A Cape Cod Notebook

by Robert Finch

A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:35am 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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A Cape Cod Notebook
5:14 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Family Cemetery in Wellfleet Offers a Mystery with More Than One Possible Explanation

Lombard Cemetery in Wellfleet.
Credit http://www.cctrails.org

On the north slope of Bound Brook Island in Wellfleet, beneath tall shady pines and overlooking the marsh that separates Wellfleet from South Truro, is a small family cemetery. Such modest graveyards can be found in most towns on the Cape, but this one is different.  Most family cemeteries are located near the original family homestead. This one is in a remote location, far from any house. It is smaller than usual, containing only three graves and two stones. And yet, it’s enclosed by substantial granite posts and a double railing of galvanized iron pipes.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
3:48 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Beach Roses, Pitch Pines, and Big Dunes are Not So Cape Cod as You Imagine

Ah, the lovely beach rose - quintessential Cape Cod, yes? Think again. Rosa rugosa is an invasive species, native to Asia.
Credit Roger LeJeune / flickr

It’s an old saw that there’s not one square foot on Cape Cod that has not been altered by some human activity over the centuries. Harbors have been dredged, highways have been built, marshes filled in, beaches lined with stone jetties or concrete bulwarks, and woodlands carved up for subdivisions – just to name a few of the more obvious effects.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
1:56 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Mysterious Tower in North Truro Entwined with a Legend of Jenny Lind

Jenny Lind Tower in North Truro.
Credit Ktr101 / Wikimedia Commons

One of the oddest juxtapositions of architecture on Cape Cod can be found in North Truro at the boundary of the old air force base and the Highland Links Golf Course immediately to its north. During most of the Cold War, the North Truro Air Force Base was part of the DEWLINE, or Distant Early Warning system.

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:44 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Fort Hill Harbors 400 Years of History, But Little of It Shows

Fort Hill Trail, Eastham
Credit bbcamericangirl / flickr

Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk along the trails at Fort Hill in Eastham. Young milkweed plants are peeping up in the recently-mown meadows as if it were spring. Mixed in with them are the deep brick-reds of Virginia creeper and poison ivy vines, the yellow-dotted pale but intense lavenders of New England asters, the golden leaves and deep red berries of bittersweet, and, out in the marsh, the white feathery seed tufts of marsh elder. Along the shore a wide band of Phragmites reed, or Pampas grass, waves in all its soft brown and silver plumery.

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:23 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Season's End Reveals Itself in Myriad Natural Signs

Credit Cape Cod Cyclist / flickr

Late on a late September afternoon I got out of the car and started to walk slowly, as I had done so many times that year, across the long sandy stretch of barrier beach toward the unseen sea. I came to the little wooden footbridge that spanned the shallow tidal river. Its two-faced current now flowed gently southward, its depth ebbing with the tide. Here, all summer, blond-haired children had run their stick races, dropping twigs or bits of marsh grass over one side of the bridge, then dashing to the other side to see the winner emerge.

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Cape Cod Notebook
9:25 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

September Canoeing Excursion Reveals a Shoreline of Empty Seats

Empty chairs on Higgins Pond.
Credit weneedavacation.com

A beautiful September day, where everything just stands up and shines. It seemed a sin to stay indoors on a day like this, so I strapped my canoe to the top of my car and headed out to Higgins Pond off Schoolhouse Road. I usually don’t go there in the summer because there are only three parking spaces, and they’re taken early by swimmers and fishermen. But this time of year, especially during the week, users are few. Today there was only one other car there – an Audi.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
6:07 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Swallow Flocks Amid the Dunes Conjure a Spirit of Wonder

Credit eyesontheroad / flickr

One day last week I took a walk in the Provincelands dunes. I started from the parking area at High Head and walked west through the area known as the “parabolic dunes.” These are wind-shaped formations with distinct contours: wide, smooth, low valleys surrounded by ridges of sand in a bent-bow or parabolic shape. These formations have been shaped by the prevailing northwest winds and they slowly move south-east, burying everything in front of them. 

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A Cape Cod Notebook
3:14 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

September Beaches Offer Brilliant Evenings and Solitude

September Beach, Woods Hole
Credit slack12 / flickr

September, as always, is the beginning of the year and the end of the year. September on the Cape is the month of young families with pre-school kids, college students with late-starting semesters, retired couples, or simply vagabonds with no particular place to be, nothing particular to do. As those of us who live here know, September is when our beaches are at their most brilliant, when the high autumnal skies and the searing slanted light give a sense of transcendence to those familiar sands, as if they almost speak and reveal the essence of their mystery.

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Cape Cod Notebook
3:37 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

First Names and Other Casual Intimacies that Define Community

Recently I experienced a week of small disasters. Over the course of seven days I lost a pair of reading glasses, my computer froze up, I accidentally ran the lawn mower over the garden hose, lost my checkbook, a headlight went out on my car, and, to cap it all, the back part of a molar fell out. As usually happens in these cases, all of these mishaps were fairly soon righted. The two most pressing losses – my glasses and my tooth – were replaced promptly, in part because, as a long-term customer, I’m known personally to both John, my optician, and Herb, my dentist.

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Cape Cod Notebook
3:34 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Tony Bennet Returns, in Memory, to Serenade Cape Cod

Credit Tom Beetz / flickr

  No, he’s not at the Melody Tent this summer, though for years – decades, actually - a concert by Tony Bennett has been one of the staples of its summer schedule. I used to take my mother to see him when he was in his 60’s. Kathy and I went to hear him there when he was in his 70s.  Now, at the age of 88, Tony Bennett is still in command of the stage and his voice, packing the houses, performing over a dozen concerts this summer alone, including one at Tanglewood on August 31. No moss grows under this man’s feet.

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