Robert Finch was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is taking some time off. We've gone into the archives, and today we're re-airing one of our favorite A Cape Cod Notebook essays. It's called "Shellfish Memories."
"Shellfish Memories" by Robert Finch
This essay first aired in September, 2012. Robert Finch lives in Wellfleet.
It was coming on evening out on Stellwagen Bank, the red ball of the sun descending through the clouds. It had done its job, though- burning off the lingering fog banks out over the water. We were surrounded by whales- Humpback Whales- spouting and diving all around our boat.
I’m lucky enough to live just over a mile from the beach, a straight shot along the Surfside bike path. If I’m running, which I have been doing to varying degrees of success over the last three years, I can make it to the end of the road and to the mouth of the sand trail that leads to Surfside in 10 minutes. Walking takes closer to 15 minutes.
The Backshore beach is a veritable graveyard. Littered all about, from the tide line up into the dunes, are bodies and body parts. Some are fresh, the tide’s latest delivery; others lie, bleached and scoured, as if they had been there for all time.
Lately I have taken to floating—lying on my back in the bay and letting the water cradle me. It can be hard to make it to the beach, even in the heat of summer, as so many other stressors pull on our time. There are a lot who live on Nantucket that hardly ever get to the beach. As one neighbor said to me: “I live on an island—--the beach will always be there.”
For quite a few years I worked for Cape Cod National Seashore on its shorebird project, studying and protecting nesting terns and plovers. It was always with trepidation that I stepped inside an “enclosed area”- delineated with “symbolic fencing”-posts and twine lines with surveyor’s tape-the domain of one of our subject birds, the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodius).