Across the bay is Conscience Point Marina and the boat traffic on weekends is theater. A Lab sits proudly at the prow of his boat, ears blowing in the wind as he guides his master to shore. Flotillas of red, orange, yellow and blue kayaks come close enough for the paddlers to say hello as they pass.
Friends come for dinner by boat and then sail off into the sunset. Our cottage comes with a two-person kayak that we use to explore and pretend we’re Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn on “The African Queen.” There’s a nature preserve just opposite and we launch ourselves on its waterways and listen to birds. No people sounds. We’re 10 minutes from Southampton Village but could be on a remote island off Maine.
One evening at dusk I walked to the end of Towd Point Road and noticed clusters of prickly pear cactus. I thought they only grew in the desert. The land is a nature preserve so no one had planted them—they must be indigenous. How could they survive the harsh winter? A microclimate must shelter the cactus. In June, I saw big showy yellow blossoms thrusting themselves into the salty air on the prickly pear plants.
The interior of the cottage is whitewashed beams and studs. There is no insulation or heat. There’s a downstairs bedroom and a loft bedroom upstairs where we set up his and her computers. A simple wooden farm table with a bench and a couple of chairs is used if we want to eat indoors. A small living room whose windows on three sides create a constant breeze. You can smell the marine life. Some days it’s salty and fishy and other days it smells clean, like the inside of an oyster. There’s a galley kitchen with a gas stove and natural light everywhere. Every window frames a clear vista of land, sea and sky as if cropped by an artist, ready to be painted or photographed. The mostly glass front door offers a dazzling view of bright green grasses against royal blue water.
The cottage has one and a half bathrooms but my favorite is the outdoor shower, a luxury of summer. This one’s not fancy, just functional. There are hooks on the outside to hang a bathing suit and a towel. It’s rustic looking but fully enclosed with a marine hook-and-eye.
It’s my sanctuary, my outdoor temple and shrine to the pagan Gods. I bow my head to apply shampoo. I suds up in a religious frenzy with water splashing everywhere, frightening the resident spiders. I celebrate the ritual of getting clean. I love the feel of the air on my body. It reminds me that I am alive and free. I can be naked during the week when no one’s around. I am a druid dancing around the monolithic stones at Stonehenge on the eve of the summer solstice.
The light changes every day and sometimes fog veils the opposite shore in a hazy cocoon. I marvel at the glorious sunsets and toast them with a glass of white wine. Some evenings the sky looks as if a paintbrush dipped in raspberry jam was streaked across the sky. The colors change and mutate into abstract compositions.
Votive candles are used for outdoor lighting and I prepare simple suppers of local corn, grilled fish and tomatoes. In the sandy backyard we made a stone circle. I feel atavistic, like a cave dweller as I gaze into the driftwood fire. Conch shells decorate the perimeter. For dessert we roast marshmallows for s’mores and talk late into the night with the full moon illuminating the water. Stars tell us when to go to bed.
Summer’s over. It’s the end of showering alfresco. The church closes its doors for the season. I pray for an early spring. The spiders take over and build their webs with abandon, knowing I won’t be disturbing them until next year. It’s back to the old tub for me. But all winter long I can look forward to that first warm day at the end of May when I can revel like a sybarite in my outdoor shower at Camp Paradise.
I only hope the cottage isn’t washed away.
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