Friday, May 25, 2018

2018 May - The Month of Firsts

It's garden time!
Lillian 'Lilja' Rogers [1901-1993] is an often quoted, but little known New England poet and writer.  Although the following poem is more suited to the month of March, I think it brilliantly sums up our Spring season:

Hocus Pocus, by Lilja Rogers

First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus - 

May generates many firsts of the year: 

  • The first sitings of colorful returning bird species
  • The sound of lawn mowers droning and the smell of fresh cut grass
  • Restaurants and stores vying for attention as they reopen for the season
  • The greening of trees that survived the Nor'easters and the bright blooms of perennials now that it's safe to re-emerge
  • The return of Atlantic Right Whales along the Cape Cod coastline
And, speaking of whales, in order to focus on the plight of the diminishing numbers of North Atlantic Right Whales, the Provincetown Public Library joined New Bedford, New York City and Mystic, Connecticut in hosting an annual "Moby-Dick" marathon.  Volunteers, including local teachers, elected officials and local actors from the group Sailors Beware took turns reading aloud and acting out 135 chapters.  Ron was recruited to bellow out his best sailor-speak while playing the part of Ahab beneath the half-scale replica of the Rose Dorothea, in this beautiful old building.
The Rose Dorothea in the Provincetown Library
The Cape Cod Commission estimates that 5.23 million tourists visit Cape Cod each year, and nearly 65% of them come in the summer and early Fall.  I don't have enough fingers and toes to figure that number out, but I can tell you that the good news is that repairs on the Sagamore Bridge, which backed traffic up for miles this Spring on both sides of the Cape Cod Canal finished early.  And, with Memorial Day knocking, here's another tidbit from the Commission that could prove useful to know:  

Sunday through Thursday, anytime, or Friday before 2 p.m. or after 9 p.m.

AVOID ARRIVING:  Friday, between 2-9 p.m. or Saturday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

BEST TIMES TO DRIVE OFF OF CAPE COD:  Monday through Friday 
[except for a Monday holiday] between 2-9 p.m. and Saturday after 2 p.m. 

AVOID LEAVING:  Sunday [or a Monday holiday] between 1-9 p.m.

The traffic is slightly better if you're actually in the canal, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reporting that there were an estimated 20,000 vessels that went through in 2017.  

As we humans spruce up the wear and tear from winter and get ready for tourist season, May is also a very busy time for the critters and there's a lot of fancy cavorting going on to establish territory, attract good mates and ensure the continuation of their species.  Our bird feeders and bird baths are popular hangouts, but you don't have to be a bird to appreciate them.

I learned that raccoons climb trees this year.
While picking up a few last minute items at the store for our incoming Memorial Day Weekend guests, I overheard a couple of women rolling by with their cart proclaiming in loud voices that were meant to be overheard that "the rude season" had started.   While I've been aware that the volume of out-of-state licenses have been steadily increasing over the month, it seems a shame to enter a fresh new season with such low expectations.  I usually get at least to the beginning of July before I despair of all manners having become passe and resort to my relaxation tapes in the car.  So, when that moment comes, the one when I'm about to give up all hope in basic humanity, I hereby resolve to remember what our late friend, Ray, used to do.  He'd strike up conversations with people who were obviously here on vacation.  In five minutes, or less, he'd know where they were from, what they liked to do, give them some helpful suggestions and leave them smiling.  This will be our first whole summer here without him, but I think he'd like it if we could all do that a little more.  I'm going to work on that, Ray.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018 April - I Know It's Spring Because...

I know it's Spring because even though we had a snowy Nor'easter on March 21st, it said right there on the calendar:  'Vernal Equinox'.

And, I know it's really Spring because on March 30th, I heard the Peepers for the first time from the pond across the street announcing it.

And, it must be Spring because NPR's annual Spring Fund Drive was on the radio every time I turned it on.  

