A Cape Cod Notebook | WCAI

A Cape Cod Notebook

Kerri Schmidt www.kerrischmidt.com/ampersand/

I remember the first time Kathy and I spent a couple of days in Euphoria, one of the dune shacks in the Provincelands managed by the Peaked Hill Trust. It was the last weekend in October and we arrived just at sunset. All the way out the light grew more and more intense, igniting the dune crests. A gibbous moon hung in the southern sky. The wind was stiff out of the northwest and growing stiffer. We dug the key out of its hiding-place and went inside.

lighthouseantiques.net / goo.gl/VTEBxY

Last week, talking about the Clay Pounds, I mentioned that, despite their dramatic appearance and the significant part they played in the Cape’s maritime history, relatively few people visit the Clay Pounds today.  The problem is one of access. 

The Clay Pounds are one of the few geological features on Cape Cod’s Outer Beach that have endured long enough to have acquired a name. Located just north of Highland Light in north Truro, the Clay Pounds comprise a 40-foot thick band of nearly pure blue clay. Nowhere else on the Cape does anything approach these massive sedimentary deposits.

Wellfleet Historical Society / www.wellfleethistoricalsociety.org

Paradise Valley is a glacial hollow set on the Wellfleet-Truro line. During the late 19th century it was a thriving community of a dozen or more houses, but when Wellfleet’s Herring River dike was built around 1908, the valley was cut off from navigable waters. The community gradually atrophied and was eventually abandoned by the 1920s.

Robert Finch

Sixteen years ago this fall, a month after the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers, my wife Kathy and I bought an old house in Squid Tickle, Newfoundland – a tiny village on the northeast coast of that rocky island. Since then we’ve spent most summers there, far from the raucous noise, pressing crowds, and increasingly scary traffic of Cape Cod’s high season.

Brian "Hrefna" S. / http://bit.ly/2y0dVfG

The other day I stopped for a dip cone at P.J.’s on Route 6 in Wellfleet. As is my habit, I took the cone and walked across the road up into the Duck Creek Cemetery, the old Congregational graveyard where most of the headstones are from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Saved by the Bell

Sep 5, 2017
YouTube bit.ly/2gAdlgT

Memory can play funny tricks.          

This year, for instance, is the centennial of my high school in Parkersburg, West Virginia. There were celebrations over Labor Day weekend, featuring, among other events, a concert by past and present members of the Parkersburg High School marching band.

Alecia Orsini

March, 1981. A large blue dragger, The Little Infant, is moored nearby on my side of the Harbor, which is deepest just inside the curve of the spit. The entire crew of seven or eight are standing in a line on her port side, shucking sea scallops and throwing the gurry over the rail to the raucous delight of the gulls swarming below on the surface of the water.

One moist evening last April, as I was driving past Pilgrim Lake on my way home from Provincetown, I became unusually aware of the great flashes of Highland Light, moving in quick spaced arcs from east to west. Its glow was intensified, magnified, by the haze in the air.

goo.gl/JqobbW / goo.gl/KxOKu

August, 2000. The other evening, we drove out to White Crest Beach—well named with its high, bare, white shoulder of a dune cresting the hill, and several foot trails creased into its flanks leading down to the shore and the surf.

After the Storm

Aug 8, 2017
Cape Cod National Seashore Park Service

When, along with hundreds of others, I arrived at a barricaded Coast Guard Beach the morning after the storm, the air was full of metaphors of war. The beach, people said, looked as though it had been strafed and bombed.

http://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/kh04mv08n

On March 29, 1984, I went out to Coast Guard Beach with a Boston television crew from Channel 5 to videotape a program about barrier beaches and how they cope with storms and erosion – part of their series on “Survival.” It was a cool, dry day, and the crew had set up on the parking lot overlooking the Eastham barrier beach, still recovering after it was smashed flat six years earlier by the “Great Storm of ’78.” I was interviewed by a friendly man with a boyish face.

