Stony Brook Road on Cape Cod

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Many years ago I read “The Run” by John Hay.  It’s about the alewives run on Stony Brook in Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  We visited the stream along the old Grist mill soon after reading the book.  This year after a pre-Cape re-reading of “The Primal Place” by Robert Finch, we did a Brewster explore, including Stony Brook.  Finch lived on the Stony Brook Road near the Red Top cemetery for many years when he worked in the Cape Cod Natural History Museum on Route 6A.  Hay was a founder of the Museum.   I was just finishing Finch’s 2017 book, “The Outer Beach: a thousand-mile walk on Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore.”  I would need more Cape reading.  So we stopped in the Brewster bookstore.

I purchased two books.  “The Lost Hero: Captain Asa Eldridge and the Maritime  trade that shaped America” by Vincent Miles.  Eldridge was from Yarmouth, south of Brewster and Stony Brook.  The other book was the real surprise, “The Prophet of Dry Hill: lessons from a life in nature” (2005), by David Gessner. When I looked at Gessner’s books, I recognized and remembered reading  “Soaring with Fidel: an osprey odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba” (2008).

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“Dry Hill” it turns out was/is  on Stony Brook Road, near Red Top cemetery.  Small world.  The prophet was John Hay of “the run.”  He wrote over a dozen books, in his “writing shack” above a plain house on Dry Hill, a property he bought after World War II.  Hay was drawn to Cape Cod, Brewster and Stony Brook Road because the author Conrad Aiken lived there.  Hay worshiped Aiken.  I’ve never read any of his writings which include novels, essays and poetry.  I don’t think Aiken wrote directly about Cape Cod as Hay, Finch and Gessner did.  But all seemed to follow in a tradition of Cape Nature writing started by Henry David Thoreau “Cape Cod” and Henry Beston “The Outermost House.”

Gessner, an aspiring writer rented a house in Brewster overlooking Cape Cod Bay on Stephen Phillips Road.  It’s not far from the Sesuit Harbor Cafe where Diane and I had lunch the day of our Brewster explore.  The wait was too long, the picnic tables seem to be set in a dusty parking lot but the seafood was fantastic.  My lobster roll hosted an entire lobster and Diane’s grilled tuna sandwich was the best tuna she’s ever tasted.  Even the fries were tasty.

It’s the late 1990s.  Gessner fantasizes about writing a biography about John Hay.  It never happens; they become friends.  He eventually writes about the friendship. He braves the dream and calls Hay.  He was gracious and invited David to visit Dry Hill.  For about a year, Gessner visits John and his wife, Kristi.  Some days they walk around the property.  They visit the alewives run at the mill.  They drive to the beach, walk, watch birds, terns are John’s speciality,  they soak in the ocean.  John picks various Cape plants inhaling the smell of each.  They walk the dog.  Most of all, they talk.

John has a bit of the curmudgeon about him.  Since he purchased Dry Hill in 1946, the Cape has become too crowded.  Too many people, too many cars, too many trophy homes. John shares his life’s philosophy with David.  It includes “live simply so others can live.”  But central is his relationship with nature and the world.  John discovered this immersion in nature when he observed and wrote about the alewives.  Their lives and man’s life wasn’t a straight line but moved in circles.   Cycles. Seasons.  Somehow John wants to move out of self into, to be part of the natural world.  He wants space, openness, to be rooted in the land.  His tenure on Dry Hill is about sixty years. With Gessner he enjoys remembering the past.  His days and cocktail evenings with Aiken, his mentor?   I understand but I’ll need to re-read “The Prophet of Dry Hill.”

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I identified with John and Kristi’s aging limitations.  Physically and mentally it gets difficult.  A short walk becomes a challenge.  Can I make it uphill.  I’ve accepted that this morning I didn’t go on the kayak trip, three hours, up and down was too much.  And riding a bike, don’t think so.  But I can walk, sit on the beach, enjoy the sun, the surf and even today’s rain.

 

“The Prophet of Dry Hill” ends when John and Kristi move permanently to Maine.  David accepts a job at a southern university.  His bayside rental is sold and the new owners will tear it down, one old Cape house, replacing it with a bigger, newer, John would be appalled.