Therefore, the birdbath heaters are packed up for the season, the fountain is running again on the back porch and the hummingbird feeders have been rehung with a fresh batch of homemade nectar, waiting to catch the first returning traveler.  The yard furniture is out for Spring guests and mesclun mix lettuce seeds have been planted and covered with plastic because on Cape Cod, the danger of frost extends to May 1st for planting, and these are ALL Spring Things.

If we tell you how it works, it will ruin the magic.
Other than that, anything's possible.
See what I mean, and the flurries continued.
April in New England is much like ripping off Winter's bandaid.  You just have to take a peek to see how things are doing, but it needs a little more time to look like it did before it went under cover.  Although many see Winter as some kind of punishment, I see it similar to a forced nap to recharge, like children are made to take when their positive energy is spent.  Winter prunes harshly and impersonally, but the greening and flowering survivors always eventually burst through triumphantly.  Though much of April is a time to preview what's been recharging safely underground, it's frequently a raw, gray, rainy month with brief respites of blue sky before the next front gallops through.  That little bit of sun can make all the difference in the mood and tempo of the day, but don't expect it to feel like July, yet, because it's not going to happen here in April.  

Early Spring visitors to the B&B
The saying, "change is inevitable" is generally accepted as a universal truth because it continues to prove itself.  April brought another startling change to our Fort Hill neighborhood that will cause a ripple of tongue-wagging from locals and tourists alike.  Those who've made the trip to the National Seashore's Fort Hill Lookout will be familiar with the enormous whalebone gate that welcomes you to the historic Captain Penniman house.  On my last walk by, I noticed that it was wrapped in ominous yellow plastic tape, and now have learned that the whole thing has been removed by the National Seashore for public safety, i.e. the bones had deteriorated and it was in danger of falling.  "Options for a future gate are being explored."   As these things usually do with me, it prompted new interest in the history of what had been taken for granted and is now gone.  What I learned was that the whalebone I've walked past for eight years was not even the original one, which was the jawbone of a sperm whale, installed soon after Captain Penniman had built his home in 1868.  That one was sent to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, but was never returned, although why is unclear.  The second gate was from a humpback whale, but was removed in the 1960's by the Park Service, also due to deterioration and safety issues.  It eventually found a home at the aquarium in Provincetown, and currently can be viewed in the Pilgrim Monument Museum in Provincetown.  The most recent gate, installed in 1969, was from the jawbones of a finback whale and received periodic preservation treatment from the Seashore staff.  Since bones are porous, exposure to ultraviolet rays, dirt, and weather leads to cracks and pest infestation, even birds taking what they can, so this explains why change is inevitable in this case.  I also learned from our Seashore Superintendent, Brian Carlstrom, that these whalebone gates are not unique to Cape Cod, [darn!] and they were found anywhere in the world where whaling was an important way of life.  So, as long as I'm quoting idioms, "live and learn." is just as apt.  

Oh, and I know it's Spring because April is also my birthday month.  I share the day with the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Branch Dividian debacle in Waco, and the Oklahoma City federal building bombing.  As Mark Twain put it, "It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"  In thinking way back to how exciting a birthday used to be, here's my sage observation on this rite of passage.  In one's first couple of decades, the actual event never quite matches the expectations of how awesome the day is going to be in your head.  Now that my decades are adding up, I find the opposite to be true.  I have very low expectations about the marking of another year of survival, yet something unexpectedly pleasant usually surprises me, and turns out better than any gift, or party I ever had in my youth.  I sprained my knee this year a couple days before my birthday, so it was spent braced, and on crutches.  It's certainly not the first time I've had to pole vault myself around on them in the last few years, so I decided to try to make the best of it.  Since my old ice pack had gone missing, I ordered a new double one with Amazon's 2-day delivery to arrive on my special day.  Who really needs more jewelry?  It just gets in the way in the garden.  

