Wonder Boi Writes

Story Behind The (Author) Photo

Last week, as part of the count down to Timeless (don’t worry we’ll get back to that) I shared some of the elements from the back cover.  One of those was my new author picture.  I shared it largely so I could brag about the fact that it was taken by my son, then I moved on to talking about the book blurb.  Mostly the post what about the blurb, which is about the book, which is why I assume most of you read this blog.  And while I did get plenty of lovely comments both here and on Facebook about the blurb, along with people promising to buy the book (thank you!), I actually got a lot more questions about the author photo. I was surprised at first, because I generally don’t find pictures of myself all that interesting, but I have to admit there’s a pretty cool story behind this one. So, while I do promise another “Count Down to Timeless blog soon”, I hope you don’t mind if I digress just a little bit to tell you a little more about this shot.

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You see, the day this picture was taken was special for several reasons. For one, it was my birthday, and I am someone who really loves birthdays, whether they are my own, or a loved one’s.  I love holidays of any kind really, but birthdays are special because they are dedicated to a single person. I’m not a big present person mind you, birthday’s are more interpersonal than material for me. They’re a chance to think about all the special qualities I associate with the birthday person, and reflect on all my hopes and dreams for them. On my birthday I always try to celebrate the things that made the past year meaningful for me and then think about all my goals and wishes for the year ahead.  This past birthday was made even more special by the fact that I got to spend it in Provincetown.

Women’s week always falls pretty close to my Birthday but this year they actually overlapped for the first time since I’ve been attending the event. (Side note: I thought it was going to overlap last year and I told every one that but it turns out, I’m bad at math…and calendars) This year my birthday, fell on the Sunday of Women’s week, which meant I had no readings to do and could, for the first time in my life, spend a totally free day around Ptown.  I started off my celebration at midnight on the beach over looking Ptown Harbor with Melissa Brayden. We both love the water so we made our wishes for my 31st year and then sent them out into the waves to be carried off around the globe with the tides. What an awesome way to kick off a birthday!

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My wonderful family let me sleep in that morning. Then we headed off to Joe’s for breakfast. Joe’s is my favorite coffee shop in town. They have a ham and gouda crescent that I dream about, and lovely brick patio where I like to sit and watch Commercial street wake up. The day was sunny with a light breeze, and I had visions of a very Virginia Woolf sort of expedition where I’d trek all the way across To The Lighthouse with my wife and son, and our friend Will. We packed a picnic and some blankets and set off for the breakwater.

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For those of you who have never been to Provincetown the breakwater is a rocky jetty that extends between the main harbor and the estuary to help prevent the tides from washing away the sands that keep the tip of Cape Cod in place. It’s meant to function as sort of man made barrier reef.  The extra upside though it that it’s a fun way to get from one side of the harbor to the other. It’s rough in a few places, and uneven in others, but we’d spent some time playing there earlier in the week and Jackson is now old enough hop from rock to rock pretty easily so we would be able to go all the way across…in theory.

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We set out in the beautiful sunshine, surrounded by bright blue water rushing quickly under the rocks we traversed.  Backpacks in tow we made quick progress, stopping only occasionally to check out the stellar views to either side of us.

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When we got just short of the midway point a fisherman warned us that the tide was coming in quickly and if we wanted to get back across the low part we were currently crossing we only had about twenty minutes to make our return.  There was no way we’d be able to get all the way to the lighthouse that quickly, so I asked how long it would be until the tide receded enough to come back.  He assured me that, that part of the breakwater would be under for only about an hour, so we decided we’d be fine.  After a twenty minute walk to the lighthouse, half an hour or more to eat and explore then a twenty minute walk back we’d return after the tide had begun to go out again.  So, off we went once more toward the lighthouse.

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We were so close we could see the sand on the beaches ahead when a group of what looked like students passed us going the other way. They said that there was a low spot ahead that the tide was already tumbling over. We’d already crossed a few low rocks were we’d had to jump over small rivulets on the large flat stones, but it hadn’t been a real problem yet, and since the students hadn’t mentioned  how low the rocks dipped, or for long, we believed that at the worst we’d have to take off our shoes and tip-toe across.  Then we came to this:

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The “low point” was at least ten yards long and more than a foot deep in one place where we couldn’t even see the rocks any longer. Whats more the water was now rushing across in a deluge strong enough to sweep Jackson clean away.  We stood there for a long quiet moment, listening to the ocean sweep across our path and staring at the lighthouse, so close now, and yet more unreachable than it had ever seemed. I guess I should have been more specific about that Virginia Woolf-esque birthday wish I’d made earlier. Then we realized that not only was the water rising quickly in front of us, it was doing the same behind us too. With that thought we hauled ass back across the rocks in the direction from which we’d come. We made it back to the spot the fisherman had warned us about in half the time it had taken us to get there, but our efforts were in vain.

936004_10101382461547993_1645655993_nThe low spot wasn’t as wide as the other but it was just as deep with a strong current, and only a few rocky points to try and hit on the way back. We were stuck.  Stranded on the breakwater by high tide, and nothing to do but wait. I felt like a pretty big failure at that point. Having grown up in Florida I knew about tide charts, and the ability of waters to rise fast and higher than expected even on calm days. What I hadn’t known was that the level of breakwater dipped so dramatically from it’s starting point. Now my family was trapped atop a string of rocks, within sight of shore on a windy October day. So much for starting off my year right.