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I need to reread “The Run.”  And I have a copy of John Hay’s “The Great Beach.”  Maybe Thoreau and Beston.  But most of all I need to follow John’s footsteps on the beach, to the birds, the surf, the peepers in the woods,  to become one with the natural world.  The sands are shifting.  Where am I?

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Cape Cod’s Oldest Shipwreck

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The shoals off Orleans on Cape Cod where we’ve rented for the past six years is often referred to as the “graveyard of the Atlantic.”  Thousands of ships have run aground or sank there.  Another Atlantic graveyard is off the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  I also remember the shoals off Nantucket labeled “graveyard of the Atlantic.”  The Andrea Doria, an Italian ocean liner collided with the MS Stockholm in 1956 sunk there.  Forty-six people died.  Remains from the ship were displayed in the historic life saving station museum across the street from our Nantucket rental.

My first Cape Cod book this season was “Cape Cod’s Oldest Shipwreck: the desperate crossing of the Sparrow-Hawk,” by Marc C. Wilkins.  A History Press imprint, so I wasn’t expecting a lot.  They tend to be written by amateurs.  But it was a good story. The Sparrow-Hawk (named after a Cape family, Sparrow, that discovered it’s remains, we don’t really know the ship’s name) left England in 1626.  Bound for Virginia, John Fells and John Sibsey shipped off with a boatload of Irish servants/workers to make a fortune in tobacco culture. Their ship was only about 50 feet.  The Captain’s name was Johnson.  Planning was not the best.  There were too few provisions and water, especially since they were sailing the northern route in winter.  The year was 1626.

Captain Johnson was sick.  The ship (like the Mayflower) approached Cape Cod rather than Virginia.  In rough water they ran aground at Nauset between Chatham and Orleans.  Not far from our Orleans rental.  The crew freed the ship but they were grounded a second time and the ship was lost.  William Bradford of Plymouth Plantation rescued them and it is through his writing that we know something of their fate.

The rough “rowdy bunch” of Irish did not get along with the pious Puritans.  John Fells also complicated their relationship when he got his maid pregnant.  In 1627 Bradford arranged for two barks to take the group to Jamestown, Virginia.  It seems Fells and Sibsey did become involved in the tobacco trade.  Their ship, later christened “Sparrow-Hawk” was covered by the shifting sands of the Cape’s “graveyard.”

 

The “old shippe” appeared briefly in 1782 and then it wasn’t seen again until 1863 when the bones of the Sparrow-Hawk surfaced.  A local Amos Otis made drawings of of the remains.  Many Cape Codders took souvenirs from the wreck.  There was considerable interest in this “oldest shipwreck.”  In 1865, the remains were moved and displayed in Boston Commons.  Despite its history and symbolism, the Sparrow-Hawk was sold and put in storage in Providence, R.I.  Eventually the Massachusetts Historical Society gave the remains to the Pilgrim Society of Plymouth, Massachusetts.   In 2005 it returned briefly to the Cape to be displayed in the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis.  We could have viewed the Sparrow- Hawk then.  The author Wilkins and others studied the remains in an attempt to understand the construction and history of the ship.

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The Sparrow-Hawk was returned to storage in Plymouth until recently when some Swedish scientist-historians have unpacked the remains and are attempting to date the timbers and confirm the “legend” surrounding the ship.  Was she the 1626 wreck that Bradford wrote about?  Is she the “oldest wreck” along our Atlantic coast?  Did she transport a boatload of Irish farmers and English gentlemen to Cape Cod in search of the American dream?  History is always questions.

Last week I sat on the beach at Pleasant Bay.  I gazed across at marshlands, out to the Atlantic and thought about the story and the skeleton of the Sparrow-Hawk.  A fascinating trace of history.  A voyage that brought some of the earliest settlers to these shores nearly 400 years ago.  Amazing.  Someday we’ll get to Plymouth to view the Sparrow-Hawk.

