The first time I came to Provincetown, I fell in love with it—not just for the usual reasons: that at that time in my life it represented freedom, recognition, new discoveries, peace and time to write—but because there was something so very familiar about it. As though I’d spent my entire life in a tiny, charming, New England seaside community.
It wasn’t until my second week here back in 2010 that I put my finger on why I felt so comfortable and at home—call it genetic or familial memory, but I suddenly made the connection: my father’s family is from the North Frisian Islands, specifically from one of the four large ones called Föhr. This group of islands, under German rule, is largely economically dependent on tourism, but, being surrounded by the sea, has that fishing-village feel; my father had visited there in 2001 and brought back photos, and when I recalled them, I wasn’t surprised to realize that the small streets, the houses decorated with flowers, the landscape in general and the atmosphere didn’t seem that much different from Provincetown’s.
That said, when I’ve stayed at the colony in winters past, I was given an apartment—usually off Bradford Street—which wasn’t near the sea. This time, I’m in Norman’s house, and the sea literally comes up to the base of the stairs on Norman’s back porch at high tide. I can see the ocean through almost all of the windows: I watch it as I work in Norman’s dining room, I watch it when I drink at his bar, I watch it when I’m having coffee in the morning; I hear the pounding surf from every room in the house, especially at night.
For the first time in my life, I’m surrounded by the ocean 24/7.
While this may not seem an extraordinary thing to most people, it is for me, as I’ve spent my life land-locked. I know full well the sea is quixotic and wears many masks from photos, films, and the brief, infrequent times I’ve spent in and around it. But to see it constantly live has been incredible, a reminder for me that we, just like the sea, have the power to change our perceptions in an instant—if only we are open to the forces that shape us.
Here’s a montage of what I’ve seen since I’ve been here. All of it was shot on Norman’s back porch.