Heaven… Here on Planet Earth

An original song by Will McMillan with piano accompaniment by Doug Hammer

Note: I originally wrote this blog post in August 2018. When I recently attempted to update it (in order to put in photo credits and a new postscript), I was given the option to use the new “block editor” to which I have — reluctantly — become accustomed. Except the new “block editor” only pretended to work on the first photo and then didn’t work at all on any succeeding photos. And as I was toggling around to try and make it work, I decided it might be wise to revert to draft mode so that I didn’t keep updating the blog post live. Then I feared that I had removed the blog post entirely from my timeline. However, after re-publishing it, it appears still to be listed in correct chronological order.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

So… this is a slightly updated version of a blog post which you may already have read three summers ago!

Anyone who has spent time on the outer arm of Cape Cod can be deeply grateful to John F. Kennedy due to the creation on August 7, 1961 of the Cape Cod National Seashore during his short presidency.

Image from Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia — which is where I borrowed this map — it includes over 68 square miles of “ponds, woods and beachfront (in) the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion.”

It’s also where I and my sweetheart and various family members are fortunate to camp each summer during the last week of July and the first week of August — in North Truro on the Atlantic side of the outer arm (or wrist, really…) of the Cape.

TruroBeachDunesSkyIn 2010 the campground where we have stayed for over 25 years — called North of Highland — was protected with a conservation easement thanks to the hard work and generosity of many people and organizations — including JFK’s younger brother, Senator Ted Kennedy.

So hopefully it will remain in operation for generations to come!

For me camping in North Truro is heavenly…

This is a view of our site from a site which some of our family members rent above us.

UpperViewofCampsitebyAndrewWe are in a bowl which is home to pine trees, grasses, chipmunks, red squirrels, all sorts of birds, lots of ants, a few oak trees, crickets, various fungi, and quite a few blueberry bushes.

There are also visiting dragonflies, bees, mosquitos, horseflies, June bugs — who appear in the evening, attracted by our lights — and on some nights we can hear coyotes howling in the distance.

Although I have never seen a raccoon or opossum or rabbit or turkey or deer at our campsite, on one night someone DID get into our niece’s trash can.

So I am guessing that larger animals are around — just wisely inconspicuous during the day.

I love the way that sunlight dapples the trees and grass — and I love picking a few blueberries each morning.

BlueberryPlantThere weren’t very many this summer, which may be because it has been somewhat dry.

We only experienced rain three times this summer while we were camping — a) on the day we drove down to set up camp, b) once overnight, and c) a substantial storm on the day that we were packing up to return home.

When it rains I imagine how good the moisture must feel on the roots of all of the trees and shrubs and grasses.

Each berry is such a jewel… and hopefully there are plenty more for the folks camping at this site right now as well as for any animals who like to eat them, too.


I spend most of the day in our tent — which is quite spacious — with a ukulele, a little handheld digital recorder, a rhyming dictionary, two lap top computers, and several bags worth of song ideas.

Each morning I stretch and listen to song ideas I’ve accumulated during the previous months — or in some cases years — until something catches my fancy.

Then I focus on that particular idea for the rest of the day — writing lyrics, coming up with chords for a missing bridge, etc.

The song in the player at the beginning of this blog post is one I wrote a few camping sessions ago and later recorded with the pianist Doug Hammer at his studio north of Boston.

This is a view of our (green) screen house — where we cook and eat — and our (orange) tent.TwoTentsinBowlIf you look past our tents in the upper left corner of this photo, you can glimpse the tent site from which the first photo in this post was taken…

There are many, many things I love about camping.

For example, when we are camping, we become much more aware of our relationship with water — since we are carrying it in big multi-gallon containers down to our campsite for drinking and cooking and cleaning dishes.

CampingSinkAreaAlso all of the sinks in the bathrooms at the campground have faucets that automatically shut off after a couple of seconds.

And hot showers cost 25 cents for three minutes of bathing time.

I also love that there are LOTS of stars visible at night.

I went for several long walks along the beach late at night when the sky was clear  — and the moon so bright that I didn’t need to use a flashlight to see where I was going.

Being away from street lights and TV screens and radios — while spending hours and hours surrounded by birds and insects and trees and sky — helps me reconnect with what’s important.

Like time with family and friends.

And intact ecosystems.

TruroSandWaterSkyBefore dinner — which is often something delicious cooked by my brother-in-law who bikes to the local fish store on an almost daily basis, bless him — I usually walk down a pine-needle-covered path to the Atlantic ocean and swim.

In recent years the tide and winter storms have created a gully along the beach which ranges in depth from one to five feet depending upon the time of day.

Since there is now a robust population of seals who swim up and down this section of the Atlantic ocean — as well as great white sharks who come to eat them — my family is much happier if I swim laps in the gully rather than in the ocean.

TruroTrenchLifeGuardChairThere were a couple of great white shark sightings during our two weeks at the camp ground, and also one day when a bunch of whales cavorted within sight of the beach.

But I did not see them because I was working on new songs in my tent…

Everyday I checked in with a hydrangea plant which grows near the path to the bathrooms and showers.

HydrangeaPlantThere was so much happening on this plant — it was a world unto itself!

Every day flowers would unfold new petals.

And bees and wasps and even flies in many different shapes and sizes would gather pollen.

HydrangeaCloseupDuring the course of our time at the campground, several spiders wove webs — which in due time trapped a quite a few meals.

