Monday, October 30, 2017

October 2017 - Finally Fall ?

You can tell it's Fall when there are more Canada geese on the road than cars.
It still seems a bit ironic to me that someone as ill-suited to being in the water as I am lives blissfully surrounded by it, the bay on one side, the ocean on the other.  If the occasional smell of the ocean wafting on the breeze when the wind's blowing the right way isn't enough to remind me, or the yapping seagulls in the parking lots, or the faint roar of an angry surf outside my bedroom window in the quiet of the night, the local radio station also does its part.  Daily reports of marine layer and visibility, the surfing report, the fishing report, and ferry cancellations all color my world ocean blue, and I'm delighted to be near it all.  Just not in it.  Some things never change.  

Cape Cod Times Photo - what is it?
Recently, while showing a guest our town's beaches, we came across a very large "deposit" on the sand.  It had obviously been in the water for quite awhile before washing up, and the local wildlife had been working on it, as well, so it was a real head-scratcher as far as identification.  The answer came about a week later in the Cape Cod Times, when it was reported that the fin of a humpback whale had washed ashore on Eastham's Coast Guard Beach.  One never knows what gifts the ocean will deposit for inspection.  
Another treasure from the sea
And here's another story about a gift from the ocean.  I recently noticed a post on Facebook from my daughter-in-law, passing on a request from someone who lives in Rhode Island, who had found two messages in a wine bottle on the beach while vacationing in St. Augustine, Florida.  Parts of the letters written to pirates were blurred, but it clearly showed a zip code that was in the town of Orleans on Cape Cod, a signature that looked like 'Noah', and part of a street address on Hill Road.  They very much wanted to respond to the writers to let them know it had been received more than 1000 miles away.  I put my two cents in and suggested the address might be Brick Hill Road.  Within 24 hours, someone on Cape Cod tagged a woman in Maine who was a former Cape Cod resident, to ask if the Noah in this story could be her son.  The twists and turns that social media took to advance this story make it that much more amazing, but the end result located the now ten year old twins, Noah and Patrick, who wrote the notes four years ago and threw them into the water at Nauset Beach while on vacation in Orleans.  The friend they had been visiting took a picture of the bottle and the boys before it began its long journey to Florida.    
Courtesy of the Keene family
The calendar proclaimed the arrival of Autumn last month, but we're not feeling it here on Cape Cod.  On a recent trip to the beach, there were a surprising number of people still relaxing on beach chairs, watching the bobbing seals in the water, and some humans actually swimming. What the leaves lack in color this Fall due to three days of salt water spray from Hurricane Jose, they make up for in crunchiness.  The walk to the mailbox shouts October with every step, but the trip is still made in summer clothing.  The three-day Columbus Day weekend, Wellfleet's annual Oysterfest and warmer than usual weather has kept the traffic flowing along Route 6.  If the warm weather makes it difficult to tell that it's Fall, it didn't fool the hummingbirds and orioles and they confirmed it by vacating right on time for their winter homes.  Their feeders have been replaced with suet for the cold weather sustenance that will surely be needed soon and the woodpeckers have moved right in to take advantage.  Costumed trick-or-treaters filled the streets of Orleans a couple days early to take advantage of candy handouts from all the merchants.  And another tip that it really is Fall are all the red plaid flannel shirts that are popping up everywhere, even if the sleeves have to be rolled up for comfort.     

 The latest in art left behind, found in the grass while gardening.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

September, 2017 - Reflections on the Summer Season

I gave away 4 of these baskets of peaches this summer from the little tree that could.
As promised, there's more shark news to report.  It's been a very active summer for sharks on Cape Cod.  Purple flags waved prominently at many beaches to warn swimmers.  More sharks are getting tagged and monitored every week.  Shark vs. seal events close to shore, which is a genteel way of reporting that a seal became a meal, earned a spot on national news twice in a week.  And, a Barnstable County Commissioner proposed a "solution to our shark problem" that was promptly squelched by a local 12 year old girl named Lucy Swain.  If the name sounds slightly familiar to you, it's because she's the daughter of Sarah Swain, who received a mention in the May blog.  Sarah organizes the annual Cape Cod Women's Music Festival that she hosts to fund Cape Wellness Collaborative, which she founded to help cancer patients on Cape Cod.  The Commissioner's proposal was to place baited drum lines off the popular beaches with hooks to catch the great whites so they could then shoot them to ensure beach safety.  Lucy, who has since been interviewed by a Boston news channel about her advocacy for sharks, became interested in them when she joined The Gills Club through the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, an education initiative dedicated to connecting girls with female scientists from around the world to inspire shark and ocean conservation.  I couldn't say it any better than Lucy already did:

