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Provincetown :: Sunday, April 23rd 2017

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The 25th Swim for Life

Notes from Land's End: Aug. 29

August 29th, 2012

“When people gather with passion and vision great things are accomplished. For a quarter century, in one of the largest natural harbors in the world, thousands of swimmers braved its unpredictable waters &#8722; its chilly currents, surging tides, and their deep fears &#8722; raising $2.5 million for AIDS, women’s health and the community.”

Last year, over four hundred people completed the one mile cleansing swim in Provincetown Harbor from Long Point to the Boatslip Resort.

Jay Critchley

On a breezy Sunday afternoon, a colorful installation blows in waves on the lawn of the Provincetown Library. It’s in the shapes of a “Two” and a “Five” – the inverted numerics compelling in the view from a third floor window. Each of the 2500 prayer ribbons tied to this sculptural form has the name or names of a person or people who have died.

Originally a response to the AIDS pandemic, these names are a 25 year chronicle of Provincetown’s losses. I volunteered to speak out loud the names of each person, ribbon by ribbon. A couple of times, the messages of love and loss were so heartfelt that I started to cry.

Artist Jay Critchley, the event’s co-founder, stopped by to welcome me and we talked about the upcoming Swim for Life & Paddler Flotilla Saturday, September 8th. Last year, over four hundred people completed the one mile cleansing swim in Provincetown Harbor from Long Point to the Boatslip Resort. The swimmers raised $200,000 to support important non-profits, including Helping Our Women, AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Outer Cape Health Services, Lower Cape Ambulance, Provincetown Rescue Squad and Soup Kitchen of Provincetown. Lots of local businesses support the Swim with food and supplies. Kayakers volunteer for the safety of the swimmers. Scores of residents and visitors come to the Boatslip’s dock to cheer, chant and welcome their friends as they walk out of the ocean and onto the shore.

Performance with ritual is a long standing medium for Critchley. Every New Year, Provincetown residents participate in his Re-Rooters Day ritual along the beach near the Harbor Hotel. We gather to stick unwanted things (cigarettes, crutches) and conditions (written on a piece of paper) into a rafted Christmas tree like disconcerting ornaments.

Critchley, in some crazily creative hat, chants in a Dadaistic language as he lights the raft like a funeral pyre and sends it adrift. The crowd watches its cares and concerns drift out to sea. Is it art? Is it ritual? Is it prayer? As with the Swim for Life, it’s all three. “It engages the community by bringing people together,” he says.

The 25th Swim for Life Schedule:

Friday, September 7th: CELEBRATION OF LIFE Concert, United Universalist Church, 236 Commercial Street - Evening

Saturday, September 8: REGISTRATION FOR SWIMMERS runs from 9-10:00AM on the deck of the Boatslip Resort, 161 Commercial on Provincetown Harbor.

The actual SWIM begins at 10:30AM at Long Point. Registered Participants will be transported to Long Point from MacMillan Wharf via Ptown Trolley and Cape Cab’s Funk Bus starting at 9:30am.

This event is part of the heartbeat of Provincetown. What a gift to all of us.

“Notes from Lands End”, by artistic bon vivant Laura Shabott, is a weekly account of the people, places and events that make our town so special.

Provincetown.com is the longest-standing, independently-owned presence on the web in 02657. Please like us on Facebook.

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