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, including "The Iambics of Newfoundland" (Counterpoint Press), and co-editor of "The Norton Book of Nature Writing." His new book, "The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk Along Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore," will be out in May.

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

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.

drain goo.gl/jxFMjU / goo.gl/lrxVf4

It’s been a nearly perfect week of early September weather, temperatures in the 70s, southwest and northwest breezes, clear or scattered clouds. Yesterday I stopped to have lunch at Gull Pond. It was warm and calm, and the only other people at the public beach were an elderly couple with metals detectors and those long flour-scoop sieves with holes slightly smaller than dimes.

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.

MARCH 2006. This morning at about 4 a.m. the Josephia, a 39-foot scallop vessel out of Stoughton, Maine, went aground just north of the old Eastham Coast Guard station, breaking up and forcing its two-man crew—Michael Darragh, 34, and his brother-in-law Ian Orchard, 32—along with Orchard’s one-year-old pug Leo, to swim for shore in high seas and 38° water. Miraculously, all three made it ashore alive.

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.

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