A Cape Cod Notebook

A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

Robert Finch is taking a year off to work on a project as a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow. In his absence, we hear from guest commentators, with an occasional essay from Finch himself. 

For archives of A Cape Cod Notebook, including programs dating from before November 2012, go to the Cape Cod Notebook Archives.


 A Cape Cod Notebook is made possible in part with support from Titcomb’s Bookshop on Route 6A in East Sandwich.

Sounds From the Past

Jun 5, 2018
Harp Gallery / https://bit.ly/2JicmPm

I have a long and somewhat odd history with old phonographs and records.  During my early years on the Cape I once salvaged several old Enrico Caruso records - 12” in diameter and only recorded on one side – from an abandoned dune shack.  Over the years I also bought several dozen more old records from Ben Thatcher’s Sound Museum in East Dennis. I kept them all, though it was years before I had anything to play them on. 

Franco Folini / flickr / https://bit.ly/2xjRXIl / Amazon

The other day, crossing Uncle Tim’s Bridge, I saw a flock of fourteen yellowlegs feeding in the gray slurry of the mud flats of Duck Creek at low tide.  Greater and lesser yellowlegs are two of our most readily- identifiable local shorebirds. They are by far the largest of the sandpipers, with stilt-like bright yellow shanks that give them their common name. Their call is an unmistakable three-note descending whistle: CHOO-choo-choo, CHOO-choo-choo.

L. Lerner

The other evening I went for a walk on Bound Brook Island and was struck by it all – not just by what was there, but by what had passed, and what was yet to come. 

The Fallen Towhee

May 15, 2018
Steve Richey / unsplash

A strange thing happened Saturday afternoon. I had been cutting up some boards on the outside deck, when I noticed, lying on the saber saw, the body of a male towhee. I’d only turned away from the sawhorses for a minute or two and had heard no sound, and yet there it was, draped carefully over the metal casing of the saw, lying on its side, as if deliberately and carefully placed there by a cat, or a child - except there was no cat or child. 

A Snapper in the Rain

May 8, 2018
L. Lerner

This happened on the evening of our last rain storm, or what the old Cape Codders called a “tempest.” I’ve always liked that word, “tempest.” It goes back to Elizabethan times. Shakespeare used it as the title of his last play, in which the spirit Ariel says, “We are such things as dreams are made on.” Its root comes from tempus, the Latin word for time, and it connotes a great disturbance, one in which the doors between the present and the past might be suddenly flung open.

This is the brightest time of the year. That may seem like a counterintuitive statement, since spring on Cape Cod usually conjures up images of cloudy skies and rain showers. But on a sunny day in early May, if you can divest yourself of seasonal prejudices, the world can seem more bright than at any other time of the year.

Robert Finch

Last week I discussed a couple of recent examples of a forced or strategic retreat from our beaches due to accelerated erosion, namely the closing of the public parking lot at Wellfleet’s Cahoon Hollow Beach, and the closing of foot access to the beach at Eastham’s Nauset Light parking lot.

 

The history of the retreat of our beaches in the face of the unappeasable force of the ocean is a long and ongoing one. But over the past year the process seems to have kicked into a higher gear and presented us with a fascinating variety of retreats, strategic and otherwise. 

Robert Finch

I was walking in the backwoods with a friend the other day.  He was waxing philosophical about trees, drawing lessons from life about them. “Look at the circle of life here,” he said. “Here you have healthy trees standing tall, others dying and dead all around them. But look, on the ground, are new shoots, just beginning to grow, and actually nurtured by the old dead trunks.” 

L. Lerner

There has been much singing down in the kettle hole tonight. Spring peepers and wood frogs are out in force, producing an electrical, amphibious chorus magnified by the megaphone shape of the hole. At dusk I walked out to the edge of the yard and, in the dying light, made my way slowly and carefully down to the wetland at the bottom of the slope, trying not to disturb their singing.

On Great Expectations

Mar 20, 2018
wiki commons

I remember the first time I visited Walden Pond. It was a brilliant spring day, decades ago now, when I cycled out to Concord, Massachusetts. I had read and admired Thoreau for years and this was my first trip to the spot where he wrote his classic account of living alone in the woods. I arrived with great expectations, but came away oddly disappointed.

Charlotte Coneybeer / unsplash

Last month, late on Valentine’s Day afternoon, I went out to Chipman’s Cove to see if I could get some oysters. Normally I don’t bother going out so late in the season, since the recreational shellfishing flats are usually pretty well picked over by mid-February. But my son and my daughter were making dinner for us on Sunday and their sole request was to have some Wellfleet oysters, so I decided to try.

Snow and Sand in the Dunes

Mar 6, 2018
Ernesta Vala

One afternoon at about four o’clock I set off for a walk in the Provincelands dunes. I took the entrance off Snail Road, and as I walked up out of the miniature oak forest and into the dunes themselves, the sky began to cloud over. But the red ball of the sun dropped below the cloud bank in the west and flamed on the horizon, casting a rosy glow across the broad expanse of sand hills.

A Winter Beach Walk

Feb 27, 2018
L. Lerner

One day last month, when the temperature crept above freezing and the wind dipped below ten knots, I decided to do a beach walk from Newcomb Hollow to Ballston Beach, a distance of about 2.5 miles.  

JJ Losier / bit.ly/2BpVi90 / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

I had a pretty happy childhood, all things considered.  Actually, most children growing up in America in the early 1950s experienced a general sense of well-being – that is, if you were white and not poor.

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