If you’ve read either novel in my Knoll Cottage Series, you know I’ve included a bit of mystic. In fact, there may be a ghostie in that sun porch. I do believe there are angels and spirits all around us.
My sister, Pat, died in November.
She was a devout Catholic, and had a magnificent voice. Singing mostly classical religious works was her passion. And she sang in every Catholic Church choir she could.
Pat didn’t worry about my far flung beliefs in many religions. She never doubted me when I told her my cardinal’s message story or other spiritual events in my life. She loved me dearly and I her.
The summer Missing Emily was launched, Pat and her husband came to Cape Cod to attend the book launch party some dear friends gave for me. Pat and I had coordinated our outfits for the party, but it turned out to be a killer hot day. Instead of the lined eyelet dress I’d planned, I wore a deep pink, print sundress. My sister came up the stairs in a bright yellow sleeveless dress. “It was too hot to wear the other one,” she told me. We laughed about both of us changing our minds.
I have a wonderful close-up picture of her in that yellow dress. The expression on her face is pensive, neither happy nor sad. It has an element of listening to something important. Since she was always smiling and laughing, when I saw that intriguing picture, I printed it out and framed it.
Just yesterday, I asked my brother-in-law if I could have that yellow dress. I want to hang it in my closet so she’s with me every day.
And then, this happened.
It was Easter and I hadn’t gone to Mass for some time. Most of our family knew how much Pat loved the church, and wanted us lost souls to return. I couldn’t yet. On the best of days, hymns make me emotional, and I knew if I went to church and heard the music, I would cry. But it was Easter, so my husband and I went to church.
I enjoy watching all the children dressed up in their Easter finery; one little girl with a wide brimmed hat made everyone smile. At one quiet moment, I looked over at a beautiful domestic scene. A Dad was tying the bow on the back of his daughter’s dress. Her dress was bright yellow and sleeveless. Her mother wore a bright yellow, sleeveless dress, also, with a deep pink sweater over her shoulders.
It took me a few seconds to realize, my sister was letting me know she was there. I cried in church!
My Dad died several years ago. I often think of them together in heaven. So you see, the tying of the dress bow was doubly significant.
In case I had any doubt about my sister’s presence, she drove the message home. As we lined up for Communion, two women went before me in bright yellow sweaters. Guess what the female Eucharistic minister was wearing. A bright yellow jacket.
Pat wanted to be sure I got her message. I did dear sister…
I live on the spit of land where the first Pilgrims set foot in America. Not on the rock in Plymouth, but on the sand of Cape Cod. Provincetown honors them with the Pilgrim Monument. A lot has changed since those brave souls landed on the shores of Cape Cod. But some things haven’t.
Cranberry bogs are indigenous to the Cape. This fall, the second in our new house, hubby discovered we have our very own cranberry bog. He immediately became a cranberry farmer. I think he scooped over thirty pounds of those tart little berries. He made cranberry sauce, cranberry catsup, and cran-raspberry pie filling. He named our new start up, R & G Organic Cranberries. Seeing as we couldn’t treat pests on plants we didn’t know we had.
As we all learned in school, the Pilgrims enjoyed the first Thanksgiving celebration with the Native Americans. They ate turkey. Turkeys are also indigenous to the Cape. But where did the idea come to serve cranberries with the turkey?
One day, the Native Americans were enjoying nature in the fall on Cape Cod. They noticed turkeys in the bogs eating the cranberries. They thought: turkeys…cranberries…turkeys…cranberries. And that’s why we serve cranberry sauce with our Thanksgiving turkey dinners.
Disclaimer: I’m not a real historian and I write fiction!
Lest you think cranberries are the only thing that turn red in September on Cape Cod, so do apples, and they are early this year. If you like to pick your own, there is only one farm on the Cape where you can do that, Hawk’s Wing Farms Orchard in South Yarmouth. But you can’t this year. It’s already picked out. However, there are plenty of farmer’s markets around the Cape where you can buy fresh, crisp, varied, healthy, colorful apples.
When you bring home that fragrant bag of apples, how about making my grandmother’s famous Crisp? I’ll share:
Nana’s Apple Crisp
4 cups sliced, pared and cored cooking apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup oats
1/3 cup butter, melted
Place apples in a greased 8x8x2 inch pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice.
Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and oats. Add melted butter. Mix until crumbly.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until apples are tender and top is golden brown.
Serves 5 to 6
Spring comes late to the Cape because the ocean is so cold. But it’s worth the wait. Especially after a frozen winter with an enormous amount of snow. The trees that were black skeletons against the stark white of snow and the gray sky, are putting out their baby leaves. Viburnum and lilacs scent the air while daffodils and forsythia, as yellow as the sun, brighten the days. Ornamental cherry trees bloom in sweetheart pink then cover the ground like snow with their soft petals. A pair of Canadian geese glide together on the pond, turtles climb on the log to sun themselves, and bull frogs serenade the evenings.