On my birthday morning, on the way to Ron's previously scheduled doctor appointment, we worked on a good new story for the inevitable questions that I knew would be coming.   "What did you do?!"  The winning narrative decided on for this injury was a sprain resulting from a sumo wrestling class at the Eastham Senior Center.  I tried it out on the office staff at the doctor's with good results.  Since I'd just been in about my knee the day before, our doctor made it a point to first ask me how it was doing before she addressed why Ron was there.  I assured her that I was using the crutches to keep the weight off the sprain.  She said, "Good", but immediately looked over to Ron for confirmation because she knows we'll tattle on each other in a hot New York minute if that wasn't the case. 

Because we had B&B guests scheduled to arrive the next day, we then drove to Stop & Shop, where I decided to throw dignity to the wind and do my shopping in one of the battery-powered go-carts.  I remembered from previous attempts to shop on crutches that the store seems to triple in size when you're short a limb.  Whenever someone would give me an empathetic look, I'd just cheerfully announce, "It's my birthday, and look what I get to do!"  I ran into an old friend in the dairy aisle [no, not literally], and while chatting found out she now works at the Eastham Senior Center.  I said, "Really, well you should know that someone is spreading a rumor about getting injured at a sumo wrestling class she's taking there."  By the time we had navigated all the aisles, I had a lot of new friends rooting me on, some of whom took the drag race challenge with me and were in better moods for it.  A steak that had been marked half-price conveniently decided what to have for a birthday dinner, and a box of confections from a local bakery that was snuck into the living room by our wonderful upstairs neighbor topped it off.  I ask you, who could have actually planned a birthday more fun than that?            

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

2018 March - Riley & Friends Pay a Visit

Spring! ... Nah, just kidding!
On the second page of the first March weekly Cape Codder newspaper, there's a photo of nine, very proud and happy looking people from various local groups who collaborated to build the new, "permanent" footpath meant to replace the stairs to Nauset Light Beach in Eastham. I put the word, permanent, in quotes because by now we should all accept that very little near the beach is really permanent.  But, it really did seem like a wonderful idea, considering that the wooden staircase gets swallowed annually by the ocean every year, and at close to $150,000 to replace each time, it's a big expense for our town to keep rebuilding.  This particular beach has continued to be a "hot spot" for erosion, and just in the last few years has lost over 46 feet of the bluff overlooking the ocean, putting buildings in peril.  This winter, the bathhouse and septic system had to be dismantled before the ocean took them first, and one of the ocean-front homes we've been watching come closer and closer, was finally just demolished, inches from being swept away.  A two-year engineering study had suggested a new 635' path to replace the stairs that would follow the natural contour of the bluff, winding gently down to a new cut-through to the ocean.  We couldn't wait to see it!  
No more stairs, but this way to the new, improved path to Nauset Light Beach in Eastham

Meanwhile, as I was taking advantage of a stormy day to read the article about the new path, there were two storms converging to form a ripsnortin' Nor'easter that settled right over Cape Cod for a couple of days and nights.  Although this was not a snow event for us, the full moon would cause higher than usual tides, and with 2-3 inches of rain due, a 3-4 foot storm surge with flooding was predicted.  Our weekend B&B guests wisely decided to reschedule.  Power and cable were no match for gusts of up to 93 mph, so we decided that it would be a great time to check out our new footpath to the beach, and the greatest show on earth.  Our windows were so coated with salt from gusts off the ocean, we couldn't see much detail from inside, reminding me of the old Hollywood trick of coating a camera lens with vaseline to minimize the signs of aging.  I saw a lot of Windex in my future.  Our first challenge was getting out of our own back door, which was blocked by all the porch furniture which had been pushed in front of it by mighty wind gusts, and noisily, I might add.  In the dark of night on limited generator power, it's difficult to tell what's banging around where.  It's just a given that nature has its own pruning and rearranging agenda.  

