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 ten books of essays, the latest of which is "The Outer Beach: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod’s Atlantic Shore," published by W.W. Norton.

A Cape Cod Notebook won the 2006 and 2013 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.


 A Cape Cod Notebook is made possible in part with support from Titcomb’s Bookshop on Route 6A in East Sandwich.

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.

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.

byron cain bit.ly/2sDqXAL / bit.ly/1jNlqZo

The first time I ever saw the Outer Beach was in the spring of 1962—April, I think—when I was nineteen. My freshman roommate at Harvard was John Hagenbuckle, whose father ran one of the dozen-or-so sailing camps that dotted the inner shores of Pleasant Bay in those days.

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