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Friday, June 29, 2018

You Don't Tug on Supergirl's Cape*

My Cape....Supergirl's Cape. It's sea-blue, part neoprene, faded from the sun and salt, wind-worn. It has weathered decades in this superpower place. Survived jellyfish stings, shark sightings, seal play--and bee stings, greenhead flies, mosquito swarms, sunburns, sandstorms, hurricanes, blizzards.

I have worn it through childhood, teen years, dating years, college summers, bonding with my mother, losing my mother. I have clipped it on during careers, young marriage, seasoned [or fiery?] marriage, infertility, tenuous but joyful new motherhood, foster motherhood. Happy motherhood, painful motherhood. Through sisterhood, Dad care, death, friendship, frivolity. It has fit and felt right through failure and success. Through writer's block and writer's reach.

When I slip it over my shoulders, I am transported to an old, unchanged peninsula where lighthouses guide ship captains--as best they can, as that curving coast can be treacherous. Where Thoreau trudges through sand and writes of his sightings and Henry Beston lives a year near the edge of the sea in the Outermost House. A fertile region where shellfish are dug, chowders simmered, clam pies baked. Pink roses bloom, spilling over wood fences. Pine trees sway in storms and whipping winds, struggling to keep hold in shifting soil. And I can swim in a freshwater kettle pond, the endless ocean or the gentler bay.

Thoreau and Beston are gone, but their stories are not. The lighthouses are there, but more as coastal eye candy, storybook legends. Much of the rest is the same.

We were on that sandy hook for less than 48 hours, from 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 26 until exactly 2:48 p.m. Thursday, when Anne Mernin's minivan nosed away, reluctantly, from the Orleans Post Office, where she had mailed a postcard to Emily after we picked up fresh drinks for the road at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow.

It's amazing what you can do in under 48 hours when you travel with Anne Mernin. We booked just two nights because she has a busy work schedule that requires coverage at Toni's Kitchen, the soup kitchen in town, and her Nikki had a beach outing w school friends planned for today [Friday]. And this time, we had our husbands with us in addition to Nikki and Punch, plus wonderful Ryan Mernin, age 23, before he headed back up to Montreal.

Since we were two families and I couldn't bear to clean for hours when staying only two nights at the Wonderstrand house, certainly not up to my brother's standards, we rented a "cabin" through Airbnb. Yay, that meant we could scoot out after emptying the trash, cleaning out the fridge etc. We had a big fire pit, a nice deck with picnic table, a grill and lots of comfy seating indoors and out. I loved the outdoor shower, massaged creamy Caress onto my skin after a walk to the beach and rinsed it off, looking up to the open sky. 

No matter the hours, it was 3 separate days if you're an optimist and Cape lover like me. Tuesday involved a 6 p.m. pond dip [and a run for Dan]--and a stop at the little Superette for bacon, eggs, butter, milk, bread, cheese, gallons of water [I prefer bottled water on the Cape], bananas, matches, etc. Dinner at Mac's for all seven of us--clam chowder, linguine with shrimp, fried shrimp plate, fried clam plate, broiled scallops--as the sun set. Then ice cream for some and settling into cabin.

Wednesday was a full day with family breakfast at house; thrift shopping [Anne loves it more than the beach]; Sparrow for coffee drinks; reading; napping; long walk to the beach; standing in surf; barbecue; and sitting by the fire.

Thursday morning was for packing up and then heading back to Wellfleet for breakfast and excellent coffee at the Wicked Oyster; a walk over Uncle Tim's Bridge; and a visit to the Audubon. Dan and Michael also fit in sleuthing in that old orchard behind the Penniman [whale captain's] House but the ancient, crooked apple tree is not bearing fruit this year.