Here is a close up of one of the spiders against a green hydrangea leaf.

HydrangeaSpiderWebEventually it was time to pack everything up and return home.

This is always a sad and somewhat stressful process for me.

But my sweetheart and family members are very patient, since they know it happens every summer on the last day of our camping adventure.

TruroBeachTwilightTrenchWhat doesn’t usually happen, however, is an hours-long rain storm on the day of our departure.

Strangely this lifted my spirits…

I even got to continue working on a new song after our tent was down — with our brown tarpaulin providing protection during a prolonged period of deluge…

WillUnderTarpWithUkeThank you to all of the folks who keep North Of Highland camping area going year after year. I highly recommend it if you are in need of some rejuvenation!

Thank you to Andrew for letting me use his photo looking down towards our camp site, and for making so many delicious meals.

Thank you to Doug Hammer for his wonderful skills as a pianist AND as a recording engineer.

Thank you to the Kennedy family, whose love for — and lobbying on behalf of — Cape Cod has impacted millions of people — and plants and animals — for many, many decades.

Thank you to my sweetheart for all of the beach photos and for letting me use his phone to take photos of the hydrangea and our camp site.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to this blog post.

Where is your heaven on planet earth?


P.S. You are always welcome to visit my website, and you can find me singing (with Doug Hammer playing his glorious Schimmel grand piano) on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.

21 thoughts on “Heaven… Here on Planet Earth

  1. dear Will, that was fun to get a glimpse of your camping life and love of appreciating the details. Steven and I were in P town for a (delightfully quirky ) weekend beach wedding a few weeks ago, and a nice bunch of us created a neighborhood in the woods of Dune’s Edge campground. Imagine a group of wedding party folk gathering in sequined finery for cocktails before biking off to dinner together… or the newlyweds stripping off their fancy wedding clothes to run into the water after the rings had been slipped on…

    then I went to dance camp for ten days of mostly rain. Putting up my tent in the rain and sleeping in dampness for night after night, like sliding down into a wet sock. My tent was in a beautiful spot near a stream, and the burbling water sounds lulled me to sleep every night and every nap. New mushrooms appeared every morning. Newts and toads and birdies were in evidence. Apparently bears broke into other’s snack stashes, but not at my tent, thank you very much.

    I’m happy to be home and dry now, after 5 loads of laundry. but those days in simple nesting amidst nature are indeed special. love, Neige >

    • What an awesome wedding — with active swimming AND biking AND camping as part of the festivities!!!! Ten days of mostly rain and a damp tent sounds very challenging for dance camp, although it sounds like you managed to savor your situation none-the-less. Hurrah for newts and mushrooms and toads and birds and bears (but not sharing one’s snack stashes, perhaps!) Lovely to read this news and THANK YOU for reading/listening to my blog, dear woman.

  2. That’s a very catchy song! I’ll be humming it as I go through my day. What I like best about your posts is your intense thankfulness for the littlest things–you remind me to pay more attention and notice and be happy.

    • Thank you, KerryCan, for finding time to read and listen to another one of my blog posts. And even hum a bit of the song afterwards! It may be easier to savor small details when one has far fewer distractions/options. For 13 days all I did was hang out in my tent, walk back and forth to the bathrooms/water/shower area, buy blocks of ice at the camp store, walk to and from the beach, swim in the trench, and hang out with family during our evening meal. So one can slow down and savor the ever-changing activities of the beautiful hydrangea plant, for example, which I passed several times each day! From some of your previous posts, I am guessing that your home by the lake has many moments of “heaven here on planet earth” throughout the four seasons…

  3. This was wonderful to read, especially with the gorgeous photos you included. Cape Cod is beautiful. Nature is beautiful. Two weeks of all that is rejuvenating.

  4. What a lovely observation! Kind of like a beauty feedback loop… I have begun reading about the wonderful Brazilian (although he lived in NYC for many years) songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim. He spent a lot of time in the natural world and explained that some of his melodies just came to him as he contemplated nature…

  5. So happy to have found you (or been found by you, I guess!) This post is really sweet, and reminds me of our family’s annual camping trips up to the White Mtns. I love your appreciation for the little details in the world around you; the spider, the hydrangea petals, the June bugs. And you have a wonderful voice!!! I’ll be back!

    • Yes. It is so easy to be swept up in all of the info coming at us from various screens and devices and overlook the amazing stuff growing in a crack in the sidewalk! Hurrah that your family camps, too! One of the sweetest things about WordPress for me has been gradually finding (usually through comments people make on other people’s posts) a few kindred spirits… Thank you for taking time to read and listen to my blog!!!

  6. Thank you for sharing this lovely time and space. I like that you not only commune with nature, but that you also share that love with your sweetheart and family–and create songs, too.
    Camping does not appeal to me, but I can appreciate that joy of being in an almost pristine place, and seeing the animals and plants and stars at night.

  7. I have never been to the USA, but always think I would love to visit Cape Cod as enjoy exploring any coast. Thank goodness for great people who have the foresight to preserve beautiful places for everyone to enjoy.

    • It would be lovely if the current pendulum of consumption might swing the other way for a while — resulting in a few decades of conservation and reparation. Thank you for using your precious bandwidth to read and listen to my blog!

    • You are very welcome, Alex. Just got to spend more time in the woods next to a lake in upstate NY. Blessed nature. Thank you for finding time to read and listen to my blog post!

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