Russ Allen: Bright Lights In The Dark Of Winter

There is no doubt – we are in the midst of the dark, cold, quiet season of winter. Our weather has become unpredictable. Two years before I moved here the Cape’s snowfall made the national news – my first winter nary a flake fell. January 2017 was so mild that the snowdrops were blooming in my yard before being covered by six weeks of snow. Wind and ice last year damaged trees and fences and shut down our power twice. This past Martin Luther King weekend we experienced sub-zero wind chills. Others may hear stories about the Cape’s winter, but one has to experience it to believe it. Imagine driving down Main Street in Chatham on Valentine’s Day Weekend and finding it virtually empty except for a few cars huddled near the Squire.

There are bright spots between the holiday season and Easter, but Saints Valentine’s and Patrick’s days only minimally counterbalance life during the rest of winter. A fresh snowfall may evoke the natural beauty of this peninsula but does not offset what most defines this time of year: darkness. Yet for many Cape residents their awareness of this is limited – snowbirds will be visiting warmer climates and second home owners may await more pleasant weather to return. Much of Cape Cod shuts down after Christmas, only to reopen between March and June. Motels, restaurants, and other businesses have curtailed hours or close entirely for legitimate reasons; comparing expenses to income simply does not yield positive results.

However, not every resident of the Cape tries to escape the winter. Though in numbers smaller than the summer population, year-round residents, from families with children in local schools to retirees, choose to stay here despite our severe winter conditions. Yes, our lives can be challenging and our options limited. Having access to activities that bring light to the darkness, beauty to often endless white, and joy to our hearts is crucial for our well-being during this season.

But where to find that sustenance when so many places which serve that need at other times are not open? Our souls – spirits, lives – still need to be fed by intellectual challenges, the arts, sports and community gatherings. More easily accomplished in the other seasons, how can that happen during the winter?

Here is just one set of suggested answers to that question:

  1. Provincetown Theater is offering a full-length play-reading series of “Winter Play Dates” every other Tuesday through March 26.

  2. Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater hosts the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD and the SeaChange Film Series on alternate Saturdays in February and March.

  3. Though the Payomet Performing Arts Center in Truro has no performances planned until April 13 and the Academy of the Performing Arts in Orleans is temporarily closed, Elements Theater Company is presenting “The Art of Costume Exhibit” at the Patmos Arts Center at Rock Harbor in Orleans through Feb. 9.

  4. The Young Company at the Cape Rep Theater in Brewster will perform “The Odyssey” on Feb. 8 and 9.

  5. Chatham Drama Guild in Chatham has no plays planned during the winter but Cape Cod Theater – Harwich Junior Theater will stage “Disney’s Freaky Friday” from Feb 15 to March 17 (with school matinees on March 6 and 13), and “Tuck Everlasting” from March 29 to April 21 (school matinees on April 3 and 10).

  6. Though the Cape Playhouse in Dennis has nothing scheduled during the next two months, Eventide Theater Company in Dennis is presenting “Feiffer’s People” from Feb. 14 to March 3 and the Jeremiah Kaplan New Playwright’s New Plays Competition in March.

  7. The Barnstable Comedy Club will stage “The 1940’s Radio Hour” on select days between March 7 and 24.

  8. The Cotuit Center for the Arts in Cotuit is producing John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” through Feb. 10, “Constellations” from Feb. 7 to Feb. 14, and “A Talented Woman” on March 21 through April 7.

Now granted, some of these are hard to locate and many involve a cost which some might find hard to manage. Others have little or no expense involved. A few have limited days or hours when they occur. Most entail some travel. But in the end, all nourish our quality of life. We who spend our winters on Cape Cod can be subject to prolonged power outages, challenging storms, risky travel, cabin fever and a sense of isolation. These are on top of having to work, maintain homes, raise children and manage the routine activities of our lives. Establishing a balance between those elements and cultural activities such as those listed above can be the key to experiencing year-round the kind of quality life so many of us want.

In time the storms will end, temperatures will rise, days will become longer, gardens and lawns will grow again, snowbirds will return and yes, tourists and vacationers will cross the bridges. But in the meantime, there are activities that nourish those of us who have chosen to stay here during the winter season.