Dear Mr. Beaty,
I am a twelve year old ocean advocate and I felt the need to share some information with you when I heard about your shark mitigation proposal. By killing the Great White Sharks you are destroying the ocean ecosystem around the Cape. The sharks balance the ecosystem. When you kill them off you knock the ecosystem off of balance. Sharks are the predator of seals, not people, and when we kill the sharks the seals overpopulate. The seals would then eat all the fish. This would then cause the fish population to plummet. The fishing industry on the Cape would then die and we would lose a big portion of our economy. Everything that depended on the fish for food would die too because it would be extremely hard for them to find food. Also without the fish there would be many algae blooms. The whole local ocean ecosystem would be ruined, all because people are not educated enough about sharks and the ocean.
Here are a few statistics to get you thinking:
* 1996, buckets and pails injured almost 11,000 Americans. Sharks injured 13.
* The U.S. has an average of just 19 shark attacks every year and one shark attack fatality every year. In coastal U.S. states more than 37 people die of lightning strikes.
* You are more likely to be bitten by a New Yorker on the New York subway than by a shark.
* Falling coconuts have killed more people than sharks.
* For every human killed by a shark, humans kill approximately 2,000,000 sharks, destroying the ocean ecosystem.
In fact, thanks to the Great Whites, our ocean ecosystem is improving. Brian Skerry, the famous National Geographic ocean photographer, who travels the world recently said that he was amazed to see our ocean ecosystem improving, thanks to the presence of sharks. We are extremely lucky to have sharks living in our waters and killing them would be the worst thing to do.
Lucy Swain, future marine biologist

As opposition to the proposal grew, the plan was put on hold "pending issuance of alternative proposals".  Way to go, Lucy!  Your fellow Cape Codders couldn't be prouder of the Swain women.  
Lucy's TV Interview:   [with 10 second station lead-in]

Eastham Windmill Weekend
September is Eastham Windmill Weekend time.  As usual, Ron & I take a shift selling raffles, which fund the next year's event.  Ron works the crowd and sends them over to me to buy as many tickets as I can persuade them to take chances on for the 95 locally donated prizes.  So far, we haven't won any of those prizes, but it's always a fun afternoon listening to music, chatting and watching the parade. 

Our official STAFF T-shirts are holding up pretty well after several years.
It's also one of the few times of year one can actually see the inside of what a windmill looks like.  Eastham's is the oldest one on Cape Cod and that's as good a reason for a celebration as we need.
A carpenter's playground
The latter part of the month seemed like it was spent in a fog, literally.  After a full week of wet, gray skies which made it seem like one timeless day, punctuated by dark naps, I'm looking forward to some of that crisp, sunny weather that the Autumn Equinox promises.  Meanwhile we're on guard for the parade of hurricanes slamming through the south islands, and threatening to march up the coast.  We said, "NO WAY, JOSE...", but though he was far offshore, our beaches still took a big erosion hit from the relentless, swirling outer bands.  Maria seems to be a chip off of Jose's block as it zigs and zags its way towards us, or not.  The gardens are at least the beneficiaries of some good soakings, and our guests have made the most of their wet and breezy days.  And, at least, It's been a good incentive to put away seasonal yard items that we don't want lost to the winds.       
Coast Guard Beach in Eastham
September brought a returning couple here for the 5th time, who always make sure that they grab their favorite post-Labor Day week for next year before they leave.  We also hosted a new guest who did not want a 60th birthday party so much that she left town to avoid it.  We welcomed back an avid birding couple who seemed totally unconcerned about birding in a hurricane.  They usually know what birds have recently been spotted on the Cape migratory route before we do.  A couple from Seattle is using us as home base while visiting family.  And, a couple from Pennsylvania celebrated their 10th anniversary here with a long weekend.  It's wonderful being surrounded by so many happy goings-on.  
Another art project left by a B&B guest

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Another Special Edition: Ray's Sendoff - Slideshow

When you’re a Washashore,vs. a Cape-born Sandkicker, the premise of how long one has to live here to feel like a Real Cape Codder is pretty subjective.  As the months have turned into years, I reach new milestones that make me feel more and more integrated into that which defines a Real Cape Codder to me.  Last month was a big one, as we joined family and friends to give Ray, our “brother-from-another-mother” his last sendoff.  