 

 

 

 

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The Watch at Peaked Hill

When I travel, I like to read about the people and places associated with my destination.  When in Rome; read about the Romans.  This year while on Cape Cod, I read several books.  The first was “On Whale Island: a place I never meant to leave,” by Daniel Hays.  It’s a memoir about building and living in an isolated house in Nova Scotia for a year.  A bit of Walden?  The second was “The Last Lobster: boom or bust for Maine’s greatest fishery,” by Christopher White.  White lives in Stonington and explores the lobster fishery.  Neither of these is about Cape Cod but they are about the sea and perfect Cape reading.  (See my posts “Getting Away”and “The Lobstah will Come.)

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The third book was a Cape Cod memoir, “The Watch at Peaked Hill: Outer Cape Cod shack life, 1953-2003,” by Josephine Breen Del Deo.  I bought this on a previous trip, but didn’t get to read it.  Started it this trip and finished it yesterday.   Josephine, her husband, Salvatore, two children and eventually grandchildren summer in a shack owned by Frenchie, an actress drawn to Proviencetown and the dunes.  Josephine is a philosopher writer; Salvatore is a painter.

 

In the 1960s they and most other dune shack residents support the federal government’s  creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  They are assured they will have rights to the shacks for themselves and posterity. But almost immediately after the Seashore is created the National Park Service takes an unfavorable view of the shacks.  They are evidence of humans on the dunes.  When a few shack dwellers die; the Park Service burn or tear down their shacks.  Much of the book is the record of preservationists attempt to save the shacks; and the right of the owners to live in them.

There are meetings, reports, court cases, testimony, and it drags on for decades.  Josephine uses journal entries, hers and others, to make the dry legal fight personal.  I found it interesting that even though the shacks were eligible for  National Historic designation, they were not saved.  The Park Service legalize argued the legislation for the Seashore protected “improved structures.”  Since the shacks had no improvements they weren’t protected.  Preservationists argued it wasn’t just the protection of a structure but a “way of life.”

And “way of life”is the heart of “Peaked Hill.” Del Deo writes beautifully about the dunes, the ocean, grasses, sand, swallows, storms, fish.  She draws strength, sustenance, excitement, joy from the landscape.  She writes poetry and prose.  Salvatore paints.  They grill sea bass; have a glass of wine at sunset.  She reflects on the famous (Eugene O’Neill) and the unknown who have lived in the shacks.  I want to extract her reflections, allow them sink into my consciousness.

In the past when I’ve seen private property intrude into parks, national or state, I’ve thought, hope they can be bought out.  I’m not so sure now.  Some of the Proviencetown shacks are now owned by non profit groups that rent them.  Sounds good.  But Del Deo argues a weekly rental is not the same as generations passing the dune shack life to the next generation.  A few are still owned by families.

This year Diane and I spent a day on the Race Point beach. It’s not far from many of the shacks, the area of the extant Peaked Hill life saving station. Wouldn’t it be great to rent a shack.  To experience a totally unique way of life.  At the least, next  year we might take Art’s Dune tour, which goes by the shacks.  I also just discovered that biplane rides over the dunes can be charted at the Proviencetown airport.  To join if only for moments Del Deos, O’Neill, Thoreau, Beston And all those that have lived life on the Cape Cod, Provincetown dunes.

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Home

 

A week ago we returned from two weeks on Cape Cod.  As much as I enjoy travel, returning home is always a good feeling. My granddaughter, Viv, said as much, she didn’t want to leave the Cape but would be glad to be home.  Her brother, Eli, who came to the Cape after a month at Camp Pinemere in the Poconos said, “I’ll be glad to sleep in my oun bed.”

For many, home provides warmth, comfort, reassurance, security.  Home-made is good, tasty.  Home cooked is comfort food.  Home sweet home.  There’s no place like home. Home is where the heart is.  OK, maybe smaltzy; straight out of Hallmark.  But I decided to look up some additional  “home” quotes.  A few I liked:  “A house is made of bricks and beams. A home is made of hopes and dreams.”  “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”  “Home is where one starts from.” –T.S. Eliot.

 

Coming home. I rembered the summer of 1975 we spent it in Bethel, ME with Garret and Melody Bonnema who had moved from Bristol and opened a pottery studio.  The area was beautiful.  Several times a week we hiked in the White Mountains.  I spent a week doing photography on a Maine island.  We had a fantastic time.  But when we returned to Bucks County we commented on how good it felt being home.  For me we were actually living in my first home — the apartment in Bristol where I grew up.

