Paradise in 360 ˚
It was 17 ˚ F in February but I was already looking ahead to summer. Back then, in the dead of winter, I was researching summer artist residencies where I hoped to use my tiny trailer as part of the living and working experience. Many people don’t know that the National Park Service has an amazing artist-in-residence program with sites available across the US.
The program includes a variety of locations and all sorts of accommodations, ranging from isolated cabins off the grid to posh studios. I applied to a few east coast opportunities in national parks that I hoped would allow me to continue my media work and travel writing about tiny living.
Walking the dune road
I was born and raised in the Midwest but made a career move out east in 1994. For five years I lived in Leominster, MA and the close proximity to Cape Cod allowed me to fall in love with the unique landscape and seascape of the area. Since my move to Philadelphia in 1999, my family and I have continued to return to the Cape- to hike the Breakwater, bike the dunes and walk the beach at Race Point. It was, then, with particular wonder and pleasure that I discovered a number of residency opportunities on Cape Cod’s National Seashore.
The National Seashore is an unusual place of beauty- a desert dune environment at the tip of Massachusetts, a state packed solid with forests, rivers and mountains. The formation of the dunes is actually an environmental disaster. The forested cape was clear-cut by the early European colonizers leaving a thin layer of topsoil vulnerable to erosion, which led to the eventual destruction of the area eco system. But the earth fought back and found a unique way to survive. The National Seashore, stretching between Wellfleet and Provincetown is a starkly beautiful landscape of desert dunes, sea grass and scrub pines. It is also the location of a number of shacks built out of scrap wood in the early part of the 20th century by ambitious artists. In 1961 the dunes were designated the Cape Cod National Seashore and the dune shacks became the property of the National Park Service. Since that time, artists and dune dwellers fought to keep the shacks intact and available for use, even securing the shacks a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Peaked Hill Trust Residency Program is one of three non-profit organizations offering residencies in the shacks. A chosen artist, writer or scientist will be given the opportunity to live pretty much off the grid in a dune shack for one or two weeks from summer through fall.
I was fortunate enough to be chosen to participate this summer and am now living in Thalassa, the smallest of the shacks. At 9’ by 12’, it is the size of a small bedroom but includes a bed, a small kitchen arrangement and a table for eating and working.
The kitchen from the bed
With no electricity or plumbing, my wife Julie and I are faring pretty well. We are using a solar shower to keep some of the sand at bay. There is a composting out house and we haul up our water every morning from a pump by the dune road.
Julie at the table
But, as the two photos show, we are in the middle of 360 degrees of exquisite beauty and loving every minute.
Panoramic view of the dunes. Provincetown is in the distance.
Yesterday a whale spouted off in the distance as a herd of hundreds of seals sang their morning song. Welcome to paradise.
Panoramic view of the ocean from our shack