His request had been to throw his ashes into the waters where he spent so much time fishing.  As his daughter, Lauren, and family made their way from their home in Germany, the rest of the family and friends put heads together to plan a fitting goodbye.  Now, Ray wouldn't have wanted anything fancy.  “Just toss ‘em in and let me go.”  It would have been easy for Anna and the kids to pick a nice day and go out by themselves, but, when approximately 75 “just close friends and family” wanted to participate, one boat grew into a flotilla of more than half dozen, arranging to meet in Pleasant Bay at a designated time.  My designated job was to bring flowers from my garden so that everyone could have one to toss into the water.  Easy, Ray loved my gardens and I was happy to share with him this last time.  

There’s a good reason why Ron calls me “his seasick mermaid”.  I literally get queasy watching a rocking boat in a movie.  I even get a little green when he describes the time I went out on his sailboat with him.  I am now surrounded by water and friends with boats, but it took Ray to finally get me back on one.  And oh yes, I WAS getting on that boat, much to Ron’s concern.  My determination and a dose of dramamine won out, and so what if I slept the rest of the afternoon when we got back?  Ron and I boarded one of the nephew’s boats with Ray's brother Al, who had requested we ride with them, and as we motored out towards Pleasant Bay listening to one of Ray's favorites, Taj Mahal singing ‘Fishin' Blues’, I pretended I was on a subway car rocking side to side, or riding a horse when the wake shifted front to back, and I focused all my thoughts on doing the best justice I could to photographing Ray’s farewell.  

As the boats gathered close to each other at our meeting point, we all tuned in to marine channel 17 and listened as Ray’s oldest son, Damon, thanked everyone for coming and noted that the day was also Ray and Anna’s 40th anniversary.  We didn't all know each other, but we were united that morning by the love we all had for Ray, which was always returned unconditionally.  Sometime around this point, a beam of light suddenly shone down from a perfectly clear sky and illuminated the boat holding his ashes.  We were too far away in our boat to see it, but I’ve included one of the pictures taken by a family member at the end of my slideshow that clearly shows it.  And then, it became very quiet as Anna gave a kiss to the bag holding Ray’s remains and gently poured them into the water.  As the shadow of what had been our friend was taken by the current, flowers were tossed from all directions to follow along as it dispersed.  A short ride through the Narrows, like ducks following each other finished the simple ceremony, and as we headed back to the dock, and some headed to gather at one of Ray's favorite restaurants in Eastham, aptly named The Friendly Fisherman, I couldn’t help noting with a grateful smile that Ray was also heading towards Eastham.   Farewell, friend, you left the best of yourself behind with us.  

A couple of nights later, we were included in a family birthday party for Lauren’s two year old, Marla.  As usual, the Brunelle home was humming with activity inside and out, a lot of it coming from the new crop of grandkids, nieces and nephews.  The counters and tables groaned with incredibly delectable food, the old stories flowed, and for a special treat, Lauren and her husband, Malte picked up guitars and sang songs they had adapted for the occasion, like “Raymond Rowed the Boat Ashore”, some new verses to Taj’s “Fishin’ Blues” and a special one Lauren said was just for me, “I’ve Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle”.   Lauren was playing the guitar that Anna gave to Ray on their wedding day.  The night was intimate, bonding, bittersweet, and to tell you the truth,  I’ve never felt more like a Real Cape Codder.  

Slide show and short video to follow: 

  Video: Ray's Sendoff

Saturday, August 26, 2017

August, 2017 - Heartbreak Hill

It's time for the perennials to take center stage.
In the Boston Marathon, 'Heartbreak Hill' is an ascent about 20 miles from the start.  For innkeepers, it's the beginning of August during High Season.  Usually by August 1, I'm frankly a bit numb with the coming's and going's of the summer experience.  The faces, names and personalities keep changing every few days, not really enough time to get to know anyone.  The kitchen timer is constantly reminding me that it's time to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, or is it the dryer to the folding area, or to switch the sprinklers to another flower bed, or check the oven, or what was it set for again?  Who's on first?  I make frequent trips to the grocery store on purpose to be able to provide only the freshest food in the Suites and there's a constant surge of traffic to navigate, except of course, when the road turns into a parking lot full of indignation as we all wait for whatever stopped the traffic to clear up again. My enthusiastic gardening also grew a sinus infection that put more of the burden of chores on Ron for a couple of days, not that he complained, but I truly felt like I'd hit Heartbreak Hill when his Crosswinds tag team partner was down for the count.  