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Bristol made me a small town person.  Main Street, although in Bristol it was Mill Street.  Four blocks of a classic commercial district; we lived in a large apartment over stores owned and rented by my grandfather.  My father worked in a family business, Profy’s  GE appliances, across the street. We shopped in town, on the street. Walked to school, library and church. Total small town.  Bristol recently has been enjoying a type of Renaissance, renewed interest in the waterfront, local businesses, festivals, and the relationships that make it a “hometown.”

 

Diane and I have had several homes. If I grew up grew up in Bristol, Diane was from Brewster later Carmel, her Dad’s business was in Croton Falls.  All small towns in NY. Our first home together was a third story apartment, Commonwealth Avenue, Cleveland Circle, about two miles from Boston College in Newton, MA.  The Peace Corps was an interlude.  We returned to Bristol, rented a house on Cedar Street.  I thought Tom Wolfe was right, “you can’t go home again.” And here we were in Bristol.  We soon moved to a Yardley canal side house that belonged to Sid Cadwallader who we met at Yardley Friends Meeting.  This was more us.  But not for long.  After a year we moved to Old York Road outside of downtown New Hope.  We rented again, but this time sharing the house with John and Barbara Paglione.  Back to the earth, communes, well, an intentional two couple community.  We had a huge garden, John and I worked on farms in the summer.  We spent some time looking to buy a home together.

John decided to go to graduate school (Ann Arbor). Our New Hope home broke up.  Diane and I began looking for a house; in the interim we returned to my parents.  In the summer of 1976 we went to England telling my father to bid/ buy a house coming up for sale.  On our return, we discovered he had secured the house but, Mom was acting strange. She wanted out of the apartment; she wanted a real home.  I told my father, you buy it.  His condition was that  we would live in the family apartment.  We did.  For about a year.  A strange year.  Jenny was born.  Her first home was my childhood home.  But the local movie theatre had become an adult gay movie house.  Fights erupted between gays and straights every weekend.  “Diane it wasn’t like this when I was growing up.”  But the good news: the Grundy Foundation bought the theatre and created a legitimate local theatre.  My hometown had a renaissance         Going home again, Tom Wolfe. But we moved.  We purchased this time.

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Our new home was 121 N. Delaware Avenue in Yardley Borough, River Road in front,  the canal behind us, across a small back street and empty lot.  “Location, location, location,” they say.  We’re small town people; we’ve been here 40 years. The house was a vacation cottage.  Quite small, the interior walls and ceiling were covered in tongue in groove boards, stained.  In the early 80s we decided 121 was too small.  But mortgage interest rates were 18%. We decided on an addition.  Construction proceeded for several years, my father and I doing the finishing after the shell was built.  We brought Cordiscos from Bristol for the construction.

We knew our home was in the flood plain (we paid insurance).  Our renovations revealed mud and wracked windows.  But we never thought a lot about flooding.  Ocassionally the river rose, even flooded sections of river road, came up a bit in our backyard. Until 2004, 2005,and 2006.  Although we never took first floor water, the basement flooded, we evacuated, and lost things, electric, heating system damage.  A mess.  In 2007 we decided to elevate rather than trying to sell at a loss.  Cost was $40,000, about the same as the original cost.

Now retired in our 70s, we are in our home.  But the steps seem endless, especially when we have a car filled with grocery bags.  Maybe we’ll move, it’s on the “to do” retirement list but 121 has and still is home.

 

Since returning from Cape Cod, I’ve been thinking about what makes a house, an apartment, condo, cottage, or shack a “home.”  Somehow it’s become part of us or we’ve become part of it.  I’m, we’re intertwined, connected to 121.  Better or worse.

There are memories:  Jenny playing, growing up with a neighborhood friend Katie.  Jen was a redhead; Katie was blonde.   Such fun strolling them into Yardley along the canal.  Jenny’s high school graduation picnic with our friends and relatives.  Dinners, and parties, in the unfinished addition.  Pickled river herring; Canal walks.  Cold days in front of our Vermont casting woodstove.  Involvement in hometown events, organizations and politics.   Even the floods hold many memories. Neighborhood spirit.