The new inviting walk to Nauset Light Beach
I must say, the winding walk down through the woods is truly lovely, and I was also really glad for the fence posts to grab on to because the wind gusts at my back had me descending at a far greater speed than I intended.  To our surprise, we were greeted by waves crashing through the new cut and flowing upwards into our new pathway until they found a low spot rerouting them down into the woods to form a foamy, new pond.   Climbing to a higher vantage on top of the bluff, we crept closer to the opening and joined a few other brave souls to witness the intensity of the Cape Cod National Seashore's real boss.  We were cautioned that a couple of people had already been washed off the bluff and had been lucky to be helped to safety.  As a veteran of having been surprised by rogue waves in much calmer weather while concentrating on getting a perfect shot, I've gone home with frozen, soggy shoes and socks before, but this definitely begged for extra vigilance and caution.  
We didn't even have to walk out to the beach, the ocean came to meet us.
And, boy did it!
We watched in rapt fascination as sea foam floated through the air like snow, and it was all I could do to hold my camera steady against the gusts of wind to catch the intensity of the waves breaking.  We were mesmerized for hours by the roar of the ocean, the feel and smell of salt spray, the anticipation of where the next breach over the bluffs would come, the camaraderie and comparing of notes with our fellow adventurers and the constant bracing against our unseen opponent, the wind, that tested our balance and strength.  
The remodeling of Nauset Light Beach
When we finally pulled ourselves away and trudged up the hill, this time against the wind, with sand gritting in our teeth and eyes, we were exhausted down to a cellular level, no match at all against raw nature, yet giddily elated to have had the chance.
Next stop, a nap under a fleece blanket.
Despite having a generator to keep us warm and from falling over each other in the dark, when the cable also goes down, taking our internet and television with it, our world suddenly gets very tiny.  It's roughly defined by the radio, when the station is able to maintain power, how many roads are not blocked off for passage due to flooding, and the bits of information from encounters with fellow adventurers looking for supplies, and just seeing with their own eyes what is left of their favorite places.  
Neighborhood roads became rivers.
And, then returning to our own neighborhood, we were stunned to see our neighbor's iconic tree down across her front yard, which is at the foot of the National Seashore's Fort Hill lookout.  The roots were no match for the wind gusts and they stuck stiffly and undignified up into the air.  The once strong and stately branches were beached like a big, wooden whale skeleton.  The swing that once hung, as if from the clouds, was buried somewhere in the tangle.  The number of trees in the world that would earn the title of "iconic" are maybe in the dozens, but when you consider the hundreds of thousands of people who visit this scenic lookout and have stopped to take a picture of this majestic beauty and admire its seemingly eternal serenity, the title iconic is not an unreasonable stretch.  Now that power and internet were restored, word and pictures have spread, and comments and condolences are also being shared from far and wide for the destruction of this arresting view that touched so many.  When I realized they were still without power, I invited our very creative and resilient friend and neighbor, Sarah, to take advantage of one of our generator supported suites.  I was greeted at the door with one of her awesome hugs and the aroma of homemade chicken soup, and I suddenly realized that Sarah's spirit is what is left of the tree, long after whatever becomes of its devastation.          

"To every thing there is a season."
We were also astonished to learn that the popular Orleans Nauset Beach [not to be confused with Eastham's Nauset Light Beach] had ALL of their protective dunes wiped out and had been reduced to just a few feet of unprotected beach, putting a couple of very popular structures in danger.  I thought about how this would affect the innkeepers and families who enjoyed countless, annual family beach week traditions.  Later in the week, we learned that the bandstand, where so many have enjoyed free summer concerts for decades, had to be relocated to the top end of the remaining parking lot for now, to save it from an unscheduled voyage out to sea.  There is talk, and of course protests, about cancelling this summer's free concert program.  
But, you can't take the music...
The decades-long favorite beach snack-shack, Liam's, known world-wide to travelers for its scrumptious onion rings and shore grub was also a casualty for despairing Cape Codders.  The best engineering predictions had estimated another good 3-4 years safety for the spot, but Riley, the Nor'easter was unimpressed by that report.  Many gathered to mourn and witness its dismantling, and messages of shocked condolences have also come in for Liam's on social media from all over the world.  