AND THEN, something small happened that was a sweet reminder of why we love what we do, and that August was not only going to be okay, it would be our eighth triumphant High Season here.  One of our guests knocked on our door to let us know she was leaving to go home and to thank us for a great stay.  I was struck by how beautiful she looked, her smiling face glowing and happy in the sunshine.  I remembered what she'd looked like when she got here, a bit haggard and pale.  The transformation was remarkable and also gratifying.  It was worth dozens of trips up and downstairs to the basement laundry and braving the roads.  To be able to play a small part in so many peoples' lives that make them feel comfortable and pampered in a home away from home, while they refresh their spirits and leave happier than when they came is quite simply a wonderful gift for us.  But seriously, it did come just in time.

Some people have service dogs;  I now have a Comfort Fish named Ray.
Another thing I love about hosting guests is the occasional surprise that is left behind for us.  Sometimes it's a gift they found while sightseeing and thought we'd enjoy, other times a wonderfully thoughtful comment in the guest book that makes us feel appreciated.  Once, we got a scrabble tile in the mail from some avid scrabble players who noted we were missing a 'u' in our game.  But some of the most fun surprises are the artwork left behind.  Here's an example of a sketch just left on the guest book by one of our very talented guests, of the other two guests she came with.  It's a keeper!

Back in 2010 when we first opened our B&B for business, we found out about Airbnb quite by accident.  It was a small company founded by three guys being resourceful and making the most of what they had, which at the time was an extra air mattress and an idea to offer it to travelers for a fee.  That's actually where the name 'Air'-bnb came from.  The company has grown by phenomenal leaps and bounds, helping people all over the world become better hosts and guests, but surprisingly their size has done nothing to diminish their stellar customer service, nor to sway their moral compass by money.  Last summer, when they received complaints from guests who felt they'd been discriminated against by hosts because of their race, the owners of Airbnb took steps to make sure all hosts knew and practiced their non-discrimination policy.  They went one better this summer when it came to their attention that someone was attempting to book a large number of Airbnb accommodations for white supremacists attending the unfortunate Charlottesville, VA demonstration.  They quickly denied them services and expelled them from their platform.  This is truly putting your money where your mouth is and I'm proud to continue as a longtime Airbnb host.


Eclipse watchers on Fort Hill
Not to be eclipsed by solar eclipse fever, the month of August is going out on a particularly feisty note.  Eastham caught its share of the giant storm that tracked across the country and we woke up to 8" of rain and many flooded streets and homes.  Thankfully, ours was just the basement, but lightening did put an end to my computer and it's like scratching my head and rubbing my stomach at the same time to figure out how to reach my old files on the new one.  The storm also gobbled up part of a steep dune in front of the iconic Beachcomer restaurant and nightclub, including a car and half of a parking lot.  As for the eclipse, I haven't seen the stats, but I'll bet money that the Salt Pond Center, which hosted a National Seashore Ranger-led program to watch it had a record number of people in the facility.  We took a walk up Fort Hill and found many viewers who offered to share their special safety glasses with those of us who came unprepared.  Then, the following week brought the closest-to-shore shark vs. seal attack on record at Nauset Beach.   It was a bloody spectacle that spotlighted the town of Orleans on the national news.  It wasn't long after that event that Coast Guard Beach in Eastham followed suit, showing shark tooth bites on a local's surfboard on national news.  I'll have more on the subject of sharks vs. Cape Cod in September's blog.  

