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


Cape Cod Notebook
2:16 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Walking the High Tide Line and Asking, "Why?"

Credit https://midnightgarden12.wordpress.com

Today I want to talk a bit about the “wrack line,” that more or less continuous line of debris left on the beach by the previous high tide. The content of the wrack line can be meager and ordinary – just a few bits of seaweed – or overwhelming and dramatic, like the 40-foot carcass of a dead humpback whale that washed up at Newcomb Hollow several years ago. But if we only investigate the content of the wrack line, big or small, I think we miss the bigger question. We tend to ask what is this, but not why this now?

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A Cape Cod Notebook
5:43 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Signs of a Lost Agricultural Past

Becky Dalzell

If there’s anything than interests me more than local history, it's unrecorded local history – that is, events, stories, characters and places that live only in the memories of long-time residents – and sometimes not even there, sometimes only in the shapes of certain landscapes, or in the presence of mute but evocative objects that require the beholder to shape and piece together a tentative narrative about their history.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
5:11 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

The Lesson is Always Change

Coast Guard Station at Coast Guard Beach, Eastham.
Credit Jennifer Sherry / flickr

Early last month, on my way home from a dentist appointment, I stopped at Coast Guard Beach in Eastham at the end of the day. I have a long history with this barrier beach, going back to the 1960s, when there were still a dozen or so beach shacks strung along its length. In February of 1978, I watched a great storm remove most of those shacks, including Henry Beston’s Outermost House, along with the National Seashore parking lot and most of the established line of dunes. By 1980 only two of the beach cottages remained, and now, of course, there are none.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
5:27 pm
Thu January 1, 2015

Gray Squirrel: So Commonplace, So Nonchalant... Such a Mystery

Credit lobstar28 / flickr

A few days ago, out of my study window, I was watching a gray squirrel in the top branches of an oak. He was hopping and scampering from branch to branch, eating acorns from the topmost leafless twigs even as a strong, gusty wind shook the tree’s limbs. He moved with that same effortless grace and nonchalance as gulls in a gale, his long tail following him about like a short-term memory or the latent image of a sparkler twirling through the air. His movement was as smooth and sure as herring in a stream. I wondered if squirrels ever miss and fall; at least I’ve never seen one do so.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
5:53 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

On Arrogance, Absolution, and Human Impact on the Weather

Credit LJ Hopkinson / flickr

So - Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the new Republican chairman of the Senate’s Committee on the Environment, recently said – and I quote - “humans are arrogant to believe anyone but God can affect the climate.”

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A Cape Cod Notebook
5:46 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

What's In a Pond's Name

1908 U.S. Geological Survey Map
Credit wikimedia commons

The names of our local ponds, like those of our roads, were not always fixed. In fact, a certain ambivalence attaches to some of them today. On the Wellfleet-Truro border, for instance, there is a pond known to some local residents as “Ryder Pond,” but to others it is “Aunt Mary’s Pond.” The Ryder family was the first to build a house on that pond, so I suppose they have historical precedence for their name, though I have no idea who Aunt Mary was, and for all I know she has perhaps the better claim.

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:07 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Pausing to Consider the Trade-offs in Restoring the Herring River

Herring River with the nearly hundred-year-old dike.
Credit Mass.gov

Last week I recounted the history of the Herring River Restoration Project in Wellfleet and Truro. I listed some of the many benefits projected to result from the restoring full tidal flushing to the valley, as described in a brochure I received from the Friends of Herring River. And as I said at the end of that program, I support the project.  As an environmentalist it would be hard not to. Yet I do so with reservations, some of them fairly trivial, some perhaps not.

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:48 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Restoring Herring River Starts with Removing a Nearly 100-year-old Dike

Rebuilding the Herring River dike in the 1970s.
Credit nps.org

Recently I received in the mail a brochure from the Friends of Herring River, a non-profit group that is supporting the Herring River Restoration Project. For those of you who may not be aware of this project, which has been in the planning stages for several years now, a little background might be helpful.           

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Cape Cod Notebook
2:28 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Of Solar-Powered Raspberries and Organic Electricity

Credit jenny downing / flickr

I am not someone who is usually obsessed with my energy consumption. Our house is pretty tight and well-insulated, and we use a relatively modest amount of electricity and fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. 

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A Cape Cod Notebook
5:51 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Starlings in Dennis Harken Back to Shakespeare's England

Credit Hope Abrams / flickr

On Thursday afternoon, on my way back from the periodontist, I stopped in East Dennis for a cup of coffee. The intersection there, at the junction of Route 134 and Route 6A, is a place I have frequented hundreds of times over the years. It was a cool, crisp November day, and as I stood there, warming my hands with the coffee, I saw a flock of several hundred, perhaps 1000 starlings, wheeling above the intersection, perching on the telephone lines, then taking off again.

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