Monday, March 27, 2017

March 2017 - "Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush." - Doug Larson

There's activity in the garden area, again.

Whiplash weather best describes March.  When a mild spell hits, it's time to dig out a T-shirt and do a little garden cleanup.  Days later it will be covered in snow again, and the temperatures will plummet, demanding multiple layers of clothing.  But, when the next warm front creeps in, it cheers the heart to see the efforts already taken.   

The historic Captain Penniman House in the background
It was in the month of December, seven years ago, that I made Cape Cod my home.  Not even then did I fully appreciate my sheer good fortune at having landed at the foot of Fort Hill, a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  Oh sure, I knew it was a beautiful spot, one of many wonderful vistas on this tiny piece of land, carved by glaciers and jutting into the Atlantic Ocean like a mighty flexing arm.  The only reference I've been able to find about how Fort Hill got its name was a brief mention in local writer, Robert Finch's A Cape Cod Notebook of a short-lived fort, built by Bartholomew Gosnold in the early 1600's, after sailing from England to start a new colony on the New England coastline.  Apparently, an altercation with the Cape Cod Nauset Indians convinced him to move along.  Gosnold is also credited with naming Cape Cod, and also the nearby island of Martha's Vineyard, which he named after his daughter and the abundant wild grapes they found growing there.

As I made the short walk down my street up Fort Hill more frequently, it taught me its rhythm and seasons, always changing like an ongoing movie, as it has done for centuries. 

Less than half a mile from the main route traversing the Cape, it manages to remain a peaceful sanctuary for all forms of woodland wildlife and a major flyover zone for a wide variety of migratory birds.   The wonder of turning one's back on a major highway, and walking just a short distance to climb a timeless, giant boulder, where I can sit gazing at a restless ocean and listening to wind weaving through towering seagrass astounds me every time.  There's no room for nonchalance or smugness, whether a first-time tourist experience, or locals who have their first "Dunkie" [Duncan Donut coffee] of the day as they gaze humbly from their cars.  It's a soothing, awe-inspiring gift of nature there for the taking, no matter who you are.  It changes with every season, but its beauty and peace is constant, and it doesn't care a whit how long your family has lived here.   


An unending light and cloud show play on nature's big screen and has inspired many artists and photographers, as well as rock-sitters contemplating one thing or another.  Rock walls built centuries ago wind around and through the land, each with their own composite story to tell, summoning up visions of a simpler lifestyle, based primarily on survival.  There was no need for gyms when these rocks were excavated and piled into walls to clear the fields to grow food.  

Each month of Spring and Summer offers a stunning transformation of the frozen, bare hills and valleys as beach roses and wildflowers compete with little dots of reds, yellows, blues, violets and pinks with the monstrous, green thickets that engulf the fields by Summer's end.  The year's new crop of baby bunnies peek out at the many trail explorers, practicing their new hopping and hiding skills.  Birds chant and trill their whereabouts, ignoring the many birder binoculars and watching instead for hungry hawks.  And, if you're out at daybreak or dusk, you may find that you're being watched heedfully by a family of deer.  

By Fall, the hill takes on a golden-orange glow with scarlet vines weaving spidery patterns up trees and rocks, and seed pods bursting into next year's fluffy promise.  The calls of the seabirds seem more plaintive as many birds desert the area to journey South.  At this point, the Park Rangers mow the thickets back to a bare hill.  As the Winter temperatures chill, everything quiets and the field takes on a light golden glow, contrasting with the ocean which turns a deeper blue.  

Most winters bring at least a couple blankets of blowing, drifting snow to complete the tuck-in for the season's deep rest.  These are days when one can walk the trails completely alone with one's thoughts, feeling rich beyond measure and compelled to find the words to share the appreciation.  

I've recently found out that Fort Hill has given me another gift.  One of my photos of the beautiful Spring-blooming lupins on Fort Hill was chosen to be the cover shot on this year's Eastham Chamber of Congress booklet and will be used in ads for the National Seashore publication and Summer Guide.  It's been a goal that I set for myself a few years ago, and considering the competition, it's quite a gratifying honor.

It's time for baseball - GO SOX!  When time does the game start?

With the unpredictability of what we can now expect of seasons, I made a bold move when the weekly Ocean State Job Lot coupons came out and purchased a small greenhouse for starting seeds.  As it is, we're encouraged by statistics to wait until May 1 before planting anything outside, so by March, there are little packets of seeds with tempting pictures of thriving, fragrant herbs, prolific fruits and veggies, and dazzling blooms pleading with me from the bowl on top of the breakfront.  Short of covering every possible surface with little pots of dirt, and if that isn't enough of an unsanitary picture, keeping the cats out of was a brilliant $16 solution.  And, it even fits in the kitchen until I see sprouts and don't hear snow in the forecast anymore. The main impetus came from a second attempt to grow lingonberries this year.  The first attempt yielded nothing but one sprout that turned out to be a sunflower.  The red seeds are the same size as a flea, and even jump when you try to pick them up with a pair of tweezers, but I have high hopes for lingonberry preserves.  Maybe not this year, but I like to set goals. 

So much for the old sayings; our March came in like a baby chick and is going out like a polar bear.  The circumstances of who we host at the B&B are always new chapters in an ongoing anthology
 for us.  Our first B&B guests of the month were actually rescheduled guests from Nantucket and Connecticut, who'd had to cancel because of February's blizzard.  As it happened, their new date prompted a March blizzard, but an early start gave them the leg up this time.  Our "Stormwatcher" from Vermont tried to get here for the fun, but his flight was cancelled from where he was in Florida at the time.  You see, there are even more enthusiastic people about blizzards than ME!  Following them was a Minnesota couple, who had recently made NYC their home, and were looking for a peaceful getaway, more like the Northwest pace they'd left.  Next was a couple from the Boston area taking advantage of off-season rates for a quick dose of seashore.  A couple who'd recently settled in Rhode Island made us a weekend birthday treat to bring the month to a close.  As for our avian guests, we're overjoyed to report that the bluebirds have decided to make Crosswinds their home this year, and we count at least five pairs, prompting the consideration to change the name to Crosswinds B & B & B.   

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