Somehow amidst what should feel like the middle of summer, I kept getting this feeling that autumn was breathing over my shoulder, ready to take its place.  Surely it was too early to feel that way.  It was still in the 80's and the garden pots were heavy with ripe tomatoes, the hibiscus faces were just starting to pop into full glory, the highways were still full of surfboards, bicycles and kayaks atop cars, so was this just wishful thinking?  And, then I realized that it's starting to get dark around 7:30, the time I usually have to tear myself away from the garden to make dinner.  The sunset times we tell our guests so they can catch a beautiful First Encounter Beach sunset have changed drastically, and one can literally feel the season ebbing as darkness draws us inside for the night, and the occasional group of leaves start to show color and drop.  When Memorial Day comes, Labor Day seems like an ocean away.  And, suddenly that ocean is a small puddle and we wondered what all the fuss was about.        
August sunset over Cape Cod Bay
10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - LABOR DAY!


Thursday, July 27, 2017

July 2017 - "On with the show, the show must go on."

July 4th weekend on Cape Cod is known for many wonderful traditions, like family reunions, town parades, clam and lobster bakes with fresh corn from the farm stands, watching fireworks from the beach, movies at the drive-in, playing mini golf, and standing in lines for soft-serve ice cream.  Unfortunately, it's also become synonymous with a constant parade of flashing, whooping, emergency vehicles due to the infusion of thousands of people in a hurry to relax on vacation.  All it takes is one impatient move to edge someone out at a lane merge, or changing one's mind in the middle of a rotary to result in an accident that closes roads for miles and fills the hospital emergency room.  Locals know that the words to remember for summer drivers are "ANTICIPATE" and "PATIENCE". 

The birds get the credit for all the sunflowers.  I've never been able to get them to grow on purpose.

Contrary to most folks, summer's my least favorite season, and I look for ways to uplift my spirit until the cool days of Fall and peace on the roads returns.  I always find solace in my gardens early in the mornings, or after the sun begins its descent.  These days I'm thinning the successes of my "1/2-priced gardens" and spreading the wealth to other areas, including the front bank on the main highway that goes through Cape Cod.  I even find the zen of weeding and deadheading to be relaxing and restorative.  And, just as I'm impulsively prone to moving the furniture and art around inside, so go the gardens as I find out how large the plants grow and how much they spread.  It's an endless dance of color, texture and a lot of water of course.

One of many garden spots at Crosswinds
And, thank you to my beach-addicted friend, who invites me to join her in her few free hours for beach therapy.  This has provided many hours of companionable and therapeutic chatting while digging into the sand with my toes and feeling the sea breeze threatening to take my hat. 
First Encounter Beach-my favorite Eastham spot by the Bay

SHARKS - The Good and Bad News
The National Seashore is doing their part for safety by putting up the now official purple shark flags at the beaches to remind people to stay close to land and away from seals.  At least 150 great whites have either been spotted or beeped transmitters from off of our coast.  
Cisco getting tagged
While all of this adds an element of danger to swimming, especially too far out, I did promise you some good news and here it is:  sharks play a vital role in the health of our oceans' ecosystems, and since the majority of the oxygen we breathe, and much of our protein comes from the ocean, our survival on land is at risk when the health of the ocean declines.  So, thank you Cisco and friends for doing your parts for us landlubbers, and I personally pledge not to crowd you in your home.

Have you ever wondered how sharks get their names?  

There's one named 'Big Papi', named for David Ortiz of the Red Sox, and of course 'Brady', named for Tom Brady of the Patriots.  

'The Rock' was named after actor-wrestler Dwayne Johnson.  

'Luke' was named in memory of a deceased Martha's Vineyard fisherman.  

Curly', 'Chex', 'Lauren' & 'Doty' were all named by Atlantic White Shark Conservancy donors 

'Salty' was named on behalf of the the Cape Cod Salties sportfishing club, which donated money to buy his tag.  

'Katherine' was named for the Falmouth native Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote the song "America The Beautiful".  

'Mr. Frisky' was named for his temperament and 'Riddler' has a question mark shape on the side of his tail.  

'Lynn' was named after the mother of the fisherman who first spotted her in Ocean City, MD and 'James' was named in memory of a man named James Stratton. 

'Sandy' was named in honor of shark biologist, Sanford Moss, and 'Mola' has a patch on his tail that looks like a Mola-Mola, AKA a giant ocean sunfish.  

'Spc B Arsenault' was named in memory of Spc. Brian Arsenault of the 82nd Airborne, who was killed in Afghanistan the day this shark was tagged.  

'Hollywood' liked the camera, hence his name, and 'Lumpy' has a big lump, which may be a result of another shark bite. 

