Cape Cod Scenes, Reading Adventures, and Neighborhood Turkeys

“Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink in the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Summer rushed on by in a whoosh of heat and humidity. We try to capture it in pictures, to somehow hold the light, but it still dissolves into the past with a chill. Now that we can feel that chill in the air, here are a few scenes to warm us by.

Cape Cod can get pretty overcrowded in the summer so instead of reading on the beach, this is my usual warm weather reading spot:

That way, I can look up from my books and watch the squirrels, chipmunks, hummingbirds, and neighborhood turkeys while trying not to think about all the yard work that I should be doing.

I’ve made a dent in my summer reading list while adding a few from my book club. The ones that I didn’t get to over the summer will have to become cozy autumn reads. Of the ones that I did read, I highly recommend Swimming Lessons and The Art of Chasing Normal.

A huge thank you to Millie Thom, D. Catalini, and William McCaskie for the latest reviews of Ocean Echoes. I really appreciate it whenever anyone takes the time to add a review. Millie Thom writes exciting Viking/Saxon adventures set in the mid ninth century. Check out her books here. Her blog includes modern day adventures while seeking out those special places where history can be felt and imagined.

It’s about time to announce the winner of a signed copy of Ocean Echoes. And the winner is…BJ. I’ll get that right out to you.

I’m sorry I haven’t been around for a while. Every time I tried to make it back, life had a way of getting in the way. I’ve missed everyone and will look forward to catching up with you!

What was your favorite summer/autumn read? Do you have any neighborhood turkeys?

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The Outermost House Treasure Hunt

Cape Cod ocean“The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot. In my world of beach and dunes these elemental presences lived and had their being, and under their arch there moved an incomparable pageant of nature and the year.” – Henry Beston

One of my favorite books is The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston. I love imagining the stretches of beach and marshlands that Beston called home, seeing all the changes from season to season, hearing of wild places far from civilization.

For a while now, I’ve wanted to visit the site of the Outermost House but wasn’t sure exactly where it was located. There hasn’t been anything there since a massive storm, the Blizzard of ’78, destroyed the wooden shack and carried bits of it off into the ocean. Still, I wanted to go there to experience some of the beauty to be found, to sit near the site and soak in the poetry of the place.

Outermost House beach

Eastham Lifesaving Station

The site is about two miles from the Eastham Life Saving Station (white building above). Thanks to the Cape Cod National Seashore, I figured the area would look pretty much the same as when Beston stayed there in the 1920s. The Outermost House is credited with being one of the motivating forces behind the creation of the National Seashore, preserving 40 miles along the Atlantic coast.

While flipping through a book on Cape Cod hikes, I saw a map that showed the exact site of the Outermost House as an X on the beach. It looked like a treasure map. I knew then that I had to find it.

We set out from the life saving station. It seemed like the X marking the treasure would be easy to find. According to the map, the site would be on a beach and directly across a marsh from an observation pavilion.

We trudged through the sand, looking for the pavilion. But before we could stand across from it, an inlet opened up in front of us, a wide, deep inlet complete with waves that stretched from the ocean into the marsh. The inlet blocked our way to the treasure.

We stared across the channel to a beach that looked more like an island. The inlet hadn’t been there when Beston lived there. It wasn’t even on the map showing the hike, but it made the Outermost House site inaccessible.

Large rocks on the island beach moved. Then we saw heads bobbing through the inlet waves. Seals swam and played, oblivious to us and our quest for treasure. We realized that seals completely covered the beach and the area where the Outermost House once stood.

So we didn’t make it to the treasure. Or did we? As we walked away, we knew that the treasure is in knowing there are still places like this, places where seals can play, inaccessible places where nature can flourish. We were glad then that we couldn’t get to the site and that only seals could visit.

Have you read The Outermost House or anything that’s made you want to go on a treasure hunt?

