Sunday, September 27, 2015

How Paranoia Gave Way to Peace

I started this evening tinged with paranoia: I'm more alone at this moment than I have been in a long, long time, cold bone lonely alone, without family, without dogs, and with the only neighbor tucked away behind dunes and trees.

The neighbor is a lovely man.  Already, he's diagnosed and fixed a broken toilet for me, here in this rental cottage high on a dune overlooking Cape Cod Bay.  Yes, he'll be here to fix things, but will he hear me if I fall on the vertiginous staircase leading down the dune to the bay, hit my head, and die?

The possibility that I could fall on that staircase is freaking me out:  after all, I already have a smorgasbord of back conditions that increase that likelihood.  And I did fall, a few days ago, in Brooklyn, New York, my forearm bearing my weight as I pitched forward, resulting in a fracture to the end of the radius of my right arm, and causing pain, instability, and reduced use of the arm.  Thanks to Sue Kinney. M.D. for pointing out that I originally stated, in error, that I had broken my tibia, which is a bone in the leg.  I was just trying to see whether anyone was paying attention.

Increasing my sense of aloneness, not even my two dogs are here with me tonight.  They went home with Joe because, after experimenting with them this afternoon, I decided that handling both of them with one arm was dauntingly scary.

So Joe drove off with the dogs, leaving me alone. Sure, friends and family have been here with me most of the time, but there are a few gaps between visitors, so I've been alone for a day or two at a time.  Aloneness is different here in this cottage, though. When I'm alone at home, people drive by, dogs bark, mail gets delivered.  There, the presence of others is part of the environment. Here, the environment, while magnificently scenic, is marked by the absence of others.

With a vague paranoia stewing away in the back of my mind, I did what I always do when I'm staying in this cottage:  I drove to First Encounter Beach to see the confluence of the Herring River with Cape Cod Bay at low tide.  It felt strange to walk those sandy paths without the dogs bounding along beside me.

As I trudged through the beach grasses, still feeling strange, I had a song going through my head.  Does that ever happen to you?  For me, today, it was True Colors, the song originally made popular by Cyndi Lauper.

 I see your true colors shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you

It's in my head because my daughter Julia sang it on Yom Kippur a few days ago.

With her voice in my mind, I emerged onto the shore of the river into a scene which I don't hesitate to describe as sublime.

The sight of it started replacing the cold bone loneliness and the paranoia with something calmer. Seeing that sculpted sand, I remembered why I want to be here: to absorb the beauty of this place  and let it lift up my spirit all year long, sustaining me through another New England winter as I transform these images of late summer into art.

With Julia's voice in my mind, I understood that here, my true colors come through. That's why I'm here.

Paranoia started giving way to peace.

As I continued along the sand,

I noticed a few other people.  One man  and woman, seated on a bench, seemed to be praying.  Others gathered to watch the sun go down.  There was so much silence among the people on the beach.

With the sunset reflected in the shallow water on the sand, it was a heaven on earth moment. Despite my essential loneliness in the solitude of this cottage, here at First Encounter I felt the companionship of others, an unexpressed community, one of shared awe and appreciation of the subtle magnificence of nature.

And that's how paranoia gave way to peace.


  1. Thank you! That trip to First Encounter was truly transformative last evening.

  2. Love how you conquered it! Going out usually helps, especially when you see others and that magnificent sunset - you've had great weather so far!!

  3. And it did help to see others. The last thing I expected at that time,