FREE PDF of my book Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir. Thanks for considering.

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