All Good Things

snowI’ve started a Good Things Jar this year and thought I’d pass the idea on. The idea came from my friend Milka. When she mentioned it on her blog a few years ago, I thought it would be a lot of fun but didn’t get around to doing it. Now that so much in the news is focused on the negative, it seemed to be a good year to start.

The idea is that you designate an empty jar as the Good Things Jar. You put it out somewhere in the house. Then whenever a good thing happens, you write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, you sit down with family or friends and read through all the pieces of paper as a way of celebrating the past year.

It’ll be interesting to see if there will be good things in there that are forgotten by the end of the year. Who knows, maybe doing this will get anyone who tries it to get out there and do good things more often.

snowSo far one of the good things revolved around a snowstorm that happened in early January. After shoveling the driveway for a while, we somehow still had the energy to go cross-country skiing. The snow was perfectly slippery for gliding adventures around the park.

There hasn’t been snow here since then, but we’re expecting six to twelve inches tomorrow. Snow always means the possibility of more time for reading and writing. So I’m looking forward to more good things…

Are you doing a Good Things Jar this year or something like it? Do you have any suggestions for snowbound reading?

Ocean Victories and a Thank You

ocean sunsetThese days we need to do everything we can to protect and restore the ocean. One of the reasons I love nonprofit groups like Oceana and the Ocean Conservancy is that they work with politicians, lawyers, and businesses from all over the world to create real environmental change. So for some good news, here are a few ocean victories that came about this year:

Cape Cod oceanDeep-Sea Trawling Ban Protects 4.9 million km2 in European Oceans: Oceana in Europe campaigned with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition to prohibit deep sea bottom trawling in northeast Atlantic waters. Bottom trawling is an invasive fishing practice that rakes the seafloor while catching unwanted ocean life and damaging coral. The European Parliament, Council and Commission reached an agreement that bans all trawling below 800 meters while halting bottom fishing activity below 400 meters if the presence of vulnerable marine ecosystems is demonstrated. These actions protect an area that’s larger than the European Union.

Offshore Drilling: The Obama administration removed Atlantic and Arctic Ocean areas from a five-year program (2017 to 2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf. The decision protects Arctic wildlife found nowhere else on Earth, including polar bears, bearded seals, walruses, and bowhead whales.

Cape Cod oceanHabitat Protection in the Strait of Sicily: Three Fisheries Restricted Areas were created in the Strait of Sicily, protecting 1,493 square km between Italy, Malta, and Tunisia from bottom trawling and preserving nursery areas for hake and deep-sea rose shrimp. The commission also prohibited commercial harvest of red coral. These decisions will help protect vulnerable habitats and allow fisheries in Mediterranean marine ecosystems to recover.

No matter how huge or tiny the victories, these days we need to keep fighting for the causes that are important to us. Because of that, a percentage from the sale of Ocean Echoes will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect and restore the world’s oceans for future generations.

Thank you to Carrie Rubin, Britt Skrabanek, Charissa Stastny, and Review Tales for your reviews of Ocean Echoes. It means so much to me that you took the time to write a review. If you’re not familiar with their blogs (or their books), please check them out. I highly recommend their books.

Congratulations to Annika Perry for winning the recent drawing held at Jill Weatherholt’s blog for a free Ocean Echoes e-book. To anyone who didn’t win, if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited you can download it for free until January 10. I’m hoping the paperback will be out next week.

Wishing everyone a holiday season filled with love and hugs

Cape Cod Scenes & Settings

It always helps to live or work in your novel’s setting. While walking through town on my way to work, every once in a while I try to capture a sentence from the air. Here are a few scenes from my new novel, Ocean Echoes:

Woods Hole marina

This is the small pond and marina near the main character’s workplace. Ellen’s falling apart houseboat is out there somewhere.