But, Riley's stormy friends had obviously heard about what a great time he'd had on Cape Cod and a second contingent arrived in the form of a nasty little wannabe storm dubbed 'Quinn' that kept already flooded areas high and brought down the trees that had already been compromised, but needed an extra push.  This did not improve the dispositions of grumpy Cape Codders who were still without power from the first storm.  Shelters reopened to provide warmth and food.  But, we still hadn't had a Nor'easter on Cape Cod that included a blizzard this winter and just a few days later 'Skylar' joined the party, dumping heavy, slushy snow with an appetite for more trees.  This took down the wires for a third time with a snow day for the kids and a lot of businesses without power.  With the Ides of March upon us, I couldn't imagine what would come next.   

But, the birds knew, and they found safe shelter from the winds on the front porch.
I spoke too soon.  After energetically shoveling snow paths for hours the day before, the 'Ides', which has a wicked sense of humor, thought it would be clever if I then pulled a back muscle while making the bed the next morning.  And, just to make a point, sent a fourth Nor'easter our way on the first day of Spring.  But, Storm #4, named Toby, packed very little punch for Cape Cod, leaving eager snow plowers who were ready to supplement their winter income with nothing to do but drive around in the beautiful flurries and show off their equipment.  

As each new winter storm season punishes the coastline, there is also usually something interesting to learn about the past:
An aerial shot by Danya Mahota showing exposed peat beds on Orleans' Nauset Beach
After the second storm, Lt. Kevin Higgins of the Orleans Police Department, a 14th generation Cape Codder from Orleans, went to check on the damage to the imperiled Liam's snack shack, which he had been monitoring closely.  What caught his eye were large, newly exposed peat beds, which is not all that unusual after storms.  But, looking closer, he discerned a pattern of tracks from carriages, and horseshoe imprints that had been preserved by many layers of sand.  It was determined that they were most likely from the late-1800's to early-1900's when horse and carriages, or mules and work carts worked the outer beach, bringing supplies to fishermens' cabins, and were also used to harvest beach grass and peat, which was burned as fuel.  Higgins recalled the stories his grandfather had told him about how Cape Codders survived in that era.  The ocean may seemingly bury the past, but when we least expect it, uncovers it for all to remember.  "This is the game Mother Nature plays." Higgins added.

If you look closely towards the bottom you can see hoof prints among the tracks. indicates that we haven't seen our last frost, but the daytime temperatures are definitely trending towards more Springlike weather.  The flower bulbs are proceeding with certainty, but we know they can easily be fooled.  So can the nearby guests from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, who have been braving the abnormal Winter and Spring weather to stay with us while they take advantage of the last days of Off-Season rates.  Summer bookings have been enthusiastic, but we are not there, yet.    

Saturday, February 24, 2018

2018 February - Super Bowl and other wildlife

February did bring a little more snow for Cape Cod, but the big storms are missing us this year.

Do the words 'Super Bowl' induce a big yawn?  
Or, have you ever said,
 "I just watch them for the commercials, or half-time?"