'Gretel' is the first great white shark to be tagged in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean.  She was freed after being trapped for 14 days in a salt pond on Naushon Island.  

'Curly' has a unique notch on her dorsal fin and many scars on her gills. 

'Large Marge' at 17 feet is one of the biggest to be tagged.  

'Miss Alexandra' was named by her tagger, Tyler McAllister, and 'Quoddy' by the videographer named James Hawkins who filmed her.

'Broken Tail' is self-explanatory, as is 'Scar'

It's not mentioned where 'Mary Lee' got her name, but she's said to have her own Twitter account.  

As for critters of another sort, it's not looking good for my hopes of attracting the Painted Bunting as my 2017 new bird of the year.  Despite being spotted at Orleans bird feeders this Spring, my purchase of their favorite millet seed was not enough to lure them to Eastham.  The hummingbirds arrived late this year and in less plentiful numbers, suspected to be more victims of the industry-wide Trump Slump, but the brave Orioles have taken up their slack, necessitating extra grape jelly runs to the Stop & Shop.  This is also in part because the Catbirds have decided this year that they very much like the jelly, too, not to be confused with our friend Chandler's band, The Catbirds.  And, after googling reasons why one should NOT feed raccoons, I finally got Ron's attention with words like Leptospirosis and Giardiasis that convinced him to stop leaving sandwiches every night for our midnight raiders.  There was still one score to be settled though, and that was blaming the downed bird feeder poles on a possum.  A visit from our son, who lives for technical challenges, clearly exposed the culprit on the automatic video recorder within the motion sensor light.  Case solved, raccoon guilty, possum vindicated.   

Click on: The Night Raider  for proof positive.

and, just for fun...

On this note, I say goodbye to July, which passed in a whirlwind of fervent landscaping, creative driving, folding sheets and towels and an unending appreciation for being able to be part of it all and share it with others.

A chance meeting on the beach with our friend, Larry & Paco.
p.s.  Don't try to kiss a macaw unless he knows and really likes you.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Special Edition: In Memory of Ray

A friend in Virginia once asked me “Does anyone ever fart on Cape Cod?”  He meant that everything always sounded so rosy in my blogs that it seemed like a place where nothing could ever go wrong. I answered, “Of course it does, but who would want to read about that?”  Well, something enormously wrong did happen this month, and we along with countless others lost a very special, true 'Cape Cod Character'.  His name was Ray, known to us as “our brother-from-another-mother”, a Cape fishing legend, a family man, and a friend to everyone he met.  Many of us knew Ray had been battling an illness for years, but he just shrugged it off saying that he still had a lot left to do.  And, he did. 

Ray was a familiar sight at Fort Hill, enjoying the beauty and checking on fishing conditions.

When I met my husband in Virginia and we decided to make our home on Cape Cod, he promised me that when we got here, I would meet a wonderful friend of his named Ray, and that I would love him.  
Soon after his first visit to our new home, he became a regular.  In fact, if you were a reader of my earlier blogs, he was mentioned often.  Once he discovered Ron’s barista skills, he began bringing friends with him to sit at the kitchen bar and get acquainted.  “Ya gotta try this guy’s coffee.  It’s the best you'll ever taste!”

Some days, he would come by with his truck full of vegetables to give away.  “Get a bag and come pick out what you want, Sweetheart.” 

When the weather was bad, he’d come in soaked and I’d give him dry clothes to wear while I threw his in the dryer, and he and Ron would watch the History Channel together and rehash WWII.  “Sweetheart, while you’re at it, there’s a button missing, do you have an extra you could sew on for me?”

Many times we would come home and find his dog, Tiggie, tied up to the truck bumper in the shade so he wouldn’t dig up my gardens, and Ray asleep on our couch snoring blissfully to a movie on TV with the cats curled up beside him.

Our cats, who are fairly discriminating about people, loved Uncle Ray.
When the weather was conducive to leaving the windows open, we’d hear him singing in his strong, rich voice as he ambled up the walk, “Oh, my spurs go jingle jangle jingle…”  

He would never miss an opportunity to mug for the camera, go for the joke, or share his good fortune. 
Sharing a joke with Ron, his brother-from-another-mother.