 

Homes are filled with objects that reflect and recall the past.  From the family room chair where I sit, I see the balsa wood boat, a gift from my parents on trip visiting Marylee in WA state.  There are Mercer tiles, a David Sears “Shad” painting,, a reading stand crafted by Rodney Hamilton, a wooden chest with the date of Lincoln’s assassination painted on the under side of the top, an old school desk (filled with daily journals) purchased at a Brown Brothers auction, pottery, glass, tiles, prints and paintings from many craft shows. A small ceramic donkey and cart planter that sat in my grandfather’s kitchen.  A wall clock my father constructed; a Mike Holman painting.  And this is only one room.

 

Since I’ve  been home from the Cape I’ve enjoyed garden harvests.  So many beautiful tomatoes this year; lots of peppers.  Fall seedlings are coming up.   Despite the high 90 temperatures, I’ve walked on the canal towpath.  I’ve enjoyed cooking in my kitchen; sitting, reading in my recliner; sleeping in my bed.  I’m home. I have objects and memories that sustain.  Travel is great, interesting, exciting, eye opening, but yes, you can go home, there is no place like it.

 

 

 

 

 

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“The lobstah will come”

 

Last night after an eco- boat ride around Barnstable harbor, Sandy Neck and the marshes, we decided on dinner at Osterville Fish Too.  It’s a small dockside fish market, with take out and picnic tables.  Diane and I discovered it on the way home after several days on Nantucket (a post Cape trip).  At the time I had swordfish and commented how much better it was than swordfish I had in a fancy, expensive Nantucket restaurant.

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But last night, I went for the boiled lobster with fries and slaw.  I sign priced 1 1/4 lb. at $13.00 /lb.  My platter was $22.  Although I struggled a bit with cracking and spilled the melted butter in the dish, the lobster was fantastic.  I had lobster rolls twice on this trip, at the Guilford Lobster Pound in CN and another at Young’s, Rock Harbor, outside Orleans.  Guilford uses drawn butter; Young’s mayonnaise.  I like both but favor butter.  Most years we have a lobster feast at the house but wasn’t sure it would happen with so few days left.  If it does, I won’t complain.

 

I had my first lobster on a trip to Maine in the early 1970s.  I don’t recall where we stayed or for how long, but I remember stopping at a roadside stand.  Lobster, corn on the cob and a baked potatoe.  I was hooked, or maybe trapped is the better term.  Another memorable lobster experience was at a private party in Point Pleasant, PA.  The lobster was flown in from ME, one of the hosts, a lawyer was a pilot.  I think I had three lobsters that night.

 

But probably the best lobster I’ve had was two years ago on Mantinicus Island off Rockland, ME.  Mantinicus is a lobsterman/family Island.  We were visiting friends, David and Judy Sears.  They had ordered lobsters from a lobsterman friend who delivered them to the kitchen door when his boat came in.  Can’t get them fresher.  And as much as you wanted.  Dave has been painting on  the island, the map (left) and stones are examples of his work.

We ocassionally buy lobster in Yardley.  Have even tried the small frozen ones, forget where they are from.  But they never come up to the tenderness and taste of Maine lobsters boiled and eaten in New England.

 

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I just finished reading “The Last Lobster: boom or bust for Maine’s greatest fishery” (2018) by Christopher White.  Read a review and ordered it to read while on the Cape.  Several years ago, I read “Skipjack: the story of America’s last oystermen” (2011) also by White.  Soon afterwards we traveled to Deal Island in MD to see some of the last operating Skipjacks.  We found them including one being restored, it may have been the Lady Katie or Kathryn.  Need to check my journal or photographs.  There is The Last Skipjack Project which promotes restoration and preservation of the boats.

White who is from the Chesapeake turned his eye to lobsters, Maine lobsters to be specific.  His opening chapters are an interesting tour of the culture of the Maine coast.  The lobster fishery has been changing.  Many of the classic, traditional, quaint, picturesque lobster villages have been gentrified. Property prices rise; lobstermen families are pushed back from the waterfront.  Check where lobster traps are stacked.  Fancy restaurants and shops mushroom in the downtown.  Tourists fill the streets.  The traditional character becomes an attraction, a postcard image.