Dawn—announced by a cacophony of birdsong—is early on this strip of land, farther east than most of the coast. The sun rose at 5:16 this morning, and so did Livia, my cat. There is a nest of Eastern Phoebes tucked into the corner under the deck. Livia approaches on tiptoe and peers through the boards above the nest like an expectant grandmother. She checks on them several times a day.
Science has been removing mystery from our lives. Spring—in all its glory—brings it back.
There is a lovely inn and restaurant standing proudly in front of the Town Cove on Old County Road in Orleans, Cape Cod. It was originally a Victorian mansion built by sea captain Aaron Snow in 1875. In the naughty 1920s, it was a place of ill repute. It is a perfect Halloween house.
There is actual evidence that The Orleans Inn is haunted. After owner, Ed Maas, researched the ghost stories and published his book, Ghost of the Orleans Inn, the Syfy channel produced an hour-long “Ghost Hunters” television special on the Inn.
Let me introduce the three ghosts. First there is (naked)Hannah. Once a lady of the night when the inn was a brothel in the 20s, it is believed she was murdered at the front entrance of the then brothel. Now,besides walking naked throughout the Inn, she likes to blow out candles in the restaurant, and has a particular fancy for haunting Room 4. One time, a passer-by saw a naked woman dancing in front of a window on the fifth floor. He called the Inn to suggest the guests close their curtains. No guests were staying in the room on the fifth floor!
The other two ghosts unfortunately met the same fate. Fred the bartender hung himself in the Inn’s cupola in the 1950s. Paul the dishwasher hung himself in the basement in the 1970s. There are reported occurrences of footsteps where no one is, doors slamming, and cold blasts of air. Though I haven’t seen the “Ghost Hunters” special, I read that Hannah had an audible conversation with the crew. Also, Fred was heard to say, “Let me down.”
The owner of the Inn has experienced the hauntings and takes the ghosts in stride. Though we never experienced anything odd the time my husband and I stayed there, we have eaten in both the upper and deck restaurants and enjoyed delicious food and a fantastic view.
If you want to experience the paranormal, you might check out the Orleans Inn. But maybe not on Halloween if your squeamish.
Before I sign off, I want to tell you that a ghost named Hannah appears in two of my novels. She is a kind and loving grandmother and has never been a lady of the night. I should know!
October is the month of pumpkins, pink ribbons, and costumes. It is the month of spectacular azure skies on Cape Cod. The air is crisp; you can smell apples ripening. It’s invigorating, causing you to wash curtains and windows. The roses are still blooming, while bittersweet is turning orange. It’s the month to hike with less chance of bugs biting. It’s still warm enough to lunch al fresco. And at night, the heavens lower the stars and up their twinkle, so you want to reach up and grab one. It’s a wonderful time to be on Cape Cod.
It’s a great month to shop. (I don’t do windows). There are lovely artsy shops all over the Cape, and now that the crowds are gone, it’s a delight to go through the stores before the frantic holiday buying.
I’m not a cook, but something about October fills me with the desire to make stew and chili. Maybe carry a tray to the TV, and nosh, wearing our jeans and sweatshirts for a change.
All of New England lights up with color this month. Inland frosts have already painted the trees. Even with the leaf-peepers, the road traffic is workable, and it’s a great time to travel.
Wear your pink ribbon—donate if you’re so inclined—put on your hiking shoes, or fill up a suitcase and hit the road. Or just sit on your deck and enjoy this wonderful month.
You’ve seen the bumper stickers for the Cape Cod Tunnel, right? They always make me smile. I wonder how many tourists believed there was a tunnel? I know thousands of them wished there was a tunnel as they chocked on the exhaust coming from the slow to stopped traffic all around them. And if you have a smidgen of fear of heights or bridges, you would pine for a tunnel. The two bridges, the Bourne Bridge and the Sagamore Bridge, are high, 135 feet from the water. They also proudly display the year they were completed. It gives me pause, 1935.
A little history review: Miles Standish, in the Plymouth Colony, first proposed a man-made canal in 1623, to make trade with the Native American tribes and the Dutch merchants easier and safer. He was way before his time. Neither the man power or the technology to deal with the glacier rocks the Cape was formed over was available. Finally, in 1909, work began on the canal which was ready for its grand opening in 1914. It didn’t go well. The mariners despised the toll and the early bridges which were tough to navigate. They were kept in the down position and the ships had to deal with strong currents while they waited for the bridge to raised. Later, The US Army Corps of Engineers made massive improvement to the canals, stopped the tolls, and built the bridges. They continue to maintain the three bridges today.
