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Woods

My dog, following her bliss, at the dog-friendly Kent's Point Conservation Area. This clearing is the former location of the house of Charlotte Kent, who was the original owner of the property. She sold the land to the town of Orleans in 1988.

Most beaches become dog-free zones in the summer months, making Cape Cod dogs some of the few creatures living amongst us that cannot wait for October to roll around so that they may, once again, experience the simple pleasures of fetching a stick in the ocean without restriction or impunity. Because our usual walking spots are now the breeding grounds for piping plovers and (extremely noisy) least terns, as well as the playground of families from all over the country, my dog and I have taken to the woods, but, alas, the mosquitoes and ticks have simultaneously taken to feasting on our flesh. And there’s nothing like a pesky mosquito fanatically buzzing around your head to make you ache for the strong ocean breeze that is, as of now, strictly off-limits to my dog and me. But, while I was canoeing around Pleasant Bay in Orleans a couple weeks ago, I spotted something that excited me more than any of the other wonders I encountered that day; I saw four dogs (with three humans in tow), off leash, swimming in the ocean and running on the beach. Any dog owner will understand that a sight such as this is something worth investigating. I quickly found out that this puppy Valhalla is Kent’s Point, a 24 acre conservation land in Orleans, and, after my faithful companion and I visited, I am happy to declare it the best place for dogs on Cape Cod. Continue Reading »

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The large number of unripened blueberries at the Taylor-Bray Farm's blueberry patch means that they'll be be berries to pick for the next couple of weeks - at least!

We are thick into blueberry-picking season and I don’t know of any pick-your-own spot more beautiful than the one to be found at Taylor-Bray Farm – a gorgeous, 22-acre working farm in Yarmouth Port that dates back to 1639. I arrived at the farm early in the morning – tupperware in hand – ready to do some serious picking. As I walked the verdant fields toward the blueberry patch, with views of the Black Flat marsh stretched out ahead of me, I saw two cottontail bunnies hopping about and a multitude of swallows flitting and flying low along the grass. And then I saw the glorious blueberry bushes, standing at about 7 feet tall and heavy with both ripened and unrippened berries. Ah, yes, I thought. This is a perfect summer moment.

I got right into the patch, greedily picking all that my quickly working fingers could grab. My mind emptied and quieted. Much like a ninja (if a ninja picked his own fruit, which I’m sure he does), I was focused; I was quick; I was agile. As soon as my tupperware was full, I climbed into my car, my hands wrapped around my bounty. Then I looked at the time – an hour and a half had passed since I had arrived at Taylor-Bray Farm. Had it been that long? It only felt like a few minutes.

Continue Reading »

FAWC 2

Beginning in the summer of 1899, when the Cape Cod School of Art was founded, and continuing up to today, Provincetown has been one of the nation’s foremost artists’ colonies – a place where artists of all varieties could live, learn, and be inspired by each other and by their surroundings. Carrying on the tradition is one of Provincetown’s most honored arts institutions, The Fine Arts Work Center on Pearl Street. The FAWC has been around since 1968, making it the country’s oldest continuous artist colony.

For the entirety of the summer, The Fine Arts Work Center holds visual arts and creative writing workshops that are taught by some of the country’s most accomplished artists. And, lucky for us, the FAWC arranges for these artists and writers to give artist talks and readings to the general public. Last Monday’s lineup was irresistible: the poet Ralph Angel, the novelist Colum McCann, and the artist Peik Larsen were all scheduled to share glimpses of their most recent projects. I had been looking forward to going for weeks, yet, as I faced the hour and a half long drive from my home in Mashpee to Provincetown and then back again, my mind raced with any excuse available to cancel my much anticipated plans. Was an evening of highfalutin artsy entertainment enticing enough to justify spending over 3 hours in Cape Cod traffic? The answer, it turned out, was an emphatic yes. Continue Reading »

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The bandstand was paid for and built by the volunteer amateur musicians who make up the Chatham Band.

Ever since the 1940s, families have gathered during the warm summer months on the gently sloping green of Kate Gould Park to attend the Chatham Band Concert. From 8 to 10 p.m., on Friday nights only, forty band members ranging in age from teens to octogenarians, all dressed snappily is red and blue uniforms, squeeze into the bandstand with their instruments in hand. As dusk settles over the town, the bandleader turns to face the crowd and shouts, “Hi-De-Ho!” and the audience merrily replies, “Hi-De-Ho!” and it is that call and response which begins every Chatham Band Concert, a tradition beloved by generation after generation. Continue Reading »

A shot of Meetinghouse Pond

Meetinghouse Pond as seen from the middle of a canoe.

