Monday, August 31, 2009


Finally! A beautiful day at the Cape.

The boy and I hiked on the beach into Provincetown. Will and the girls joined us in town where we grabbed a quick lunch and wandered down Commercial Street. Lots of fun boutiques and galleries here shoulder-to-shoulder with the usual t-shirt shops. I stopped by John Derian's tiny Provincetown shop. Lovely things. I think that we'll use some of his trays to decorate the kitchen after it has been remodeled. The shop was off on a side street and marked by a discreet sign. I can't believe that anyone would stumble upon it unless they knew it was there.

The boy picked out this mindboggling metal puzzle as a souvenir. We've been playing with it all afternoon. No one has solved it yet.

In the afternoon, dad and son went off to clamber over the entire stone jetty to the tidal flats. The girls and I played on a beach. The sunny morning had given way to a chilly, gray afternoon. The water was freezing, but it didn't stop my stalwarts from playing in the shallows. I have to say that New Englanders must be hearty souls...or at least have hardy soles. (Boo!...sorry!) The entire shore was covered with stones and shells, and after walking across a few times, my tender, city-soft feet were screaming. No Caribbean soft sand here. The sand granules were the size of seasalt...not the fine table salt. Ouch. At least my feet are now beautifully exfoliated.

After an hour, we were blue and shivering and ready for hot baths. After a simple early dinner of whatever was in the fridge, we were back out on the beach in front of our rental, watching sailboats pass and playing in the sand until the sun set. A lovely end to a lovely day.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bottom of the food chain

In this episode:

- Will plumbs the depths of Cape fashion...

- Gena is frightened by her footwear...

Another rainy day at the Cape. We'd planned to explore some tidal pools. The kids, especially my naturalist, were very excited. No tame aquarium/zoo experience, this!

The closer tidal pools proved a flop. They were at the end of an enormously long stone jetty built of giant boulders, often perched at precarious angles. Fun for a ten-year-old. Too dangerous for preschoolers.

We decided to drive further in to the Brewster Flats, a two-mile spread of tidal pools and beach. We arrived a bit before low tide. It was gray and raining lightly so we left our camera in the car. It was beautiful. Shimmering pools of shallow water interspersed with clumps of grasses and exposed sand as far as we could see. The swooping flocks of seagulls proved we were at the right place. We flung ourselves onto the sand and eagerly peered into the water. Where were they? The crabs? The starfish? The squid?

The first discovery was an almost invisible school of little fish. Not too exciting. We waded on. We could feel the tide slipping away, and our feet squelched in the runnels of soft sand and seaweed.

An unbroken shell! I bent down to pick it up and show my son. Look! He took it from me, turned it over. "Mom! It's got a crab in it!" Sure enough. A hermit crab nestled inside. I replaced it in the sand. There were so many little hermit crabs, scuttling in the shallow waters. They were tiny, the size of a fingernail. We were entranced, and then worried about stepping on them.

We waded further out. The tide kept receding, opening new stretches of sand. And we started finding the corpses. The empty shells of crabs, the opened and broken shells...the detritus of the seagulls' gorging. We kept forging further out. We found no crab left uneaten, except for the tiny hermits. Finally, my son turned away. "I'm getting creeped out, mom." He couldn't take all those broken bits of crab.

We started heading back in. The seagulls were mostly standing about now, no longer in a feeding frenzy. The sands were splattered with their droppings. It was like being at a park after a particularly drunken concert, the seagull equivalents of beer bottles and cigarette butts strewn about.

Two children and I were chasing schools of fish when Will emerged from a clump of grass. His legs were evenly dark from the knees down. Quite a look...the dark knee socks with shorts. Particularly fetching when the knee socks were made of mud. Apparently a short cut was not quite the solid ground it appeared. Two steps, and he had sunk deep. He lost both shoes and had to pry them out of the squelchy, smelly mud.

He was not happy.