Wearing a tinfoil Viking hat, of course, because why not?
Years later, when Ron was flat on his back from chemo treatments, the basement flooded and I needed help moving soaked carpets up into the yard.  Ray was there in 5 minutes and Ron never knew what went on until we had it all cleaned up. 

Ray was one of those people who thought there was no such thing as a stranger.  While some Codders rudely proclaim “We’re Not on Your Vacation” with bumper stickers, we’ve seen Ray walk up to tourists in the summer and ask, “Hi there, where are you all from?”  He took hours getting through Stop & Shop because he greeted every employee as an old friend.  Many of the kids he babysat for later brought their kids to meet him.  He took friends to medical appointments and shared food, money and a nonjudgmental ear.  He thought every woman was beautiful, every kid was cute, every animal was precious and nobody was unworthy of help.  He pretended he was just a dumb fisherman, but he was wise in all the important ways. 
Taking Ron's twin sister and family from San Diego clamming. 
Before we knew it, our vocabulary was peppered with ‘Ray-isms’ like, “Getcha, gotcha”, which meant, I know what you mean.  And, “I stink so.”  Translation: I think so.  Or, "OH, HO, HO, HO...", which just meant he was getting up and on the move.  “Did I ever tell you about my French-Canadian cousins, Jacque and Pierre?” was the only joke he could remember and would tell as many times as you would listen.  He always wanted to know if we had any Canadians or French people staying at the B&B so he could tell them that joke.  If we didn't, he'd walk over and introduce himself anyway, and after asking if they wanted to buy any fresh lobsters he would tell them all about his imaginary cousins.  Nobody ever complained.  As his memory became worse, I learned how to make “Indian Pie” many times, told with the same enthusiasm and detail each time.  

Ray was drawn to a career in fishing when he visited Cape Cod from his home in Western Mass because he said it looked like something he thought he could do. He grew to love the ocean and became proficient enough to support a family.  After befriending the remarkable Cape Cod fishing legend, Tiggie Peluso, who taught him and dozens of others to fish, he became the only person Tiggie ever allowed to fish on his boat with him.  Tiggie’s daughter, Lou, recently related her first meeting with Ray to me:  “My father's health had been declining for a long time and Ray came to visit him at home.  After hearing all about this amazing fisherman and friend from my dad for so long, I was not expecting to open the door to see a little guy about my height with a Santa Claus beard. I thought he would be so much bigger!”   
Ray and his dog, Tiggie, named for Tiggie Peluso
After Ray was not allowed to drive anymore because of his health, we started going through withdrawal, missing his daily drop-in’s, even if it was only for a few moments because, “I gotta get home and make dinner for Anne”, the woman who stole his heart when he first came to the Cape, no matter how many times he found himself “in the doghouse”.  We kept listening for the bells hanging on our door that always jingled when he let himself in.  “Anybody home?  Are ya decent?”  We kept looking for his truck to drive in and hear the slam of the door and his admonishments to his dog, "Tiggie, be quiet and lie down.  I'll get you some water."  We realized that it was our turn to help Ray, and we made “Ray-Play-Dates” to get him out of the house.  By that time, his energy was flagging, and the outings wore him out and were probably more for us than him.  But, he still had so much more he wanted to do and we wanted to help him do them.   We knew his health was failing, but like everyone else, we thought there was more time.  A few more months, maybe a year, or two...but it still wouldn’t have been enough.  

Ron and Ray on the way up Fort Hill on one of their "play dates".
Kudos to Ray’s wife, Anna, who took the best possible care of the most impossibly strong-willed patient ever, who thought he could live 'his way' forever just by being too busy to acknowledge his illness.  We knew the force of nature you were up against, Anna, and we're so grateful for your Herculean efforts.  Just as wicked Nor’easters blow bits and pieces of Cape Cod away from time to time, the universe saw fit to leave this giant hole in all of our lives who were lucky enough to know Ray.  We know he’s only as far away as our memories... 
Our birthdays were 4 days apart.  The 'Scream' tie was a gift from Ron.

His wife, Anna, planned a fun birthday party for the both of us.

He loved the chipmunk slippers I found for him.
And, the lobster hat...
...which he earned honestly.

He always included us in his holiday fun.

Was always willing to indulge my strange photography experiments.
Teaching Ron how to make pizza dough.

Goofing it up with our boys at Fort Hill.

...but we're still going to miss him, wicked bad.