The Ocean Provides

Jul 18, 2017
U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

May, 1979. I have been living alone for three days now in a cottage on the west shore of North Beach, a long and narrow barrier spit of low sand dunes and salt marsh lying a mile or so east of Chatham at the elbow of Cape Cod.

The Sands of Monomoy

Jul 11, 2017
Zachary Cava/USFWS / https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsnortheast/4622277760

August, 1977. I have been burned. I sit here in the cool morning shade of our oaks and I can feel my face burning, radiating the heat of yesterday’s sun, sun that glinted off emerald swells, bone- and shell-strewn sands, silvered flats. Was it only yesterday I was there? It seems a thousand days away.

byron cain bit.ly/2sDqXAL / bit.ly/1jNlqZo

The first time I ever saw the Outer Beach was in the spring of 1962—April, I think—when I was nineteen. My freshman roommate at Harvard was John Hagenbuckle, whose father ran one of the dozen-or-so sailing camps that dotted the inner shores of Pleasant Bay in those days.

pleasantpointinn / flickr

Last June, for my birthday, Kathy and I spent a week in an old cottage on a Maine lake. As Maine lakes go, this one was neither particularly large nor remote. It was about the size of the Cape’s largest ponds and only 20 minutes from Portland.

On Grief Delayed

Jun 20, 2017
mgstanton http://bit.ly/1VXzLse / http://bit.ly/OJZNiI

My father was a quiet man. He rarely asserted himself in a conversation. He was a quiet man, but he was a decisive one, who hardly ever consulted anyone else in making decisions. I remember as a child that every few years he would go out on a Saturday morning. When he came back he would toss a set of keys to my mother, his way of announcing to all of us that he had just bought a new car.

Laurel Wilkerson / USFWS / flickr

Earlier this week, coming back from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, I stopped at Gray’s Beach in Yarmouthport and walked out the long, straight, wooden weathered boardwalk that struts its way several hundred feet directly out onto the salt marsh. The beach itself is punctuated with “memorial benches,” which seem to have flourished since I was last here. There are at least a half-dozen now, so that one is always sitting on someone’s memory.

J J / WCAI

The thesaurus lists over 80 different words for green, more than any other color. But Robert Finch believes this may still not be enough. At a time of year when many are rhapsodizing the flowers, Bob contemplates the richness and variety of leaf tones that nature crowds into the season.

Robert Finch is taking some time off to write a new book. In his absence we're replaying some favorite essays. This week's essay originally aired in June, 2013.

Putneypics goo.gl/kL6JlL / goo.gl/uk4xos

A walk through Beebe Woods leads Robert Finch down to the beach looking west across Buzzard's Bay and prompts today's Cape Cod Notebook.

Wellfleet Historical Society

Explaining nature to children is different from speaking to adults about science.  In this Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch remembers showing school children a herring run, and laments the restraint that now overlays so much of our experience of science.

Alberto_VO5 goo.gl/8v2Qqw / goo.gl/uk4xos

Fruit tree blossoms, laughing gulls, and least terns—the outbursts of the Cape's perennially late spring surround us, and Robert Finch celebrates this welcome return in this week's Cape Cod Notebook.

Brad Sims goo.gl/lGeDXb / goo.gl/lrxVf4

A dead bird along an abandoned railroad bed prompts nature writer Robert Finch to examine more closely the questions of its hidden beauty.

Two Shores, Two Lives

May 2, 2017
Joanna Vaughan / flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Last night, driving home from a movie in Dennis, I stopped at Linnell Landing on the Brewster shore to see if I could still see the Provincetown Monument from there. Instead, I saw my life, as it was, and as it is.

Harvesting Bog Eggs

Apr 25, 2017
Pete and Noe Woods / flickr

In late March the shallow, tea-colored waters in the bog behind our house become full of small, round, gelatinous clumps of frog and salamander eggs stuck to submerged or floating objects. One spring I thought of collecting some of these egg masses and watching how they might develop. At the time I knew little about what I was doing and next to nothing about the different types of eggs I found there or what they might develop into. Whatever I learned, I learned afterward. I suppose that is the motto of the amateur naturalist: Collect now, identify later.

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