This year the canal was 100 years old. There was a huge week-long celebration with the tall ships, music fest, ship tours, including the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining American whale ship, a tug boat parade, train rides over the railroad bridge, and ending with fireworks on Buzzard’s Bay. It was the Cape Cod Canal Centennial Celebration and they did it up big! By not having to navigate the treacherous waters and shoals around Cape Cod, over the past hundred years, many lives and ships were saved. A cause for celebration indeed.
Kudos to all the people who worked so hard to make the celebration a success.
As you can tell from the name of my blog, I love Cape Cod and I cherish the time I am able to spend there.
Cape Cod was formed when glaciers melted and dropped granite rocks along the coast. Nature took over and covered the rocks with sand brought by the ocean currents. Flora grew to hold it all together. But the Cape is fragile. Nature can take it away in the same manner as it was formed.
Scientists tell us all things in the universe are made up of stardust. We humans are made up from the same elements as our planet, which will someday explode into stardust again. Everything is fragile.
Stories have been around since humans began life on earth. They were told, painted in caves, then written and printed. We read stories about things we fear could happen, and how we might survive them, either physically or emotionally. A story helps us practice for when hard things happen to us.
When someone you love lingers at the final threshold, those stories may help make our suffering a tiny bit better.
Cape Cod sand dunes have been made famous in songs, in photographs, and in paintings. The dunes in Wellfleet and Truro rise up to 150 feet high; the ones at Nauset Beach are low and rolling.
There are three elements along the ocean shore, the beach, the sea cliffs, and the dunes. The sea cliffs were formed during glaciation and for some time after. As the sea rose from retreating glaciers, it was wave action that moved the glacial deposits inland to form the sea cliffs. Waves and currents redeposit this material and beaches are formed.
Dunes, on the other hand, are created by wind. Strong winds pick up the dry beach sand and blow it around. When the wind bearing its load of sand hits any obstruction, it slows down and swirls around the obstruction. Slow wind cannot carry the sand, so the sand is dropped in the lee of the obstruction. When the pile is big enough to be an obstruction on its own, more sand is dropped, and a dune is formed. The dune has a steep side leeward, and a sloping side facing the wind. The wind continues to carry sand up the dune and deposits it at the top. Eventually, the dune becomes unstable and some sand slides down again, reshaping the dune. The sand forming the dune is whiter than the beach sand, since the finer sand is picked up more easily, leaving the rougher grains behind.
Dunes are fragile creations. Vegetation helps stabilize them. Beach grass is the most common plant to thrive on the dunes. You might also see Dusty Miller, Sea Rocket, Beach Heather, and Beach Plum.
Oh, and the buggies. Few animals inhabit the dunes. The insects you may notice are the Dune Grasshopper, the Wolf Spider, some flies and wasps.
Nature is amazing!
We have all heard of Walden Pond, but Henry David Thoreau also spent time on Cape Cod, a place of which he said: a man could stand and “put all America behind him.” He meant women, too. He spent about three weeks over four visits in the 1850s, walking, sleeping in lighthouses, fishing huts, and isolated farms. His book, Cape Cod, was originally a grouping of lectures he wrote from his journals, but was published three years after his death in book form.
Thoreau, considered one of the foremost American writers, was also a transcendentalist. The main belief of transcendentalism was the inherent goodness of both people and nature. It was a form of protest against the general state of the country’s culture and society. So, it stands to reason that Thoreau was also a naturalist, noting the general deforestation of the land from years of farming and wood-cutting, and the erosion of the Cape’s shoreline. The erosion wasn’t a problem then, as people built homesteads inland.
When Thoreau wandered the Cape, which he called the “bared and bended arm” of Massachusetts, he visited places he thought of as old, since they were settled in the 1600s, so it surprises me that the names of the same towns, beaches, ponds, etc., which were new to him over a hundred fifty years ago, were new to me more recently. He traveled on foot from Eastham to Provincetown, twice along the Atlantic side and once along the bay side. He crossed the Cape a half a dozen times. He walked from the Yarmouthport train station, past the salt works, over the Bass River, where he noted that he had to pay a toll to pass over the “Lower Bridge.” He walked the cliff trails in Wellfleet which look similar today, but have eroded 450 feet farther. Don’t picnic on the sea cliffs if you have fear of heights. The shaggy, 100 feet high, carved face of the cliffs won’t help you feel secure.
Since Thoreau walked the Cape, immersed in its magic, the land is again forested. Portions of land are now set aside for conservation. The National Seashore is protected and no longer the “desolate treeless moors” Thoreau saw.
I’m not finished with Thoreau. I downloaded his book, Cape Cod, for free on Amazon. I’ll get back to you about what I find out.