That's okay, I'm a fairly recent fan of following a team, and still even feel a tad guilty for getting so much pleasure from something that's becoming known for irreversible brain damage.  But, what used to appear to me as just a bunch of guys jumping in a pile, with the occasional one escaping and running down a field and jumping up and down, now has revealed a complexity and skill from both players and coaches that I hadn't taken the time to appreciate before.  The first team I ever rooted for was Green Bay.  It was a rather large learning curve that resulted from dating a 'Cheesehead' from Wisconsin.  I never did take to those green and gold colors, but I learned some basics, which I've vastly improved upon since switching allegiance to the New England Patriots.  I started out by drawing the field on a big piece of paper and moving a folded paper football along the yard lines with the plays, as they were explained to me.  Now, with Ron's added tutelage, I can call out penalties and groan at bad referee calls with the best of them.  You don't have to root for the Pats here on Cape Cod.  In fact, there was a story in the Cape Cod Times about our Nauset High School football coach who would be rooting for the Eagles at the Super Bowl while his wife and son rooted for the Pats, but he will definitely be in the minority.  [He did add that he roots for the Pats in games that don't play the Eagles, probably just to protect himself.]  And, not everyone here has football fever, but if one were so inclined to give it a try, it would be difficult to find a more resilient and winning team to root for, which coincidentally has the oldest quarterback in the league.  Here were just a few preparations for the big game because 6:00 p.m. is a long time to wait for a once in a year achievement:
Appropriate clothing must be chosen.
The lucky Pats lamp, a gift from Ron's twin sister, Donna, needed to be turned on.
The menu varies in every home, but a big pot of New England clam chowder, 
with homemade black bean dip sounded just right to us.
And, I thought that since the game was being played in Minnesota and the temperature at game time was expected to be 6 degrees with negative windchill, I'd turn down the thermostat and bring out the big fleece, even though I knew the game would be inside a dome and fans quite comfortable.  By the way, the coldest Super Bowl in history was 16 degrees in Pontiac, Michigan in 1982, so this one broke the record.  But, life goes on, after losing to the Eagles.  It was a knuckle biter of a game, but it wasn't our turn to win this year.  And frankly, having won five out of nine Super Bowls already, I was actually happy for Eagle fans, who had been waiting forever for their first win.  Not that I'd have turned another win down, but "que sera, sera".  

As I did errands in town the following day, I ran into a fellow consignor where I volunteer who remarked, "If I lived where you do, I'd walk to Fort Hill every day!"  "You'd think..." I replied cavalierly.  But on the way home, I realized I hadn't been taking advantage of the close proximity to our lovely National Seashore lookout and trails, and today was a great day to do it.  Mid-40's and bright sunshine is quite a pleasant winter day on Cape Cod.  So, here it comes, my annual rhapsody [the opposite of a rant] about a place that is simply beloved by all who discover it.  Grabbing my camera as usual, I headed up the hill before I lost the warmth of the sun. 
The view never disappoints.

I noticed that walking alone in nature turns me into a 3 year old.  Why does the water seem so much bluer in winter?  What made that tree trunk curve that way?  Which kind of bird made that call?  What kind of animal track is that in the mud?  I wonder where the deer are now.  A bluebird flies by and I call out accusingly, "So that's where you've been.  Why did you leave our feeders?"  My subjects remain inscrutably mum leaving me to wonder about the next thing, and the next.  

A new rock cairn has appeared on the hillside. 

There are many places where visitors have left signs that quietly say "I was here" for others to come across and wonder who made them, and why.

An offering of seashells in the crevice of a boulder.  Bird, or human?  
The wind began to pick up and nudge me back and forth like a child who's impatient to continue on the path.  It's probably the cold front moving in that will drop us back into the 20's.  I should have layered more.  It's still February, after all.  I've almost finished the circle and head towards home.

 The field that was mowed in Fall now looks like incoming waves.

Our B&B sign peeps out from behind the trees as I approach, and my fingers and nose are starting to feel numb. I begin to think about a hot latte to wrap my hands around as a reward for snubbing my nose at winter inertia that fools us into thinking we are better off indoors.   And, I was also thinking that if New England Patriots QB, Tom Brady, took a walk with his family on Fort Hill, they'd feel a lot better, too, after this year's Super Bowl loss.