I ask you to picture this: A Connecticut couple drive their shiny new white convertible Corvette to Cape Cod for a romantic week-long getaway. They are young, healthy, and beautiful. They are on vacation. Life is good. The woman, a bit on the outdoorsy side, suggests taking part in a lovely canoe ride along the bay and estuaries of Orleans. It’s something she’s read about in one of her guidebooks. “It’s organized by the National Seashore, led by a couple of rangers and everything,” she says. The man, slightly less interested, eventually gives in and agrees to go. “It’ll be fun – a new adventure,” she says, trying to be light and encouraging. But once they arrive, and find themselves surrounded by other anxious-faced tourists, then forced to wear musty life vests, and sign a consent form ensuring some (forever unknown and invisible) entity that, yes, they have listened to all the safety precautions recited by the ranger, it becomes clear to the woman that this is not exactly what she imagined. She looks worriedly over at the man, hoping he won’t hold this misstep against her. He looks back, stone-faced and unsmiling. And then, as if to further aggravate what seems to be an already unfortunate situation, the ranger informs the couple that, due to the size of the group (17 people) and the number of canoes (6), they must take someone else in their boat. “Oh, great,” they both say to themselves, silently. The ranger then points to a strange creature – dressed in all black, visible white streaks of poorly applied sunscreen (of some mercilessly high SPF, they are sure) covering her pale arms, a baseball cap obscuring her face. “You take her,” the ranger says to the couple. The creature lifts her head and wanly smiles at them. And so, dear reader, I must admit the sad truth to you. The strange creature in this tale is me. Cast in this romantic love scene as the unwanted outsider. The third wheel in a canoe. The odd man out. Continue Reading »

The Woods Hole Film Festival ticket booth and their charming Marilyn Fishroe t-shirts.

The Woods Hole Film Festival ticket booth and their charming Marilyn Fishroe t-shirts.

The Woods Hole Film Festival is currently in full swing and I was anxious to check out the scene. So, last Monday, after waiting 15 minutes for the mysteriously raised Woods Hole’s Eel Pond Bridge to be lowered (there was nary a ship in sight), I made the brief walk over to the Woods Hole Old Fire Station, and quickly bought tickets at the makeshift ticket booth. As I was browsing the festival t-shirts and other wares, I had a short conversation with a film festival attendee who has a summer home in Falmouth and is a filmmaker herself. We talked shop. She told me that, though this was a great festival, it wasn’t that popular among those who purchase and distribute films, so it wasn’t a hot spot for the movie making wheeling and dealing that happens at larger festivals such as those in Sundance, Toronto, and Cannes. But, though a large part of the importance of festivals for filmmakers is to make connections with people that can take their films to the next level, a film festival is also crucial for building audiences and spreading word-of-mouth about these wonderful, independent movies. I’ve attended large film festivals in New York and Toronto, and I have to say that I prefer these smaller, less industry oriented film festivals. It’s easier to get tickets and everyone’s there for the films, not for the drama of celebrity sightings and back-room deal making.

That Monday, I saw three documentaries that had two things in common – all were made by woman filmmakers (huzzah!) and all seemed to circle around how faith shapes our lives. In “Making the Crooked Straight“, the documentary’s protagonist is guided by his devotion to Orthodox Judaism to live a life aiding those in desperate need. While “Women of Faith” investigates the complex feelings a group of nuns have towards the Church that they have spent their lives honoring. And, finally, “Saint Misbehavin” tells the story of another faithful, yet more psychedelic, servant to the good of man, Wavy Gravy, aptly described as “a genuine Mahatma of the Cosmic Giggle” and the “illegitimate son of Harpo Marx and Mother Theresa, conceived one starry night on a spiritual whoopie cushion.” Continue Reading »

Happiness on the left, unbridled hysterical joy on the right

Two of the many faces at the Barnstable County Fair - Happiness on the left and unbridled, hysterical joy/terror on the right.

As I stood in line to enter the Barnstable County Fair, a thick blanket of grey clouds hung low in the sky. The wind was strong and rather cold. There was a slight drizzle, which threatened to turn into something more disruptive, and, because I arrived just as the fair gates were opening, the crowd was sparse. Yet, I was incredibly excited to be there. And, judging from all of the energized kids running around me, I was not alone in my state of ebullient anticipation. Since as long back as I can remember, the sight of a ferris wheel arching high up over the skyline has always thrilled me. The county fair – with its deep fried treats, rusted, neon-covered rides, moist-eyed farm animals, and exhausted, chain-smoking carnival workers – is an age-old summer tradition that I look forward to every year. Continue Reading »