Juniper Disco | The Mini No. 11
a hijacked summer (and fall)
It was the tree falling on our house that finally broke me.
The pandemic crackling of my core, spackled together all these months, started to fissure in the early weeks of July with that epic COVID breakthrough cluster in my town that you saw on the news every night.
Buckets of rain fell during the circuit boy and bear takeover of our town those first two weeks of July, forcing the boys inside into our tiny town spaces. I always feel like I’m pushed to the absolute edges of my life when they are here, but the overwhelming crowds completely hip-checked me out of my cozy world this time. And when they left, our town had to deal with the aftermath of their poor — albeit somewhat understandable after last summer’s deprivation — choices. The news trucks were here. Townies were pissed. We were all devastated.
Summer is always the most finite of all the seasons. I had already started my fleetingness-of-summer panic early with an especially manic urgency. I was desperate to do it all, take it all, and not miss out. I, too, thought we had the worst of it behind us and, while I was not licking other people’s arm pits (true story), I was certainly feeling more relaxed out in the world that was post-vaccination, pre-Delta Provincetown elation. And I furiously wanted that freedom to continue.
The rest of the summer was then a blur of can’t do that, can’t go there, that’s cancelled, wear a mask!, with a sprinkle of federal jury duty in Boston (UGH, GIRL!) and flamboyantly (and desperately — WE MUST HAVE FUN) accessorized family celebrations. September felt paused as we prepared for both the releasing of my father’s ashes here on the Cape and the caregiving that would be required after one of the mom’s knee surgery. And I think October happened. I have no idea.
Sprinkled throughout has been one sorry-can’t-tell-you-more-here family emergency after the next. I wrote them all down on a list that I will be burning with a Palo Santo stick and shoving the ashes around the Japanese knotweed by the mailbox, hoping that the toxic remnants will choke out my invasive nemesis.
When the giant tree fell on our house in the darkness of the early September morning — a thudding and a rumble followed by the force of glass shattering, I sprinted for my life. Straight into the chest of my husband, who, bleary-eyed, had followed me down the hall to investigate. That surge of adrenaline and fear short-circuited my entire nervous system. I had been functioning so long within the slimmest pocket of air, keeping myself afloat somehow, disconnecting more and more to get through it all.
I know everyone else has pretty much finished fall by now. But, mentally, I am still in June. Before the boys. Before the tree. Before my shattered peace of mind. Before The Summer I Missed and The Fall That Never Happened.
I’ve been using our local library’s CLAMS borrowing system a lot lately. And I learned that some of the libraries on the Cape charge you if you return your book with sand in the binding.
I watched, frowning and perplexed, while two vans full of people and beach stuff were unloaded at Herring Cove, the occupants sprinting to a choice spot by the lifeguard stand. And then they all piled back into their cars and left, leaving only their stuff to enjoy the beach breezes. That was this summer in a nutshell — invaders selfishly hoarding the best spaces and resources.
There was a plane crash at our small airport. I held my breath while the sirens stormed by. We all know people who take those flights — The Super Mr. having just taken one to Boston a few days before and due to take one again in a few short days later. Miraculously, everyone lived.
On a hot day I watched the catbirds swim in the bird bath. And then I learned about the Mysterious Disease, an affliction killing birds in the mid-Atlantic and suspected to be connected to the zombie cicadas. I desperately missed all the splishy splashy shenanigans when I had to take it down. And removing my hummingbird feeder that had been so popular felt like another injustice piled on top of all the losses.
I wore a hole in my gardening gloves and replaced them with buttery olive leather ones. And then I bought another pair because those were too nice to get dirty.
I fought a brave but ultimately losing battle with the earwigs. Something spent the better part of the summer digging up my clover carpet in my backyard — I reseeded it about seven times, desperate to get that lushness back.
There were so many garden failures this year. Tiny little anemic zinnias and flowers that never bloomed. Every tomato disease you can imagine. Wormy caterpillars ate my petunias. But there were also major triumphs, like towering tomatillos and wispy lemon grass, a huge pot of lemon balm, three kinds of basil, and tall flowering Tinkerbelle tobacco that our resident Charlotte spider used to anchor her webs.
I gave away tomatoes all summer. And I blistered or roasted the cherries and sungolds in olive oil and garlic and sea salt, turning them into tomato candy. The Super Mr. made an epic sauce with our San Marzanos. I have a gallon bag of serrano peppers and three quarts of scotchies in my freezer. They are right next to the four quart bags of wild beach plums I gleefully harvested in the dunes.