 

 

There are other forces of change.  Warmer waters have pushed the lobster north.  Decades ago there were lobster in Long Island Sound.  They are gone, north; the fishery in CN and NY collapsed. Harvest is limited in Cape Cod waters.  White explains how the center of the lobster industry has crept north.  For his research, he wants to settle in a “traditional” town with an active fishery.  He tours the coast. Some towns are familiar to me, in the south, Boothbay Harbor, Port Clyde, and  Searsport.  Others furthur north, Beal and Cutler are places I’ve never visited.  Hopefully in October we will visit the Sears (they have a winter home in Cushing) and we’ll do a lobster village tour.

 

White decides to settle into Stonington on Deer Island, south of Acadia and Bar Harbor, off the Blue Hill peninsula, east of Penobscot Bay in what’s known as the Down East area.  Furthur out are the Isle Au Haut and Vinalhaven Islands.  Mantinicus Island where the Sears summer is even farther southeast.  All of this area is prime, is the current center of the lobster fishery.  At least it was, annually global warming pushes lobster furthur north.  Eventually White predicts American lobster men may be in deadly competition with Canadians.

Diane and I first visited this area with John and Barbara Paglione in the early 1970s.  I had read “The Maple Syrup Book” and “Living the Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing. Scott, an economist was fired from University of Pennsylvania for communist leanings.  He and Helen began homesteading in Vermont in the 1930s.  When the ski industry transformed VT mountains, they moved to the Blue Hill village of Harborside.

 

Scott was in his 90s when we visited, building a new stone house.  We spent an afternoon touring the property, talking, helping to stack firewood and gather seaweed for fertilizer.  The Nearings had become gurus of the back to the earth movement and their homestead was a Mecca.  About ten years ago we were back on the Blue Hill pensiula, we drove to the Nearings, now The Good Life Center, but staff were all at the local festival, where our son-in-laws band, Cabin Dogs was playing.  A house on the property is rented; would be a historic rental for us.  Did we eat lobster or either or both trips.  Maybe.  (More about traveling in ME, checkout my blog, Maine on my Mind.)

 

White and his companion settle into the Stonington community.  They meet lobstermen and their families.  Go out on boats.  Haul traps and document their experience.  They eat lobster and try to learn about the boom several years ago.  The catch and price rose.  Will it last or will the bubble bust. I found it interesting that so many lobstersvwere shipped to Asia, especially China.  Trumps recent tariff policies may have dented that market.

 

I won’t try to repeat the arguments, concerns, and theories about the boom and bust. Time will tell.  It seems lobster catches have gone down in the past few years.  White’s “The Last Lobster”  is an interesting read.  He covers the life of the lobster, the ins and outs of the fishery, including family holdings, competition, marketing, distribution, the boom smiles and bust scowles.  His reporter/journalist style leads him to meet people.  He frequently becomes a friend of the family.  And it seems, so do we.  White (and his readers) experience everyday life;  the community rituals and festivals.   I’ve read other books about lobster and Maine but I recommend White.  Not only do I  want to eat lobster, I want to explore the culture.  I’m hoping it’s not the last lobster. Most lobstermen are confident, “the lobstah will come.”

Some photographs mine; some from the Internet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Beach

 

What are you memories of the beach?   Where did you go?  Where do you go now?  We are drawn to water; we are drawn to beaches.  The intersection of land and water.

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Growing up outside of Philadelphia (as I did), “going to the beach”  meant the Jersey shore, the Atlantic Ocean and bay.   For Philadelphians that may have been Atlantic City or Wildwood.  Bristol people went to Long Beach Island, for my family, specifically Beach Haven.  There are many other towns on LBI, and many more along the Jersey shore from  New York, south to Cape May.  Communities, neighborhoods, families, we find our favorite. Jersey beaches can have slight differences; and Jersey beaches can be quite different from beaches north in New England or in the South.

Beaches on oceans, bays, rivers, ponds, marshes.  Some beaches are smooth, flat, light sand; some are steep sloped, with high dunes; some are muddy; some rocky.  Some beaches have surfer waves; some have none.  Seaweed?  Beach grass?  Shore birds? Seals? Are there boats off shore?  In common is that connection of land and sea.  Like the moon and tides; we are drawn to the beach, the waters edge.