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We plopped down and unpacked our lunch.  At least we’d brought a good meal with us. We sat eating our sandwiches and watching the wind drive the cold waves around us. The water crept higher and higher for another twenty minutes or so, and I’ll admit to being nervous. I knew the waters wouldn’t submerge the area we were camped out on, but I did worry about the waves splashing us. I felt bad enough that I’d gotten my family stuck, I didn’t want us to end up wet and freezing too.

Lunch passed quickly, and we were once again at a loss.  There’s not much to do with a five year old on a slab of rock surrounded by water.  The boy grew restless, and while Will and Susie were wonderful enough not to outwardly blame me for this disaster I knew they both had things they rather be doing. What a screw up. I was now going to spend the middle of my birthday with nothing to do but stew about my mistake and stare at the water praying for it to go down quickly.

We decided to kill some time by taking family pictures. We’d initially hoped to do that at the lighthouse, and while our surroundings were beautiful on the breakwater it felt like a sad compromise. Plus there were random fishermen in the back ground, and the wind had continued to pick up splaying our hair every which way, and Jackson kept making this face in every shot.

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Will must have taken about thirty photos and not a single one of them looked worth keeping much less using on our Christmas card like we’d hoped. We all just ended up even more frustrated while Jackson reminded us for about the 100th time that he was bored!  In a last ditch effort to entertain him I did something I felt almost certain to regret and handed him my camera. My good camera. As I put the strap around his neck I remember thinking, as long as he doesn’t drop it in the water I’ll consider this a win.

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Then something funny happened. He started to take pictures.  Pictures of Me, of Susan, of Will. Pictures of seagulls floating in the current, photos of fishermen casting their lines, photos of lighthouses and boats and sand dunes.  Suddenly he seemed to find everything around him interesting, and it was hard not to enjoy seeing our surroundings through his lens. We even noticed a seal trying to steal bait off a fisherman’s line.  The fisherman didn’t find it amusing, but we sure did.

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Slowly, the magic returned.  I took a deep breath, then another, and looked around me.  So we weren’t at the lighthouse, we weren’t even moving toward it, or moving toward anything at all. I am a goer, a doer, and I had big plans for my birthday. I should have been a mess, but for some reason I felt more relaxed than I had in ages.  Yes, I had messed up, but for once I was in my favorite place, on a special day, surrounded by the people I love most in all the world, with nothing, absolutely nothing I could do but enjoy the view.

We did end up taking a few more cool pictures that I’ll share with you here.  Jackson eventually handed the camera back over, and cuddled with his moms to keep warm.

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Then he used our picnic blanket to roll himself up into a baby burrito and spent some time dropping shells into the cracks between the rocks.

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Finally, the tide went out enough that we could take off our shoes and wade back across, Huck Finn style. (Photo credit goes to Jackson on this one too.)

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Then we headed back the way we’d come before, a little tired and a little cold, without ever having made it to the lighthouse.  At least we’ve got something to look forward to the next time around.

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It wasn’t the birthday adventure I’d hoped for, but it was an adventure nonetheless, and a good birthday lesson for me too. It took getting stuck, completely helpless with nothing I could do to move forward or back for me to start a new birthday tradition. From now on, when I reflect on my life it’s okay to think about where I’ve come from, and where I’m headed, but I’ve also learned it’s important to take some time to enjoy blessings I have in that moment. So this is me, totally relaxed, totally at peace, and totally filled with love for the little boy behind the camera.

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January 28, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

7 Comments »

  1. Well geez he’s pretty good at that!

    Comment by nikkismalls28 | January 28, 2014 | Reply

  2. This is a beautiful story! I love it. I think it would be something Jackson would cherish as he grows older…to read your thoughts about your experience with him that day. – Marcy

    Comment by Marcy | January 28, 2014 | Reply

  3. What a wonderful story!!!Thank you for sharing….

    Comment by Susan | January 28, 2014 | Reply

  4. First of all, Jackson takes some great pictures.
    Second of all, what a beautiful day to be stuck on the rocks! Sometimes, and probably more often than we think, the Universe puts us where we need to be at a particular time. That day was you and your family’s day to be right there, having an unexpected yet still great experience.
    Lastly, a personal note: I’ve been visiting Provincetown since 2007. Every time I go I walk the breakwater to Long Point and just hang out. I have never, in at least six trips, seen the tide come in that high. I’ve seen the harbor waters shallow enough to wade in; and deep enough to submerge a 14-foot boat (never found out the story behind that); but never high enough to cover the rocks and block my access. I guess I’ve been lucky, since i never check tide tables–or perhaps it’s just not my time to be stuck there.
    Thanks for sharing this!
    JaneC

    Comment by Jane Cuthbertson | January 28, 2014 | Reply

  5. […] first one was sort off script, but you all seemed to like it. Unless you missed it, in which case go here.  This blog though is back on my promised theme of preparing you all for my April release […]

    Pingback by Countdown to Timeless: What’s in a setting? (Part 1) « Wonder Boi Writes | January 30, 2014 | Reply

  6. Jackson is a budding artist with a natural eye towards composition. I started taking photos at 10 years of age. He’s got a jump on me!

    Comment by kathiissermanphotos | January 31, 2014 | Reply

  7. […] in NYC and Darlington.  I told you about the cover: Front and back. I even told you about my new author photo.  Many of you have followed this project on social media from the day I started writing. I love […]

    Pingback by Countdown to Timeless: Time to order! « Wonder Boi Writes | March 12, 2014 | Reply


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