I posted photos, but not my nature notes or Cape Cod sightings. Here goes.
  • Turtle crossing.  When Anne, Ryan, the girls and I hit the Saint Joan of Arc thrift shop in Orleans, Dan and Michael went to the Audubon. They had to wait a long time to get in [near the Turtle Crossing sign] because a large turtle was stopped in the road, basking in the sun. A worker finally came to pick it up by the tail and drop it in the marsh. That's Dan and turtle, above.
  • Wild turkeys.  This was our trip to see them! Two giants flapped and flew up to roost for the night in the spindly pines around the deck while we dug into hotdogs and burgers. I was convinced they were turkey vultures waiting to pounce on our meat, but Michael googled and said they were sleeping there overnight, safe from foxes, coyotes and other predators. At the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, we saw a group of about five huge turkeys walking in the marsh grass. I learned on this trip that my husband and Anne are similar--they are the two who jumped up from the picnic table to film the awkward, plump birds settling into scrawny trees. I prefer to watch from my seat.
  • Birds.  Of course. The Cape is heaven for birdwatchers. This time we saw black crows swooping in the yard--I always think of the nursery rhyme picture book Sis read to me when I was little, with blackbirds baked in a pie. They always seemed mean and scary to me. Mysterious, and how horrible to be baked in a pie. Now I take birds as I see and hear them. Whatever they are, I like the way they call to each other.
  • Seals.  Ryan spotted them first, their sleek black heads bobbing in the waves after 6 p.m. at Nauset Light Beach.
  • Nauset Lighthouse.  It stands tall and proud in all its red and white retro American splendor. Nauset Light will always bring me back to the summers when I was a teen and the light was on private property, owned by a woman who later wrote a book about it, which I read. By the 1990s, the Cape Cod National Seashore had purchased it and moved the house and the light inland, as the sandy cliff underneath was rapidly eroding and the massive structure would soon lose its footing. The woman had posted a sign, NO TRESPASSING. PRIVATE PROPERTY. KEEP OFF. and I used to yearn to walk over the property line and touch this magical tower. Now I can. You can also go inside when it is open.
  • Roses.  Still spilling over split wood fences......somehow reminding me of the Kennedys and their Hyannis compound. Maybe because of Rose Kennedy's name and the family's deep roots on Cape Cod.  
  • Tides.   High and low, in and out. Bringing seaweed, stirring up stones and shells, both jagged and smooth.
  • Rotaries. What they call traffic circles up there. [In Dumont, we just called it the circle at the monument.] I remember approaching the Orleans rotary in our white Ford Falcon, sitting between my parents in the front seat, my three older siblings in the back. We were sticking to the seats, eager to arrive at the rented cottage. There was a place called Cranberry Cove near the rotary back then, and once we went and had ice cream sundaes there, a highlight.
  • Boat Meadow Beach. It's on the bay side and I don't think I've ever seen it until Anne showed me this trip. So pretty, with that green grass against blue sky.
  • Reading. No better place to curl up with a book than on the Cape, with a cool cross breeze. Time slows down there.
  • Souvenirs.  This time, they included an adorable little clear glass globe lamp from the Saint Joan of Arc Thrift Shop in Orleans--$3! Plus a bag of Beanstock Wellfleet Blend coffee beans from the Wicked Oyster restaurant; the Taylor Swift issue of Rolling Stone from the general store in North Eastham, where prices are skyrocketing but you can still get a bundle of firewood, marshmallows and postcards; a jar of Stonewall Kitchen Black Raspberry Jam from Sam's Deli, a vacation splurge; and a loaf of tender cranberry bread from PG Boulangerie, the French bakery in South Wellfleet that had a line out the door! 
I've loved reporting in but have to get into the shower and do some paid work. Enjoy your day!

This is page 2 of the "Sing a Song of Sixpence" blackbird poem from the
nursery rhyme book. The clothesline reminds me of Cape Cod, too.
From Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, copyright 1958, illustrated by Esmé Eve.
*Thank you Jim Croce for this fabulous line from your 1972 hit, "You Don't Mess Around with Jim."


  1. That would be $3.25, missy! And priceless time with my buddy :)

    1. Haha, hello Sparrow Girl 🦅 ☕️!!!!! It was such a nice launch into summer, as you said! Everyone seemed to revel in Cape time together. AND though I boasted repeatedly that my magic lamp was only $3.25, the nice lady had inked out the .25 at checkout, IDK why. Xoxox

  2. Lovely idea that your cape has super powers to protect you and lift you! I similarly fit in a lot of relaxing in just a weekend away with friends. Good news On Friday -our wonderful vet said Lionna is a wonderful healer and he saw no need for surgery!! Wild rejoicing and happy dance!

    1. So glad to hear that, Liz. Happy Fourth of July!!!!!