 

How many people are on the beach?  What are they doing?  Along the ocean and bays, many sit under colorful umbrellas blocking the sun.  Beach chairs or beach blanket. For the past few years I’ve been useing a higher director’s chair.  Suntan lotion.  Sometimes bug spray.  Ocean beaches have an anatomy, dunes, wrack, berm, breakers, trough.  Many hours can be spent, sitting, looking into the horizon, reflecting, dreaming.

For young kids, the beach is usually buckets, shovels, and other toys.  Sand, more sand, dredging rivers, building castles.  As I kid I remember enjoying burying each other in sand.  Have a catch; pass a football.   My grandson has spike ball — a net and ball game for several to compete.  Maybe volleyball. There are boogie boards and blow up floats.  In the 1950s, we had flat rafts.  Today there is a wider range, my grand daughter got a huge pink floating flamingo this year.  If the ocean waves are big enough there may be surfers.

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Which do you like better ocean or bay?  Ocean beaches usually have bigger waves.  Sometimes a swift under tow.  “Beware of rip tides”  Maybe sharks.  Bays are usually shallow, gentler. Rivers and marshes offer totally different environments.  On Cape Cod there are many kettle ponds. Great for swimming, boating, some with docks.

There are beaches known as being good for birding.  On Nantucket we had several we visited with binoculars and scope.  Many shore birds are big, easily identified, fun to watch.  Some fish, ocean casting, bay, pond, river fishing.  Grandson Eli has caught Bass on Pilgrim Lake where we’ve stayed on the Cape  (they were delicious) and has done some morning ocean casting.  I have been considering buying a bay or ocean pole but haven’t acted yet.

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For some, like my Washington state sister, Marylee, a beach is a place to launch a kayak.  Not many days pass between her bay or ocean kayak trips.  She has two beautiful, hand made wooden kayaks.  The first year of retirement I bought a small L.L. Bean kayak, to replace or add to a very tiny green one we always took to Nantucket.  We bring it to the Cape and use on the Lake or Pond.  Since my surgery it’s not been easy getting in and out but there is still the draw to be on the water.  This year everyone except me took a guided kayak trip in Nauset Marsh.  Today we’ll take an eco-tour boat to a sand bar, the kids will scavenge sea life, small fish, crabs, shellfish.  Always fun to watch them and see what the sea has to offer.

When we go to the beach we can cross into the water wading or swimming.  We can enjoy the rush of ocean waves; or the calm of a bay.  The grandkids always enjoy swimming on one of the Capes kettle ponds.  Growing up in Bristol, PA, the 1950s-60s, I swam in the Delaware river, Maple Beach was one destination.  Recently a friend posted a picture on Facebook of kids jumping off a river piling near the Bristol Wharf.  Some swam across the river to beaches on Burlington Island.

 

Some love the beach during the day with the full sun.  That can be too hot for me.  I’d prefer a shady porch with a water view.  Some of my most memorable beach experiences have been early morning or evening walks? Walking and photographing in the sunrise and sunset.  It might be Long Beach Island, the Chesapeake, Nantucket or Cape Cod.  A favorite is the rocky coast of Maine, or the drift wood beaches in Oregon and Washington,  again walking, with a camera, tidal pools filled with sea life.

Although there are many beach experiences etched in my memory, one of the best was a trip with my brother-in-law Norval to Neah Bay, in the northern tip of Washington state.  We left in the dark and arrived on the shore of the bay before sunrise.  As the sun came up we walked on the beach, the fog was thick and for a time we couldn’t see anything.  Then slowly like a curtain the fog began to lift, as we looked out onto the ocean, immense sea stacks began to emerge.  Crazy towers of land left from erosion.  Where the sea and land meet.  In full sun we continued down the beach, an eagle flew directly overhead.  Seemed we could reach out and touch it. The tidal pools were alive with seaweed, small fish, crabs, urchins and starfish.  An amazing beautiful morning.

When I wake early many mornings but don’t want to get up, I day dream about sitting or walking on a beach.  My beach memories wash over me like waves.  And I give thanks for the edge.