Woods Hole research vessel

The picture above is of a typical research vessel like the one that brings the characters to remote islands in the South Pacific. The vessel used in the book was older and a bit rustier. Here’s the scene when it arrives in port a few days before the research cruise:

“The ship docked behind Ellen’s work building and dwarfed it entirely, even though the building had often swallowed her whole. The Eagle resembled a small offshore city complete with smokestacks, flashing lights, and towers reaching into the sky. Crew members scurried around on deck like puppets on an oversized stage. The Eagle also hummed. Ellen could hear the metallic humming from inside her office, a constant whirring reminder that she’d better be ready soon.”

woods-hole-stone-building

Above is a stone building where candles were made from whales in the 1800s.  Whenever a whale beached on the shore back then, people would run down there with knives and buckets to take the whale’s oil and whatever else they could use. Now we try to save any beached whales. Maybe some things have progressed at least a little.

Woods Hole whale sculpture

This sculpture is across the street from the stone building. Here’s how it’s described in Ocean Echoes:

“They walked out toward a park bordering the ocean where a sculpture of a whale’s fluke dove into rippling grass. Children hung from the fluke and used it as a slide. Paul smiled and watched as if they could be his own kids. Ellen looked out toward the waves.”

So now I can wander through my novel any time (or whenever I’m not working away in the building near these scenes).

Do you wander through your novels or visit places you’ve read about?

It’s About Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Doing

Cape Cod oceanI’ve been off dreaming again. I can’t seem to help it. I start dreaming and then before I know it, months have gone by and blizzards have turned into heat waves. Now it’s already time for fall shadows and golden light.

Cape Cod oceanLike you, I’ve been dreaming of a better world. A world without violence or hate. An unpolluted world with clean water and clean air for all. I know, I’m dreaming again.

Lately, I’ve also been thinking, “Why bother?” Why bother trying to do anything  when everything is such a mess? Why bother writing or reading or dreaming? Why bother signing petitions or joining conservation groups or marching in the streets?

The answer to all of that is – because we have to. Dreamers are the majority, but we’re not heard often enough. Sometimes we need to stop dreaming. If we did everything we can, every day, to make the world around us better then it would be.

I haven’t been out in the world much lately, except to go to a day job that gets crazier with every passing day. For the past few months, I’ve been attached to my computer while trying to use every spare moment to work on my novel Ocean Echoes. The e-book should be published soon and that’s a terrifying thought, but it’s about time to stop dreaming and start doing after all.

I’ve missed everyone more than I can say and I’m looking forward to catching up with you again.

How’s everything going? Have you been dreaming lately? What do you dream of?

Cape Cod Whale Watching

whale spoutWe saw the spouts from far away: distant puffs of water, an array of fountains spurting out messages to anyone who ventured near. We crept closer.

Springtime is feeding time for whales off Cape Cod. They spend the winter in the Caribbean, where they don’t eat, so when they arrive in the spring they’re hungry. The whale watching boat wandered into a feeding frenzy of humpbacks, finbacks, and dolphins. We could see their slick bodies arch above the surface as they dove through the waves. whale surfacingFinback whales are the second largest animals to ever live on Earth. The only animal larger than a finback is a blue whale, which can grow to about 100 feet long. Finbacks are a close second, reaching up to 80 feet.

Humpbacks work together to capture food. One humpback will create underwater bubbles in a donut shape to disorient krill and fish. The prey ends up in the middle, surrounded by bubbles. Then another humpback will surface with an open mouth for a feast. A few daring seagulls might dip in for a fish before the mouth closes. The humpbacks take turns creating bubbles and eating. DSC04012_3Whales can be recognized by their unique patterns. Naturalists onboard keep track of the whales while recording their activities and health conditions. They name the whales and know their habits and companions, so it’s a continuing saga to see what each one is up to.

whale watching boatOn a cold day in May, we saw a humpback teaching her calf how to feed, repeating the steps while the calf mimicked them. A young adult whale showed fresh cuts on his skin from a recent fishing line entanglement.

