A Cape Cod Notebook

by Robert Finch

A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

A nature writer living in Wellfleet, Robert Finch has written about Cape Cod for more than forty years. He is the author of seven collections of essays, most recently a collection of his radio scripts, published by On Cape Publications. He is co-editor of "The Norton Book of Nature Writing."

A Cape Cod Notebook won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

For archives of A Cape Cod Notebook, including programs dating from before November 2012, go to the Cape Cod Notebook Archives

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At a recent dinner with old friends, someone brought up the topic of the “Target Ship.” For over a half a century, the target ship was a familiar and legendary sight in Cape Cod Bay for those of us who lived near the elbow of the Cape. 

One day last fall I led a group of students from Pennsylvania State University on a walk through the Provincelands. The students were members of Bob Burkholder’s class on Cape Cod Literature, and each year he brings the class here for a week-long stay at the Wellfleet Bay Audubon Sanctuary.

NASA / Stuart Rankin / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

It was this Tuesday, exactly a year ago, that the Cape and Islands were hit with what was instantly christened “The Blizzard of 2015” – though at the time we didn’t know that there would be several more Blizzards of 2015 to come. 

Robert Finch

All through the long, warm days of October and November and into the darker slim afternoons of December, I made slow but steady progress on building my shed. I screwed down the floor boards, framed the walls, spiked the braces, set the rafters, and shortly before Christmas the shed was completely framed, but not yet sheathed.

Robert Finch

Over the past few months I have, in my spare time, been framing a shed. I’d thought about building a storage shed for several years, but what finally prompted me to do it was the unexpected coming together of several sources of free lumber. 

02420 / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

December 22 was the day winter should have begun – but it didn’t. During the day temperatures climbed near 60° and didn’t drop below 50 that night. Heavy dew formed, leaving all the roads wet and even puddled in places, giving the illusion that it had rained, but the wheelbarrow of firewood I left out overnight was dry.

Ricardo Wang / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Building a night fire at the edge of a frozen kettlehole illuminates a world captured in stark relief. In A Cape Cod Notebook, Robert Finch creeps out upon the ice on all fours to peer into a frozen realm, where he finds surprising life.  

takomabibelot / flickr / CC BY 2.0

Clearing a stand of pitch pines near his house, Robert Finch paused to count the rings on one stump, and discovered a startling correspondence. The tree he'd just cut was exactly his age. And studying more closely the rings, a sympathy appeared in the spurts and stunts of their maturation.

Les Chatfield / flickr / CC BY 2.0

Recently, I drove up to my daughter’s house in Portland, Maine, to deliver several boxes of stuff. This was one of a series of acts of divestment I’ve performed this year. Last summer I sold my outboard motor – a really nice, really good 10 horse-power Honda four-stroke – but I realized I really didn’t use it that much anymore, and it was getting harder and harder to lug around.

Jasperdo / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I've always been comfortable around cemeteries. I don’t think my ease among graveyards stems from any morbid turn of mind. In fact, I like to think I have a rather sunny disposition and optimistic outlook on things.