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Some photographs from the Internet; others mine from Cape Cod, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What makes Cape Cod special?

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Countries, geographic areas, cities, towns, even neighborhoods have a special local character.  Writers may reference local color.  Mention lobster; think Maine.  Blue crabs; Chesapeake Bay.  Philadelphia is known for its steak sandwiches; Georgia for peaches.  Trancendentalism, must be Concord, MA.  Rip Van Winkle, the Hudson Valley, NY.  Whales: Nantucket or maybe Bedford, MA;  alligators, the Florida Everglades.

Since I’m spending time on Cape Cod, I’ve been thinking, “what makes Cape Cod special?”  What places, objects, words characterize, symbolize Cape Cod?

 

Cape Cod is definately nautical.  Salty.  Breezy.  Ocean waves (I recently read,  “my memories come in waves”). The Cape is sandy beaches, marshes along the bay, high– very high — sand dunes and “kettle ponds” left behind by retreating glaciers.    Sail boats, kayaks, Boston Whalers.  Lighthouses (20 of them), the first on the Cape was Highland (1850s),  now part of the National Seashore (1960s).

There are scallops, clams, and, yes, lobster — its delicious in a traditional roll.  Cod once schooled off shore but have moved North, but striped bass, flounder, mackeral, and tuna are still caught locally. Wellfleet oysters are well known.  Corn, tomatoes and cranberries can be local.

There is the typical Cape Cod house architecture.  Gray cedar shakes, white trim, a long sloped roof.  Flowers in the garden, hydrangea especially.   Years ago we took an architectural walk on Nantucket.  The guide joked that building codes had created a “Disney” effect to local architecture.  I read in “Country Living,”

“Though it was originally developed by colonists from England, today the Cape is perhaps the most quintessentially American of all architectural styles. It conjures up feelings of warmth, coziness and nostalgia, and for good reason—the style has been most popular during the times in which we, as a country, were desperately seeking a sense of “home. The earliest capes in America were built in small New England towns during the time of American colonization, when the country was first developing an identity. Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, the Cape experienced a resurgence in popularity that quickly spread throughout suburbs nationwide—and thus the style is associated with the serenity, regularity and strong family values that defined the post-war years.”

The last sentence about resurgence reminds me:  My parents came to the Cape for their honeymoon in 1946.  Father bought Bayberry candles to resell in his Bristol, Pa store.  No one bought them.  He would joke, “Bristol wasn’t ready.” I don’t know if they still sell Bayberry candles on the Cape. I think Yankee Candles in Hayannis.

Images of the Cape landscape are dominated by the immense sand dunes in the National Seashore, Eastham to Provincetown.  We can thank President Jack Kennedy for preserving that section of the Cape.   Think Cape, think beaches, they are on the Bay side and Ocean side. First Encounter on the Bay is where the Pilgrims first encountered natives.  And there are marshes, Nauset Marsh is special.  There are also the kettle ponds, created by melting ice blocks during the ice age.  Great swimming holes.  The glaciers were also responsible for the dunes.  Although the shoreline dominates there are forested areas — mature pine and oak are common.

The Cape is a mix of villages/towns.  Each has a unique character.  The names flow, Sandwich, Mashpee, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Barnstable, Brewster, Chatham.  Hyannis is probably the most famous, the Kennedy compound, the ferry to Nantucket.  Orleans is midway at the elbow.  Then Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and finally Provincetown.  About ten towns host a summer baseball league (since the late 1800s).  College players spend the summer, coach young kids, and are scouted.  Many towns sponsor farmer’s markets and outdoor band concerts.

Various authors are associated with and symbolize the Cape Cod.  Eugene O Neil wrote and produced in Providencetown.  Henry David Thoreau visited and wrote a memoir, “Cape Cod.” And of course, Henry Beston immortalized the Cape in his Beach journal, “The Outermost House.”  I must include “House at Nauset Beach” by Wyman Richardson and Robert Finch and John Hay’s “The Great Beach.”

Jack Kennedy on Cape Cod: “No two summers on Cape Cod are quite the same.”  Maybe that makes it special.

Some photographs from internet; some I shot.

 

 

 

 

 

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