Book Review: Thalassa – One Week in a Provincetown Dune Shack

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By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist–

“I’ve been thinking about Provincetown as a gay and lesbian mecca,” writes Allen Young in his journal. “What I’m experiencing at Thalassa has so little connection to P-town as a GLBT resort … few know about these dunes and this long unsupervised, unnamed beach.” This short book is filled with six days of journal entries at a special place on Cape Cod where time stands still, beach walkers are few, and natural beauty transforms individuals and takes them away from shopping, clubbing, materialism, and personal masks used in everyday life.

Thalassa is a Greek word. It can mean sea, sea goddess, or a moon belonging to planet Neptune. It also is the name of a dune shack with an outhouse managed by Peaked Hill Trust. There are only four of these very modest cottages on the Cape Cod National Seashore.

There is an Emerson-Thoreau-Whitman spirituality to Young’s journal entries. The entries are spiritual, not religious. And they are short, simple, and strive for a respect and connectedness to dunes, ocean, and the wildlife sharing the land with him. Thalassa – One Week in a Provincetown Dune Shack is a simple book, yet profound in reminding individuals of joy and beauty around them too often taken for granted. The reader is invited into a world where the author has a special kind of awakening far removed from the noise, crowds, and congestion of P-town.

“I’m starting to feel the solitude,” Young writes. “This solitude is, so far, something I’m enjoying. Wring in the notebook is like talking to a friend, and the process of doing this makes this experience quite different from one of those silent retreats the Buddhists go on.”

Young’s short book isn’t just about a different perspective on P-town and Cape Cod, but it is an invitation to the LGBTQ community to explore something deeper, more profound, and spiritually uplifting. It’s a reminder not to lose focus on what really is important and not to forget the fleeting nature of life.

“The setting of the sun and the rising of the moon, pretty much simultaneously, made for a dramatic, beautiful event out here in this near-wilderness setting,” the author shares. “When I got down to the beach, I became a little concerned about finding my way back.”

In some ways, this is a wonderful, beautiful metaphor for life. We get lost on life’s journey. It’s part of discovery and self-discovery. At Thalassa the author found stillness. He found a deeper sense of self and connection to something larger.

According to Young, there “is a connection of sorts related to the natural beauty and light, to the aesthetic experience that drew artists to P-town early in the twentieth century. Gay men and lesbians were among those artists, bohemians, and theater people who came here, and they told their friends and more came and then more. For many now, however, the attraction is more sexual, social, and perhaps cultural than aesthetic. And that’s a little sad.”

You don’t have to be on a dune to have a mystical, spiritual experience. Mountains, nearby woods, a quiet lake, or a local park can work just as well. Spiritual health and wellness is just as important as mental and physical health.

*Paul is an attorney and seminary trained priest. He writes the “Faith, Family, and God” column for TRT. He can be reached at Dilovod@aol.com.