Chatham’s South Beach Shrine

We walk along an outermost spot – one of those remote and seemingly isolated spaces that exist scant miles from the 216,000 residents of Cape Cod. This, Chatham’s South Beach, is a breathtaking expanse of shoreline watched over by the famed Chatham Lighthouse and, more recently, Great Whites.

It looks different than the first time I saw it years ago, but such is the fate of the outer shore of the Cape—its profile forever carved by the ebb and flow of the Atlantic and her whims (and whorls).

On this visit, there is more water, less beach, the walk from the upper parking lot down to the shore is noticeably shorter. And still, the fishing boats pass, the seals bob, a kite soars, a dog wanders. In the distance, you cannot miss the distinct and dramatic sound of the ocean surf pounding against what remains of “the bar”—the last vestige of calm before the deep and wild beyond.

These days, a quarter-mile walk down the beach brings you to the South Beach Shrine, a makeshift homage to all things flotsam and jetsam. The literal “what we leave behind.”

It is many things, this shrine — part protest and part art project, part community rallying cry and part curiosity. Its irony reminds me of Prada Marfa, its whimsy like a roadside attraction, its message disheartening. Thankfully, it is big and bold enough to hold all of our interpretations, and strong enough to withstand the ever-changing landscape of coast and culture.


Story and Photos ©2017, Jen Payne. For more, see Occupy Chatham South Beach on Facebook.

NOW ON SALE: Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, a collection of poetry and photographs illustrating how changing the world begins with you and me.

Bistro, Cooke City

Two dozen pilgrims
silent and flush
pause 7,000 feet up
along Montana’s
Absaroka Mountains.
What otherwise
might be the
of a midday rush
is all but a hush,
a collective reverence
for this sacred ground,
its holy beauty
and wide embrace
around us.


©2017, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month, 11. Inspired and partially written at The Bistro in Cooke City, Montana, located near the arrow on the satellite map above. Aerial photo of Cooke City from TripAdvisor.

Like a Chapter in a Book

“Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level. Goals give our life direction.” – Melody Beattie

I’m looking over my 2016 goals. You know, the ones that included the 50 things I would do in my 50th year? The list of resolutions long forgot? The good intentions set forth?

The success or failure of all of that reminds me of the Road Trip I took this fall. A grand plan some four years in the making that included maps, lists, and a very detailed itinerary. Did we see everything? No. Did we get to every item on the map? No. Did it matter? NO! Because in between the itemized, there were some glorious surprises, some sweet happenstances, and some uncharted moments I would never alter. Not even for a few more red checks next to my scrupulous lists.

Will I make more lists for 2017? YES!

Why? Because despite the lack of particular checkmarks, in 2016 I took a 3700-mile road trip I’ve dreamed about all my life! I also visited the Guggenheim Museum and saw a Red Sox game in Boston. I bought a new camera, wrote a poem a day for National Poetry Month, and got my writing published. I cooked Ina Garten’s 4-hour lamb, recited Jabberwocky from memory to a live audience, and baked a chocolate cake from scratch. I read 39 books, found a pearl in an oyster, and made time for love and friendship, writing and reading every week from the start.

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written,” writes Melody Beattie in The Language of Letting Go. “We can help write that story by setting goals.”

So, what is your story for 2017?


©2016, Jen Payne. Photo at Inspiration Point, Yellowstone National Park.

RoadTrip 16: Parting Shots


Photo bomb at Mousehouse Cheesehaus, Windsor, WI


Green Giant Statue, Blue Earth, MN


Mixed messages, Deadwood, SD


Wall Drug, Wall, SD


Big Bear Motel, Cody, WY


Wildlife encounter in Cody, WY


Quiet reflections, Moran, WY


Morning meditations, Badlands, SD


Scat, Beartooth Highway, Montana

Photos ©2016