Unusually marked coyote on Nauset Beach in Orleans
Photo by Roberta Anslow, as published in Cape Cod Time

Perhaps because there are so many less humans populating our space off-season, the plight of our wildlife comes more into focus during the winter months.  One cause of current contention is a hotly debated coyote hunting contest that is being sponsored by Powderhorn Outfitters in Hyannis.  Hunting coyotes in Massachusetts is legal from dawn until midnight between October 14 and March 8, excluding Sundays.  This retailer clearly sees it as a way to promote his business, and is offering cash prizes to participants based on who brings in the largest coyote and the most cumulative weight.  This has sparked a debate between hunters and wildlife advocates that is not likely to be resolved any time soon, although one of our Eastham residents has written a petition calling for the Cape Cod National Seashore to ban the hunting of carnivores and fund research into their populations in the park area.  It's generally known here that in an area populated with coyotes, it's not wise to leave small pets or children unguarded, however, it's extremely rare for a coyote to attack a human.  There is also published research that explains that coyotes self-regulate their population, limiting their litters to how the area is able to support them.  In the event of a big kill off, the remaining coyotes will then add to their litters to repopulate.  Hunters are on record that coyote meat is as good as deer, as long as it is cooked properly to avoid disease, although I haven't met anyone yet who has added it to their menu.  I bet you didn't expect to read about coyotes this month.

A wonderfully fun and creative community event, those interested in participating simply need to show up at the kick-off meeting on Friday, February 16th from 5-8pm at 
the Provincetown Theater (238 Bradford Street). Then your assignment will be made into 
groups of 7 Playwrights, 7 Directors, and 25 (or more!) Actors. And 24 hours later... 
a fresh new 10-minute play will hit the Provincetown Theater stage.

Presidents' Day Weekend is now designated for this quirky, fun event, and it's always right up Ron's alley.  He originally tried out this event as an actor, and for the last two years has enjoyed taking on the role of director.  Actors who participate may have years of experience, or it could be their first time ever on stage.  In order to promote the idea of fresh, previously unwritten material, there are three mystery props that are revealed at the last minute for the writers to incorporate into their scripts.  This year's props were a bag of gumballs, a 4' wooden dowel and a pair of rubber gloves.  You might be surprised at the variety of material these props inspired.  The combination of wicked-creativity and an appreciative audience [that's my personal contribution] always yields a fun way to spend a February evening. 

A Fun Tip for Avoiding the Flu 
By now we all probably know, and hopefully not firsthand, that this is a terrible year for the flu.  No doubt, you've also heard the new rule of sneezing into our elbows, not our hands, and that we should wash hands often.  Blah, blah, blah, but the other day I was half listening to a very self-effacing epidemiologist who had been convinced to share his expertise on an NPR segment about avoiding the flu.  He said all the usual things, but added [here comes the fun part] that when you're washing hands, don't do "the dab and run".  The proper way to actually kill germs you may have come in contact with is to wash while singing Happy Birthday, twice, and that's the proper amount of time to get the job done.  He didn't demonstrate how fast to sing, but it got the idea across.  Pick your own favorite song and have fun!  
What better way to end February than with blooming Spring bulbs and a barefoot walk on the beach?  No joke, when the temps go mild, it's time for some negative ion grounding therapy and all you have to do is take your shoes and socks off, go outside and ahhhhhh.  We're not falling for this Spring tease, though.  The snow shovel's still handy on the porch.

Bye bye, February at First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod Bay

Sunday, January 28, 2018

2018 January - HOW COLD IS IT?

If you ever want to know what goes on outside your house at night, 
take a peek out the window after a snow.  It's quite a party, but we haven't seen much snow here, yet!  

The arctic cold fronts are the January story in much of the country, and it's taken a toll on our wildlife.  As usual, there have been numerous Kemp's Ridley turtle rescues on the beaches and they are taken to the Wellfleet Audubon Society by dedicated volunteers who walk the beaches on the coldest days and nights just to save them.  The young turtles wash ashore when water temperatures dip below 50 degrees, the tides are high, and onshore winds are blowing.  When their body temperature gets too low, they're unable to swim against the current and they get caught in the "hook" of Cape Cod Bay with no way out.  Other casualties of the cold have been the few Thresher sharks, which perished in the extra cold 41 degree waters and washed ashore.  Scientists believe that the sharks become impaired in waters below 44 degrees.  So when you grumble about having to bump the thermostat up a couple of degrees to survive these Arctic winter "events", be glad you have that option.

