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.

Marcy Leigh / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I went out to Marconi Beach yesterday to see what it might have to say. At some times and places, where the bluffs are relatively low, say 30 or 40 feet, as they are here, and the tide fairly far out, as it was then, it’s the beach, in all its wide expanse, that takes precedence.


One of the reasons I look forward to the opening of P.J.’s on Rt. 6 in Wellfleet each spring is so that I can once again get a kiddie-vanilla-cone-with-a-chocolate-dip for $1.87, including tax.

Arthur Chapman / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Human beings seem to possess a perennial urge to locate and define those qualities that make our species unique. We are constantly looking for traits that we don’t share with any other living creatures. 

Cape Cod Squad /

A few weeks ago, on an unusually warm, sunny afternoon in late February, I drove down to Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, where there seemed to be a convention of surfers, some coming off the beach, some coming on. In the past such a crowd at this time of year would have signaled a shipwreck, a whale stranding, or at least a good northeaster.

photoholic1 / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I was standing on Uncle Tim’s Bridge the other afternoon, a wooden pedestrian bridge in Wellfleet Center that spans Duck Creek linking the island of Cannon Hill to Commercial Street. The tide was high and the air was calm, so that the sky, brilliantly blue, was reflected like a mirror in the water. 

Cape Cod National Seashore / wikimedia commons

One day last month, before the rains fell again, I took a walk in South Wellfleet along the ocean bluffs across a flat and curiously barren shelf of land that runs between Marconi Beach and the historic Marconi Site to the north. This tableland is in the northern part of what is geologically known as the "Plains of Eastham."

Seth J / flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Yesterday afternoon, as I was driving home from the hardware store, I saw a car coming the other way stopped in the road. The driver, an older woman wearing glasses, had gotten out of the car and was standing in the road looking back at something. I stopped abreast of her and she pointed at an object on the road behind her.

Robert Finch

One day, shortly after the most recent ocean breakthrough of the dune line at Truro’s Ballston Beach, I walked out onto the wide flat sand plain left by the overwash. There I unexpectedly found pages from the past laid out before me. / CC BY-NC-ND

Like many of you, I recently saw The Finest Hours, a fine movie about the Chatham Coast Guard’s rescue of the crew of the Pendleton in 1952. Watching it, I thought of my old Brewster neighbor, Charlie Ellis. Charlie must have been in his seventies when I knew him. He was a Brewster native and a born story-teller. One day he told me that he had served in the Cape’s Coast Guard Service for many years.

Putneypics / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

After the Christmas holidays, there was a shuffling exodus of friends, family members, and acquaintances to points south and warmer climes. Predictably, a number left for Florida, others to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. An adventurous few went to Cuba, Nicaragua, and even Peru.