It is precisely 7:30 am on the stove clock as I open the screen porch abutting our kitchen. I traipse through our porch, wrapped in a massive Boston Red Sox towel. I then maneuver down the wooden steps towards the base of our outdoor shower less than ten feet away.
From early April to Columbus Day Weekend, I have taken scores of showers here. However, on this mid-October day, it’s getting colder, and the fall weather is getting too brisk for both bodies and water pipes. Thus, this will be my last outdoor shower of the year. In the distance behind our house, an abandoned nest of a family of ospreys, who deserted their salt marsh home the previous month, now lies vacant. To me, this is a tangible reminder that change is the essential ingredient to any New England season.
As I alight our stone steps, I quickly open the latch of the shower and clamber inside, hanging my towel up carefully on a hook on the left side of the structure. Four stately scrub pines frame the cobalt sky above their finger-limbs, brushing back and forth from a relentless east wind. The sun creeps across the marsh and makes splotches on the rust-colored pod that forms our outdoor shower.
As I take off the last of my undergarments, a chilling wind cuts through me like a knife, a calling card that another Massachusetts winter is fast approaching. As I turn the nozzle to the left for “high heat,” the caw-caw cry of a recalcitrant crow greets me with an arrogance that is almost reassuring. His hubris reminds me that it is I who am the visitor on my own property.
Steam commences arising from the shower as I begin to lather myself under a beckoning sun. I am suddenly enveloped in its prevailing warmth, which staves off the biting, 50 degree-temperature morning that had greeted me. The mid-autumn sky is cleansed to such a degree that it seems as if God Himself washed away any shadows.
As I continue to soak my hair, the blustery, chick-a-dee-dee-dee call from the lowest branch of a nearby red maple from an adult chickadee welcomes me like an old friend. I smile when I remember that I once fed many of this little bandit’s ancestors as a boy. I would place sunflower seeds in my outstretched right hand and then watch as a small flock of “the cheeky ones” picked them off my palm in a series of fearsome swoops,
As I finish rinsing, I then glance out at the salt marsh to my right and see the golden colors of the marsh blend with the blueberry-colored water of the North Atlantic that has seeped in with the tide. In another two hours, the entire marsh will be flooded by water pouring in from Cape Cod Bay. Above the ocean-swamp, I eventually observe a colony of seagulls begin to pounce on some unsuspecting minnows. A few of them dangle in the mouths of the gulls, who dart away from the scene with a nonchalance, which is almost breathtaking.
Even though the water for our shower is from our own well and doesn’t cost me a thing, I firmly twist the handle to the left. As the son of an environmentalist-mother who donated the adjacent salt marsh to the Eastham Conservation Foundation, I have been taught that nature is not a place to visit. It is home.
For the next five months, my showers will be upstairs and indoors until the season of new life – spring – visits this fragile outpost once again.