As he was washing, I noticed a thin, dark creature swimming through the shallows. It looked like a small snake. An eel? I started to point and say, "Look! An eel!" when it moved towards me. And quicker than quick, that eel swam into my shoe!!! I was wearing Crocs. I guess probably mistook the Croc holes for nice hiding holes. Eeeek!!! I could feel it slither past my toes. I have idea how it got out, but out it got. Moral of the story: do not wear Crocs in the presence of eels.

The rest of our day was pleasant and uneventful. A stop by a lighthouse. Fried seafood and ice cream for dinner. A walk on the seashore, girls making sand castles and the boy learning to skip stones on the surf. And wind down to bedtime.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oh Danny Boy

Ah, Tropical Storm Danny. You were supposed to swing by tomorrow. We'd already planned our day of huddling indoors and hoping we won't get washed away. This was an unforeseen downside to having a rental literally right on the water.

On our way to said rental, we planned to rent bikes and ride the Cape Cod Rail Trail. I was very excited about this. The CC Rail Trail was smoothly paved and car-free. I love to bike, but hate having to negotiate trafficked roads. I find it stressful which erodes those feelings of rhythm and wind and freedom on a bike.

The bike rental went smoothly. We attached the girls' Burley from home, and off we went. The first part of the ride was perfection. The trail was almost completely flat. There were lots of fellow cyclists and some walkers, but the trail was in no way crowded. The weather was a wonderful mid-seventies with an ocean breeze.

We arrived at our first stop, the Cape Cod National Seashore's Salt Pond Visitor Center. It's a short detour away from the trail, but the roads were very well marked. The two-mile ride to the beach from the visitor's center was a bit trickier with tight curves and elevation changes. But to someone used to the Austin hills, it was fine. We arrived at the beach. Bikes filled racks. A parking lot of bikes! I don't think I've seen so many bikes in one place since my triathlon.

As we locked up our bikes and headed down the path to the beach, I noticed something odd. Folks were heading in droves in the opposite direction. Families. Surfers. Away from the beach. Was there a notice? An evacuation? We had barely sunk our toes into the sand when the first drops fell. Then more drops. Tropical Storm Danny may not be here yet, but his approach seemed to be felt early.

Well hell.

Quick rustling up of the little ones. Loading back up. Back down the two miles to the visitor center. The center was the perfect place for a rest stop and snack, looking out to its lovely view. This, by the way, is a kettle, a pond created by a glacier 18,000 years ago. It's physically connected to the sea so it's saltwater.

I had hoped to continue on the trail as far as the Marconi Station, site of the first transatlantic wireless station on the US mainland. But as the rain continued to spit down, sometimes in light drizzles and other times in frank showers, we changed course and headed back to the rental place. It was a good decision. Mid-seventies on a bicycle feels lovely. Mid-seventies on a bicycle in the rain feels cold!

This may be the last year we're able to do this as a family for a few years. The girls are already cramped in their double Burley. We have a trail-a-bike for Claire, but I think it's asking too much for her to ride it for 10+ miles. I'm so glad we got to do it this year.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

People 0; Plant 1

A landscape designer came by today to educate us on the plants sprawling across our gardens. We went, literally plant by plant, discussing whether to pull, prune, or leave alone. Later this afternoon, I decided to get right to work on our plans. I especially wanted to pull the plants that were in our future vegetable garden.

There is one particular plant...very tall and stalky with elongated clusters of blooms. The bees love it. It's very lanky and leggy and easily pulled. Well, it apparently has a defense mechanism other than entrenched roots. It burns.

My wrists above my gloves itch and burn. My face, ears, and neck (where I rubbed them) itch and burn. I washed with water. I took a shower with soap. Still they burn. I didn't get all of the plants either. There were too many bees on some clusters so I left them for later. Dang. How am I going to get them out?

You'd never know that living this close to Boston, I live in wild kingdom. The other day, Will took the kids to see the wild turkey and its six poults walking down our sidewalk. Our sidewalk! What a funny sight!

Oh, and we've inadvertently started a compost bin. I had swept up a bunch of pine needles a few weeks ago, and the kids put them in the tall plastic bin. Well, now, it's composting. Earthworms and all. Isn't that cool? Now I'm going to have to read up on how to maintain it.