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

Boston Public Library / flickr / CC2.0

I walked up Higgins Hollow in North Truro this morning, a fine old crease of a road tucked away in a glacial valley between two large hills. On my left I passed an old house with a large front porch where a piece of literary history took place in 1920.  That summer the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was vacationing there with her family. 

Jim Mullhaupt / flickr / http://bit.ly/OJZNiI

At one of the creek bends, I climbed the steep, pocked mud bank up onto the salt marsh. Several yards from the edge was a small, cleared depression, one of the so-called “salt pans” where hundreds of fiddler crabs were gathered. I have always thought of fiddlers as homebodies, sticking near their burrows on the banks or on the mud flats, but here there were no holes visible, and, sensing me, they began to disperse with a kind of desperate confusion.

William Rogers / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I had spent the afternoon walking a barrier beach on the bay side of Eastham, casually watching the shorebirds flock and feed: yellowlegs, semi-pals, black-bellied plovers, ring-necks, and various small sandpipers. Their year’s breeding already finished on the muskeg and tundra of the high North, they were working their way leisurely south, passion spent, the season now all downhill.

m01229 / flickr

For one who’s lived within a few miles of the bay and ocean beaches for more than forty years, I’ve spent very little time swimming in salt water. Given the choice, I will almost always opt to go into a freshwater pond.

Martin LaBar / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Picking blackberries on Cape Cod in August can be both an art and a ritual. And then there is the individual, almost moral choice each berry presents: just how ripe is ripe enough?

Cesar Harada / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As a writer, one of the questions I’m most frequently asked is, “When did you decide you wanted to be a writer, and why?” Over the years I’ve come up with several answers, some flippant, some more serious.

Remaining in Provincetown / http://bit.ly/1GX1HDm

Unlike a number of my friends who grew up here or in similar rural settings, I have no familial history in nature, and that may be one reason that I was hit so hard when I first encountered the beauty of Cape Cod some 53 years ago. My personal roots are urban.

composite: falmouth patch/ Let Ideas Compete

Unless you haven’t been listening to local news over the past few months, or if you’ve just arrived for the summer on our overcrowded peninsula, you’ve no doubt heard about the state’s proposal for a third bridge over the Cape Cod Canal.

Gonzalo Viera Azpiroz / flickr / CC2.0

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of singing in another concert with the Outer Cape Chorale. Over the past 14 years director Jon Arterton and the Chorale have presented a wide variety of choral music, from Bach to the Beatles. This most recent concert was one of their most challenging.  It was also one of their most “sacred” concerts.

Robert Finch

Last week I traced Thoreau’s 1857 walk on Cape Cod, which led him through a substantial forest in what is now Nickerson State Park in Brewster. His Journal of that walk gives us a rare glimpse into the life of the few people then inhabiting what is now the state park, including two women he met, one “with a child in her arms” and another “mending a fence….using an ax.”

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