To the Lighthouses

Cape Cod in the winter is lovely. There is a stark contrast between the summer throngs and the quiet off-season. Walking along a beach always brings me a feeling of solitude and peaceful introspection; when you are actually the only person on the whole beach, it brings solitude to a whole new level.

 Brants along the shoreline of Smuggler’s Beach at sunset.

Brants along the shoreline of Smuggler’s Beach at sunset.

Of course, I’m not completely alone on the beach. The winter bird scene is very different from the summer one I am used to. Gulls, gulls, gulls, gulls, gulls. What a great way to get gull identification practice. And while gulls are usually frustrating, when they are one of the few things around to look at, I found myself giving them so much more time than I usually do. There is something about their colorful, sharp eyes against a field of white feathers that is very striking. Their behaviors on the winter beach were fascinating. Instead of vying for tourist food, they carefully picked their way through the thousands of slipper shells along the wrack line, their arguments with each other over possession of any finds echoing loudly in the wintery stillness.

On one windy afternoon, I went to First Encounter Beach in time to catch a full rainbow arcing across the ocean. Dancing beneath it was a flock of Northern Gannets, jesting with the crests of the waves as they plunge-dove into the freezing water. The adrenaline rush of the dives became my own.

 Northern Gannets dancing beneath a full rainbow at First Encounter Beach

Northern Gannets dancing beneath a full rainbow at First Encounter Beach

I will always love the Cape for its birds, its beaches, and the powerful force of introspection it provides. But one thing I discovered by visiting in the winter was a powerful sense of color- the opposite of what I would normally think of when I think of winter’s grays. I think that the cold and the quiet actually intensified the colors of the sunlight, the water, and the golden dune grasses. Truly unforgettable.