A 14ft male thresher shark was found frozen on a Cape Cod beach. Pic: AWSC
The good news is that as of mid-January, about 14 North Atlantic right whales were spotted off the tip of Cape Cod in the bay, which is their favorite feeding ground.  Researchers have estimated that after a bad year for them last year, there are only about 434 North Atlantic right whales still in existence.

And, the bluebirds made their annual January return to the B&B, however, they are making themselves scarce.  It could be just a short visit this year, but we're always happy to see them.

Let's just say it, weather extremes have become the New Normal.  We've had both the arctic wind chills below zero, as well as milder than usual temperatures in the 50's that encourage Spring plants to peek out much too early.  This is certainly the first time I can recall attempting to do any kind of gardening in January, which must have been a source of wonder for passersby, but I was determined to take advantage of the brief thaw to try to finish mulching the new plantings on the front bank before their tender shoots got in the way of my clumsy feet this coming Spring.  Spreading six, frozen bags of mulch was definitely a new experience, and if friends, neighbors and the sales staff at Agway weren't sufficiently impressed with the project before, they surely must be now.             

So, what else DOES one do on Cape Cod in the Winter?

Frankly, when the sun's warmth disappears into Cape Cod Bay leaving only the icy fingers of January sending us in search of an extra layer of fleece, it would be all too easy to curl up on the couch in front of a cozy fire with a cat on my lap and Ron at my side to watch something on Netflix.  And, we'd be purrr-fectly happy about that option, as are the cats.  But, there's just too much entertainment available from which to choose to become as much a curmudgeon as is the temptation.  The month began with the "Cool for Fuel" musical show to benefit the Fuel Assistance program of Lower Cape Outreach Council.  It had some of our favorite local performers, as well as, some new talent we got to sample, and was definitely well-timed, as the subject of helping people to keep warm is certainly a current concern. 

Less than a week later there was a free presentation at the Eastham Library by the ever-creative and talented Chandler Travis and the Three-O.  Just to give you a little taste, here's a link to his new video, which I hope is currently going viral on YouTube.  He swears it's the only political song he's ever been tempted to write.  We're so proud of you, Chan.  

Listen:  Advice to the President, by Chandler Travis

The following night offered a dramatic reading of the play, Underneath the Lintel, by Glen Berger, at the Wellfleet Library.   We chose to go because this one-character show was to be performed by one of Ron's recently rediscovered acting friends, John Shuman, who returned to Cape Cod this winter and looked us up.  It has been a few years since I'd seen John on stage with Ron at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre in the play, Betrothed, and this play reminded us how impressively he inhabits a character and draws you into his story.  He kept us rapt with attention as he portrayed a librarian who "embarks on a quest to find out who anonymously returned a library book that is 113 years overdue".  It takes a lot to coax us off that couch, but well done and thank you, John.   

The following day brought the opportunity to join the one year anniversary of The Women's March in Hyannis.  It was an impressive turnout, the speakers were all inspirational, and the march around Hyannis fell during one of those lovely un-arctic days of bright sunshine.  "Nevertheless, WE persist."    

The march was followed on Sunday by the all-important Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots game which determined that our New England Patriots were going to the Super Bowl again!  There literally was no other subject discussed in town on Monday.  Click on this 6 second video to see an example of why New England is so proud of our team:  Pats Snow Practice   

Okay, the last activity did involve cats on the sofa, but better there than freezing and sharing a bathroom with approximately 65,000 fans at Gillette Stadium.  And, I just heard from a friend that a local couple is paying $4500 for tickets to the Super Bowl in Minnesota.  I'd go, but my cats would never forgive me... 

One couple from Connecticut who used to have a second home in Eastham, visited the B&B for a get-away weekend, but they were sure to let us know they'd be leaving early Sunday morning to get home before the Patriots game started.  It's always good to keep our hosting skills from getting rusty.  

As we prepare to flip the January page over, we wonder if February will bring the first BIG snow...