A Cape Cod Notebook | CAI

A Cape Cod Notebook

An Appreciation of Spiders

Apr 28, 2020
creative commons / wikimedia

Wildlife is where you find it, and, even though it has been a mild winter, and even though the days are lengthening as spring approaches, I have been somewhat of an indoor naturalist these past few months.  And the wildlife in my house consists of one dog, often written about, two cats…and a couple handfuls of spiders (not that I handle them). 

Life Saving

Apr 21, 2020
Mary Bergman

Three geese flew overhead as I walked down Nobadeer Road. I heard them first, the sound of their wings, almost electric. A pair, wingtips almost close enough to touch, and a third lagging behind. Hard not to think of family of some kind. Hard not to think of trinities. Everyone is looking for deeper meaning at a moment like this. 

This week Bob continues his account of being a census taker in 1990.

Most of our work as census takers was straightforward and unexciting. We visited the households that had not yet returned their short forms, and led those with the long forms through the questions. Nonetheless, there were many examples of the unexpected.

Liz Lerner

Last Wednesday there took place a national ritual as venerable and significant as our national elections. –April 1 was the official National Census Day, the reference date for the 2020 national census, an event mandated by the U.S. Constitution to take place every ten years. It would be significant enough if only because the census determines the number of Congressional representatives each state has and also where most of the federal grant money goes.

Nature Has Not Been Cancelled

Mar 31, 2020
Elyssa Cohen

This is not about the deer I just saw on my afternoon walk on a hillside not far from my house.  Two does.  This is not about how beautiful they were, silhouetted against the still-leafless trees and enveloped in a mist turning to fog.  This is not about their long slender legs, the arched backs of their elegant bodies, the white flags of their tails lifted high as they both vanished, as only deer can do. 

Walking in a Time of COVID-19

Mar 24, 2020
L. Lerner

When I was a kid, my family had two cures for everything: a cup of tea (heavy on the milk and sugar) and a walk.

These days I drink my tea black but I’ve been walking a lot. With the insecurity and isolation of Covid-19 piled on top of the isolation of working from home, sometimes I head out just to reassure myself that the outside world still exists.


Mar 17, 2020

This is a place of ritual. Wake before the sun begins to rise, boil water for coffee. Watch it drip, drip, drip like a stone skipping across the surface of a smooth pond. The mornings stretch on. Try to get lost in the percolation of the coffee and not the anxiety that is already cooking up inside you. Or maybe that is just me.

Tony Wan / unsplash

It was 57 years ago, in the winter of 1962, that I first walked the old New York – New Haven railroad bed from Provincetown to Orleans. Passenger service to the Outer Cape had ceased in 1938, and the rails had been removed from Provincetown to North Eastham, but the oak railroad ties were still there, and the railroad bridges across Great Hollow, Pamet Harbor, Herring River and Duck Creek, were still intact.

Daniel Schwen / wikimedia

In a remote corner of the Provincelands, there is a several hundred acre tract of stunted forest, sloping dunes, shallow ponds and extensive freshwater swamp. I think of this area as Mary Oliver’s Backyard. I do so because so many of Provincetown’s Pulitzer Prize-winning poet’s best poems are set here.

Chasing Away the Seasonal Blues... With Sausage

Feb 25, 2020
Nelson Sigelman

Striped bass have left Martha’s Vineyard waters, save for a few holdovers trapped in the great ponds. Deer and waterfowl hunting seasons are at an end. These are trying months for those who suffer from fishing-hunting seasonal affective disorder.

Beacons Everywhere

Feb 18, 2020
Mary Bergman

Some days, you can catch radio signals from Martha’s Vineyard, and TV from Rhode Island. Look out across Nantucket’s north shore towards Cape Cod at dusk, the horizon is speckled with blinking lights, navigational beacons and channel markers, lighthouses and radio towers. There are beacons everywhere, trying to tell us which way to go, trying to warn us of dangerous shoals.

Topozone / bit.ly/2UHgxNu

Cape Cod is a place of small mysteries. Sometimes the mysteries are so obvious we don’t recognize them.  Take Merrick Island.

Merrick Island is one of a half dozen or so islands that line the western boundary of Wellfleet Harbor. Besides Merrick, these islands include Great Beach Hill, Great Island, Griffith, and Bound Brook.

Duck Creek Shark

Feb 4, 2020
L Lerner

This happened one day last November, a dark, damp day with a cold northeast wind blowing off the ocean. I had taken a walk across Duck Creek on Uncle Tim’s bridge and up onto Cannon Hill. Coming back around the south side of the island, I heard in the marsh off to my left a flopping noise, which could’ve been something, but I decided it was just the waves lapping against the marsh peat.

An Appreciation of the Ungainly and Inconvenient Thorn

Jan 28, 2020
Dennis Minsky

A path through the woods is a compromise between people and the natural world.  As long as you stay on the trail you are alright.  But if you dare to venture into the brush you will certainly come upon what will be the bane of your off-trail existence: cat briar or green briar or bull thorn (Smilax rotundifolia). 

Winter's Cold on Nantucket

Jan 21, 2020
Mary Bergman

I was starting to feel trapped. It happens sometimes, when the sky is an endless gray and the horizon line is hard to find. Winter’s cold brings things into focus, and you can really feel the ragged edges of this island. I heard the whistle of the last ferry as it came in around 10:30 at night and knew there was no getting off this island until morning. And even if you left, where would you go? 

A Reliable Old Friend

Jan 14, 2020
Crown Agency Photography

It looked old.  It looked like something that was ready for retirement, though it still worked, still functioned. The oak handles, once varnished and glossy, had bleached into a permanent washed-out gray with deep cracks in them. The heavy steel tray had corroded, leaving a small, crescent-shaped hole at its front edge, but the rolled steel rim was still intact.

Old Wharf Road

Jan 7, 2020
Alex Talmon

One of the most beautiful spots in Wellfleet, or for that matter, on the entire Lower Cape, is Old Wharf Road. It is one of those headlands that, along with Indian Neck and Lieutenant’s Island, thrust out into greater Wellfleet Harbor. It affords a lovely walk along shaded dirt roads, beside marshes that turn gold in autumn, dark tidal creeks, and distant views of the harbor islands. There is a town landing at the end of the road, which, among other things, provides access to the rich oyster beds of Loagy Bay.

The Local Cemetery, Another Part of the Village

Dec 31, 2019
Joy Real / unsplash

I love walking in the cemetery in the early morning. You know, before anyone wakes up.

Sorry, just some dumb cemetery humor.

Swing in the Woods

Dec 24, 2019
Dennis Minsky

I met a kindred spirit on my walk in the woods this morning.  I did not actually lay eyes on anybody, but I did encounter someone’s creation: a bright pink swing hanging from a branch in a clearing. 

Wind Season

Dec 17, 2019
Mary Bergman

I think we need a fifth season on Nantucket: winter, spring, summer, fall, and wind. Ever since the ferries rounded Brant Point with the last of the summer folks, the wind has been relentless. Nearly each week we’ve encountered at least one day where the boats don’t run, when we are woken up at three in the morning by the howling wind. Trees bend to the point of snapping, and hair tangles on even the shortest walk.

Robert Finch

On Monday afternoon I went out to Newcomb Hollow, where an enormous amount of sand had been removed from the beach by the new moon tides and easterly winds of the past couple of days. The beach erosion revealed a horizontal floor of blue clay that ran along the base of the cliffs for at least 200 feet in a band 20 to 30 feet wide. These wide, horizontal ledges were a mixture of solid-blue and yellow-reddish clay feathered with thin exfoliations of rust-colored iron oxide. The impression was that of walking over a slick and fragile tessellated marble floor.

What's In A Name?

Dec 3, 2019
Living Lab file image from 2013

We live, literally, a stone’s throw from the town dump. I know, I know-“dump” is not the proper name for what is currently an officially known as the town transfer station. Nevertheless, most people in town still refer to it as the town dump.

The Sweet Taste of Island Scallop Season

Nov 26, 2019

Scallopers are hard at work on the Tisbury side of Lagoon Pond. This is cause for some celebration in my town.

After several poor years, commercial fishermen are earning several hundred dollars a day and recreational scallopers are enjoying one of the delicacies of Island waters — and stocking their freezers too.

Trying to Love November

Nov 19, 2019
Mary Bergman

I’m trying to love November, or at the very least make peace with it. Each year, I mourn the end of Daylight Savings Time, and grumble about the painfully early sunsets. Only the heartiest few roses remain in the gardens in town, the sidewalks slippery with fallen leaves. Plenty of people have cleared out in search of someplace warmer. But I have nowhere else to go.

L Lerner

On one of those gorgeous October days we had this fall I took a walk along the shores of Little Pleasant Bay in South Orleans with my friend Ric. The air was calm, the light incandescent with hidden meaning.