I just finished cleaning out the garden beds. I planted smart radishes and hairy vetch and crimson clover as cover crops. And I have a flourishing grow bag of radishes. The Egyptian walking onion and oyster leaf are in the soil now for next year’s discovery.
The other day I learned of a new book about the January 6th insurrection that I was certain my dad would want to read and then it pummeled me: he never knew this even happened. I couldn’t breathe.
I also had a dream that I witnessed Trump drive into a swamp and disappear. I was so thrilled that it woke me up. I checked Twitter to see if something had finally happened to him. (Eventually. I have my outfit picked out.)
I’ve been playing Nancy Drew trying to track down the sender of a fabulous candle that arrived at my house with no indication of who sent it. I think of you every day, Mystery Sender, as the lush French Lilac scent wafts through my home. (If it’s you, please tell me!)
There have been four monthly markers of my dad’s passing since I Iast wrote. I painted rocks with his name and left them all over Long Point, tossing some of them in the ocean. I picked marigolds and zinnias that I grew from seed in my garden and released them at the Pamet River as two Great Blue Herons flew up and overhead, their great wings wooooshhing slowly as they took flight.
And on a misty grey Cape Cod fog of a morning we released my father’s ashes as he requested. That he wanted to be out here with us — at the end of it all — means everything to me. My mother’s last word of her eulogy was “welcome.” Afterwards we celebrated the inaugural VLG Bread Bowl and Reading Nookery. Everyone contributed something bready or baked for a breakfast feast that my father would have loved and then we all snuggled up in the corners of our house to read books, one of his favorite joys in life.
We watched a Mama and her three baby racoons climb down from a tree in our yard. One came head first, one chose a backwards approach, and the other baby, well, she took her time. Mama finally noticed me and gathered herself on her hind legs to her full two feet in height. She had enough stress to deal with so I went inside.
I carved out space for myself to go on a whale watch. I was masked as everyone ran to one side of the boat and then the other, tipping us towards the water with the weight of their stampede. The whales were surrounded by a pod of 200+ dolphins as they deep dived that day into the sparkliest of sparkly water. People aside, I returned refreshed.
Lately, I’ve been drawn to objects that are neon. Or moss green. Or made of colorful translucent acrylic. Like a weird Sleestak Crystal Chic phase.
I did not win Massachusetts’ Vaxmillions. I did win a little lottery called Federal Jury Duty selection — in Boston, which is 115 miles away from Provincetown by land. And four hours in traffic during the summer. (Note: I lived in Boston for 20 years. I could have walked to the courthouse from our home. Yes, I am deeply bitter.)
So I took the boat and stayed in a hotel. There, I cocooned at 67 degrees, with blackout curtains and moodlights and takeout cocktails with edible glitter and French crêpes with Comté cheese. I bought myself a soft serve unicorn ice cream in a fish cone and specialty treats for Stephen that I am now ordering every month because he just can’t live without his chicken cheerios.
And then … I GOT PICKED. And did the same trip the following week. Leaving my little hamlet of Helltown for a second time was traumatizing. My family was here as they always are for Carnival Week and I missed time with them and the festiveness in town. I missed the Perseids and my tomatoes peak moment and the rose hip harvest. Deeply bitter.
“Ms. Mooney, I would like YOU to be the foreman.” I knew it in my bones before the judge said it. We delivered a verdict in an hour — all those years corralling long-winded Harvard smarties paid off. I also now know a lot about fire science.
When I retold the story, The Super Mr. called me a pre-cog. I replied, “No, just female.”
I traveled home on the boat lightly frosted in sea spray and surrounded by boy asses and unmasked faces — both way too close for my comfort.
We had family parties on the weekends with rose gold tinted toot horns and blinking lights and shimmer shimmer sparkler candles and rainbow necklaces and giant bubble blowers. We had matching bar hop t-shirts for what turned out to be a couch hop with signature cocktails and 600 kinds of cheese.
In the midst of the chaos, I managed a few peaceful morning walks punctuated by the soothing coos of mourning doves. It’s the same sound that soundtracks my early morning walks in Jamaica. Painfully, we cancelled my two week 50th birthday makeup trip when the CDC put Jamaica on the Level 4: DO NOT TRAVEL list. We were going to stay on the cliffs and eat jerk everything, putting our cash directly into the hands of the locals, investing deeper in this complicated country. I bought a red shirt to wear at the hummingbird feeding place to attract the doctor birds. Crushingly bitter.
For a brief moment, it was that glorious time of year when my pockets were filled with both sea glass bits and just plucked cherry tomatoes. And everyone and everything was out in the sun — the last harvest of the tomatoes ripening on tables, flip flops and dog leashes drying on the porches around town, tables bending under the weight of a summer’s worth of beach treasures sanitizing in the sunbeams.
We celebrated my mother’s birthday with burgers and ice cream. That same day we marked the day we lost my mother-in-law last year with a Judge Judy marathon and a Mary Mooney ceremonial squirt of ketchup, something she always carried in her purse. That those two events will forever be entwined is terrible and I’m afraid we will never get it right.
Nancy, my other mom, moved in with us for a few weeks while she recovered from her bionic knee surgery. We rearranged the house as best we could to clear a runway for her from her sleeping area to the bathroom and back. I slept on the couch a few nights, made snack boxes, refreshed ice packs, tracked temperatures and medication schedules, and followed her around, just in case. And The Super Mr. fed us both with his best comfort food masterpieces.
I lost the space where my pandemic desk was when the tree fell and had resorted to carrying a tote bag around my own home with my stuff. I finally cleared out part of the bedroom and inserted all my special things — my aquamarine chunk and Zwitscherbox and remote-controlled twinkle lights, my hag stones and tarot cards, my special books, jars of feathers and sea glass, the heart rock with a hole in it I found on the beach where we released my dad’s ashes.
So about that tree falling on our house: It’s fascinating what you grab in an emergency — my grandmother’s soup tureen, my father’s watch, my mother’s binoculars, my lifetime collection of sea glass, a tiny glass blue vase I’ve had since I was a child, my Twenty Summers tote bag, and a plastic sea captain bobble head I had on the mantle. I also was fully dressed, bag on shoulder, and had Stephen in his leash in less than two minutes while The Super Mr. stared at me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about:
DiscOasis. I have been obsessively watching roller-skating videos on IG (my niece told me that was lame, but I refuse to do the TikTok.) The first time I saw DiscOasis I shrieked and had to sit down. Giant disco balls!! Light up wheeled skates!! Fabulous sequined outfits!! SYNCHRONIZED routines!! IS THIS HEAVEN??!!??
Also, here’s some stuff:
Nina McLaughlin’s “The Moon in Full” series in The Paris Review. I’m a fan of her cerebral deep dives into subjects like “Novemberance” and Summer Solstice. Her latest in the series is about the Hunter’s Moon and begins, “Summer is dead.”
Black Summer (Netflix). I thought I was done with zombie shows. This one is very quiet and the jumping back and forth in the time line until it all ties together is really intriguing. // Unforgotten (PBS). Oh my word, this fourth season was devastating. // All the shows you’ve been watching: Hacks (HBOMax), and Only Murders in the Building (Hulu), and the second season of Ted Lasso (AppleTV).
While Nancy was here recuperating, we watched some great stuff on AcornTV. The two best series: Bloodlands. There were so many WAIT-WHAT? twists in this that I did not see coming. Like AT ALL! // Loch Ness. Atmospheric murder set against Loch Ness, but not about the monster really. Also good twisty-twisties along the way, too.
Sophie: A Murder in West Cork (Netflix). I listened to the podcast when it came out on Audible, but the visuals just made the story so much more. I kept thinking about the similarities with the Christa Worthington case out here. // Celebrity Home Cook (Hulu). We call it the Mary Berry Show. That Tom Read Wilson is my favorite. “Oh, crumbs, darling!” (Follow his Instagram for the word of the day and just to hear him talk. I luuuurve him.)
Green-House’s Six Songs for Invisible Gardens. There is a song called “Peperomia Seedling.” I mean.
A few local things:
Local artist, Peter Hocking, is doing another super cool fundraiser for our local co-working space The Commons. Donate what you can and get access to his Field Guide: Walking and Painting on Cape Cod website. If you like my Instagram stories about my adventures on the Cape, you’ll love this!
There have been a hell of a lot of local shark articles written in the past few months. “The Shark Attack That Changed Cape Cod Forever” and “On East Coast, New Efforts for Beachgoers to Coexist With Sharks” and “Cape Cod’s Waters Are Getting Very, Very Sharky” and “Fear on Cape Cod as Sharks Hunt Again.”
Coyotes have been on the attack here. We have a bowl of airhorns and pepper spray on our table.
Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM)’s Secret Garden Tour video for 2021. I have hope that my favorite summer snoopfest will return next year. For now, they made another video that features the Cape’s best known gardener. (She’s active in the Cape Cod Gardening FB group, which is a terrific resource for local gardeners.)
The last word, according to writer and kindred spirit, Elizabeth McCracken. Amen, sister!: