A Cape Cod Notebook | WCAI

A Cape Cod Notebook

The Sand Jointweed, a Tiny Miracle

Apr 16, 2019
Thomas H. Kent / Flora Finder / Creative Commons / bit.ly/2v8HSKd


I sing the praises of the lowly Sand Jointweed (Polygonella articulata).

It grows primarily in the sandy area north of the Old Colony Nature Trail, in the East End of Provincetown, right where my dog and I hike every day.  It is lowly- just a few inches tall- and almost always recumbent or absolutely prostrate on the sand.  

What Winters Are Like

Apr 9, 2019
L. Lerner


“But what are the winters like?” 

It’s the Frequently Asked Question of the seasonal visitor to the year-round resident. Too long, is one answer. Milder than you might think.  And more beautiful than you can imagine.  

Small White Perch, Big Smile

Apr 2, 2019
Nelson Sigelman

One of the pleasures of living on Martha’s Vineyard is that spring arrives in tangible ways. You hear it and you taste it.

The Gifts That Ride in the Waves

Mar 26, 2019
Mary Bergman

I was driving through the rain the other evening on Cliff Road, searching for turnoff to Hinkley Lane, straining to see through my sandblasted windshield and the fog. For a minute I imagined Nantucket as a lost city, nestled there at the bottom of the sea. I was a SCUBA diver, exploring the ruins. When this island is gone, will we all be lost at sea?

Be at Home Wherever You Are

Mar 19, 2019
L. Lerner

I have often wondered how our year-round fauna and flora manage to withstand the extremes of weather that a Cape Cod year comprises: temperatures at or below freezing at one end and sweltering heat in the 90s at the other.  I know some of the physiological adaptations involved, but, really, it is hard to imagine the experiences of our oaks and pines, our chickadees and cardinals.

A Sandy, Shifting Place

Mar 12, 2019
Mary Bergman


I tend to think of Nantucket as this place that is constantly shifting, and in many ways it is. People come and go, drift with the seasons and the tides. Our population ebbs and flows from some 17,000 in the off season to close to 50,000 in the summer. This time of year, school break arrives and the island clears out except for the few of us left behind to make sure the lights stay on and the dogs get walked. A hearty handful of businesses stay open, but the rest shutter their doors and take a much needed break. After all, the high season is already on the horizon. 

Winter Clamming Digs Up Many Rewards

Mar 5, 2019
Nelson Sigelman

The sun was low in the horizon when I arrived at Tashmoo Pond. The temperature was above average for a February day. Mid-forties I guessed. One week earlier, it had been in the teens.

Life Goes On

Feb 26, 2019
Gary Eslinger / USFWS / Creative Commons 2.0 / bit.ly/2GJCW6w

A line of poetry passed through my mind yesterday, about a landscape so pure, so cold and quiet, that one could “feel the shadow of the hawk’s wing pass over the land.” I felt that same silence of a hawk at the moment when all the busy chatter, the comings and goings of the birds at my half dozen bird feeders came to an abrupt halt.  

The Seals of Great Point

Feb 19, 2019
Mary Bergman

The first thing you notice about Nantucket’s colony of grey seals is the smell. You smell them before you see them. And when they look at you, with a strange mammalian sort of recognition, you realize they must be able to smell you, too.

Where the Woods Are the Woods

Feb 12, 2019
J. Junker

My friend Ken sent me a clipping from the Cape Cod Times a few weeks ago that really amused me and got me thinking.   It’s a story about a man who discovered the jaw bone of a Right Whale in Yarmouth Port, collected it, and sold it a couple days later.   The story was amusing because the man acts and sounds like a Damon Runyon character, but there are elements of the tale that highlight the special nature of Cape Cod.

On an Island, Weather Is Big Talk

Feb 5, 2019
Mary Bergman

My friends who still live in cities think I talk too much about the weather. In cities, weather talk is relegated to small talk--the cheapest of all talk. On an island, weather is big talk. On an island, tide charts are tacked to kitchen walls like religious icons, a different sort of devotional. On an island in winter, the talk is usually of wind. Of how much, and when, and for how long.

A Group Effort: The Christmas Bird Count

Jan 29, 2019
Wiki Commons / bit.ly/2Ti4Adl

The chaos of the natural world is a wonder to be enjoyed, but there is also a strong human impulse to impose order.  In an effort to understand, we measure, count, name, categorize, and catalogue.  It’s like a parent entering an adolescent’s messy room: socks and underwear in one drawer, shoes and sneakers lined up, games and puzzles on the shelf.


Today I want to talk a bit about the “wrack line,” that more or less continuous line of debris left on the beach by the previous high tide. The content of the wrack line can be meager and ordinary – just a few bits of seaweed – or overwhelming and dramatic, like the 40-foot carcass of a dead humpback whale that washed up at Newcomb Hollow several years ago. But if we only investigate the content of the wrack line, big or small, I think we miss the bigger question. We tend to ask what is this, but not why this now?

My Town

Jan 15, 2019
David Dunlap, "Building Provincetown"

You have your town, and I have mine. You love your town, and I love mine. It is late fall now, our summer visitors, have left for their true homes – left with sadness, with regret, but left nonetheless – with dreams of returning.

A Nantucket Dream Home

Jan 8, 2019
Mary Bergman


When you live 30 miles out to sea, many things get reused, redistributed and shifted around. I once heard an antique dealer on Nantucket say he’d sold the same scrimshawed whale’s tooth three separate times. The buyers kept departing, one way or another, but the antiques remained.

Walking with Dogs

Jan 1, 2019
Randy Jansen


Now I may just get myself in trouble here- with the Law, with my fellow citizens- but I will just come out and say it: I prefer my dogs off-leash.  

Getting to Great Point Light

Dec 18, 2018

Great Point Light is my white whale. The 70-foot-tall white concrete tower sits where Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic meet, towering high above a narrow strip of beach. Or so I’ve read. I have never made it all the way out there, to the northernmost tip of Nantucket.

The Importance of Swamps

Dec 11, 2018
Dennis Minsky


Provincetown is a geological afterthought, and everything from High Head in North Truro outward is composed of the leftovers from the rest of the Cape. 

Annie Spratt / unsplash


Today we opened the archives to replay one of our favorite essays from Robert Finch. In this piece, Bob talks about his bird feeder, birds, and the vulnerability of life.

Now Is the Season for Night Walking

Nov 27, 2018
Mary Bergman



Night comes earlier here that it does in almost any other part of the country. Sometimes, well, most of the time, my only opportunity to be outside for any good length of time is after the sun has already set. I have given up trying to race against the fading light, and instead given in to walking in the dark. 

A Plot of Land, A Group Effort

Nov 20, 2018
Dennis Minsky

It is November now; our incipient meadow is put to bed.  But I remember back a few weeks: the September sun was high in the cloudless sky - and hot.  My level back received the full effect of its rays, as I was on my hands and knees in a weedy field.  It could have been July or August, save for the cricket din all around me.


Last week I began to describe a walk I recently took on the pedestrian sidewalk that runs the length of Route 6 in Eastham – the only Cape town that has such a continuous walkway.  What struck me most, for the first couple of miles, was the prevalence of old houses on both sides of the highway. Most were Greek Revivals and old Capes, with one or two Federal era structures. I must have passed dozens of them, some hidden or screened by fences or vegetation, but most quite visible.

Here’s a Cape Cod factoid that you can use at parties during the holiday season: “What is the only town on Cape Cod that has a pedestrian sidewalk running continuously from one end of the town to the other? Think about that for a moment or two. Got an answer?

Last Swim

Oct 30, 2018
Mary Bergman

I have to accept that fall is here. The past couple of years I have tried, by sheer force of will, to extend summer to late October. Labor Day rolls around and all the shops have slashed their prices on bathing suits, towels, and flip flops. Columbus Day arrives and winter coats are in the windows of the shops in town that are still open.

Deer Season is Here

Oct 23, 2018
Nelson Sigelman

In October, my life on Martha’s Vineyard undergoes a seasonal transition that reflects changed outdoor priorities. It is a natural shift brought on by shorter days and cooling waters. Fishing season gives way to deer hunting season.