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
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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A Cape Cod Notebook
4:41 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Foxes and Turkeys and Humans: A Story of Neighbors

Credit davejdoe / flickr

It is getting a bit ridiculous, you know. Not that long ago, it was somewhat exotic to see foxes and turkeys around our house. No more. One day earlier this summer, as I was walking out to the garden, I turned the corner of the house, and there – less than 15 feet away – was an adult turkey standing beneath our bird feeder. She was obviously gleaning the seeds that had fallen onto the ground. On seeing me she moved away – “”raced” or “fled” would be too strong a word.

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Cape Cod Notebook
7:46 am
Tue August 12, 2014

173-year-old Whale Ship Embodies a Modern Ideal: Powered Entirely by Renewable Energy

Sails and rigging of the Charles W. Morgan.
Credit Brian Morris / WCAI

As we rode before the wind, silent and serene, the Morgan took on the aspects of a complex and sometimes contradictory embodiment of how we use our historical imagination. 19th century whaling ships literally gave New England, and by extension America, a global presence. As one staff member put it, “The ships didn’t follow the flag, the flag followed the ships.

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A Cape Cod Notebook
7:58 am
Tue August 5, 2014

Sailing Aboard the Charles W. Morgan Offers Lessons in Silence and Renewal

The whaleship Charles W. Morgan under sail in 1920.
Credit Mystic Seaport

How many meanings can one vessel hold? If that vessel is the last remaining wooden whaling ship in existence, the answer is, more than first meets the eye. From the end of MacMillan wharf, a half-mile beyond the harbor breakwater, the Morgan appeared as an apparition, a vision from the a previous century: Because of insufficient water depth in the harbor, she was not able to tie up at the wharf, so that for most people the ship could only be seen from a distance, a symbol of the unreachableness of the past

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Cape Cod Notebook
5:41 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Booms, Cracks, and Claps: Listening to the Language of Thunder

Credit joefutrelle / flickr

One night last week a dramatic summer thunderstorm passed over the Outer Cape. It wasn’t a violent storm – not like the giant one that spawned tornados and ravaged the western part of the state several summers ago, but even an “ordinary thunderstorm” – if I can use that phrase – is fascinating.

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Cape Cod Notebook
5:43 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

A Freshwater Swimmer, Surrounded by Ocean

Credit 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.

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Cape Cod Notebook
8:40 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Not Your Everyday Encounter: Meeting a Coyote Among the Wild Blueberries

Credit Renée Johnson / flickr

This is the peak week for wild blueberries on our part of the Cape. So after lunch my dog Sam and I head to the open, bearberry-and –crowberry-covered hills of Bound Brook Island Once we emerge from the woods and out onto the open ridge overlooking Cape Cod Bay, thick blueberries line both sides of the path. There seem to be three distinct types of berries here: one is a true low-bush variety that hugs the ground. It has small light green leaves about 1 inch long, with finely serrated edges and produces large, dusty-blue fruit, averaging a quarter inch or more in diameter.

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