Robert Finch

Robert Finch is a nature writer living in Wellfleet. 'A Cape Cod Notebook' won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

Robert Finch has lived on and written about Cape Cod for forty years. He is the author of six collections of essays, most recently "The Iambics of Newfoundland" (Counterpoint Press), and co-editor of "The Norton Book of Nature Writing."

His essays can be heard on WCAI every Tuesday at 8:30am and 5:45pm.

02420 / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This morning I drove out to the small parking area between Gull and Higgins Ponds with our black poodle Sam. I don’t usually try to go there in the summer, as parking is very limited, but that morning I was the only one there. It was a lovely, brilliant October day, temps in the high 60s, the sun so bright and broken on the surfaces of the ponds that it hurt my eyes just to look at it.

Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism / flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

There are actual, physical natural events, and then there are what I call “conceptual natural events,” and sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. The event I’m thinking about was the so-called “supermoon” – the full moon that occurred at the lunar perigee – that is, the position in its orbit when the moon passes closest to earth.

Massachusetts Office of Tourism / flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Most people are familiar with the phrase “déjà vu.”  In fact, I’d guess that most people have experienced it at one time or another. Basically, “déjà vu” is defined as “the illusion or sensation of having already experienced something that is actually being experienced for the first time.”

Tom Burke / flickr / CC2.0

Beneath Uncle Tim’s bridge, thousands of hermit crabs crawl across the mudflats like herds of miniature wildebeests migrating across a wet savannah. The sluggish, viscous tide begins to flow slowly in, filling up the lower channels, snaking its way beneath the planks and around the algae-covered pilings of the bridge, carrying nutrients into the upper reaches of the marsh. 

Dendroica cerulea / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Labor Day was late this year, but even last week there was a touch of fall in the air. In town there was a sense of the last dance: people lined up at the ATMs outside the bank, a steady stream of cars at the dump over the weekend. On Route 6, the highway traffic, like the migrating shorebirds, all heading south.

Boston Public Library / flickr / CC2.0

I walked up Higgins Hollow in North Truro this morning, a fine old crease of a road tucked away in a glacial valley between two large hills. On my left I passed an old house with a large front porch where a piece of literary history took place in 1920.  That summer the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was vacationing there with her family. 

Jim Mullhaupt / flickr /

At one of the creek bends, I climbed the steep, pocked mud bank up onto the salt marsh. Several yards from the edge was a small, cleared depression, one of the so-called “salt pans” where hundreds of fiddler crabs were gathered. I have always thought of fiddlers as homebodies, sticking near their burrows on the banks or on the mud flats, but here there were no holes visible, and, sensing me, they began to disperse with a kind of desperate confusion.

William Rogers / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I had spent the afternoon walking a barrier beach on the bay side of Eastham, casually watching the shorebirds flock and feed: yellowlegs, semi-pals, black-bellied plovers, ring-necks, and various small sandpipers. Their year’s breeding already finished on the muskeg and tundra of the high North, they were working their way leisurely south, passion spent, the season now all downhill.

m01229 / flickr

For one who’s lived within a few miles of the bay and ocean beaches for more than forty years, I’ve spent very little time swimming in salt water. Given the choice, I will almost always opt to go into a freshwater pond.

Martin LaBar / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Picking blackberries on Cape Cod in August can be both an art and a ritual. And then there is the individual, almost moral choice each berry presents: just how ripe is ripe enough?