A hunting moratorium went into effect for humpbacks in 1966 whales archingwhen the population fell by 90 percent. Since then, the population has recovered to around 80,000 worldwide. In April, fisheries managers proposed that they be removed from the endangered species list.

whale tailNorth Atlantic right whales haven’t been so lucky. Today, only about 400 remain in the world, according to the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife.

A hushed quiet and a sense of peace came over us as we watched the whales glide through the water. We could hear their muffled sighs as they came up for air and feel their struggles for survival.

Back in the 1800s when a whale beached, people would run out with knives and buckets for the oil. Now we run to the beach to save the whale. Maybe things have progressed at least a little.

Hyannis Whale Watcher boats cruise by Sandy Neck while going out to Stellwagen Bank where the whales feed. It’s much easier to take pictures of the houses and lighthouse than the constantly moving, appearing and disappearing whales.Sandy Neck, Cape CodSandy Neck, Cape Cod

Humpback whales have been known to sing continuously for up to 24 hours. Whales in the same region all sing the same song and that song gradually changes from year to year. I wonder what their songs will be into the future.

Have you ever been on a whale watch? What do you think of whales?

Earth Day, Every Day

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“A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.” – Albert Einstein

I went for a walk along the ocean a few days ago. I’ll usually look for any trash to pick up along the way. Sometimes an entire trash bag can be filled. Too easily. This time, I could only find one bottle cap and a tiny ribbon from a balloon. That gives me hope.

How did you celebrate Earth Day? How will you celebrate it throughout the year?

Hiking through Words

Reading and writing are adventures of the mind. So it makes sense that they can easily be compared to hiking or mountain climbing. Each word is a step. There will be curves and cliffs, mountains and canyons.

Arizona hiking trail

Bell Rock hiking trail

You can stay on the path or wander off in a new direction. You might get lost. Just don’t look down.

Devils Bridge looking down

You can map it all out beforehand or let yourself be surprised. Remember to look back to see how far you’ve come.

Devils Bridge trail

Arizona hiking trail

No matter where you end up, you’re better off for taking those steps. Enjoy the view.

Devils Bridge trail

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.” – George Eliot 

Books as Traveling Companions

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors so when the time came to choose a traveling companion for a trip to Arizona, I chose her words. Her novel Animal Dreams takes place in Arizona and her descriptions became the perfect background music.

Arizona canyonsI read this description while on the plane and couldn’t wait to get out there:

“The canyon walls rose straight up on either side of us, ranging from sunset orange to deep rust, mottled with purple. The sandstone had been carved by ice ages and polished by desert eons of sandpaper winds.”

canyon wall

Once I finally stood near the canyon walls, I made sure to notice the colors threading their way through the rock and all the layers representing centuries of creation.

After hiking up a steep path, ancient cliff dwellings came into view. From down below, the dwellings couldn’t be seen at all. They blended in with the canyon to the point of invisibility. Everyone figured they built their homes that way for protection against potential enemies. Later, I read this passage and saw the cliff dwellings all over again but in a different way:

“The walls were shaped to face the curved hole in the cliff, and the building blocks were cut from the same red rock that served as their foundation. I thought of what Loyd had told me about Pueblo architecture, whose object was to build a structure the earth could embrace.”

cliff dwellings

Tucked away in a crevice between the cliffs where sunlight acted as a calendar, petroglyphs told their own tales. They spoke of the people who lived there high above the ground, of hunting parties, and of women with Princess Leia hairdos.

petroglyphs

DSC03868_2

Kingsolver describes petroglyphs as a record of progress through the generations:

“There were antelope, snakes, and ducks in a line like a carnival shooting gallery. And humans: oddly turtle-shaped, with their arms out and fingers splayed as if in surrender or utter surprise. The petroglyphs added in recent centuries showed more svelte, self-assured men riding horses. The march of human progress seemed mainly a matter of getting over that initial shock of being here.”

Now that I’m back home, I can revisit the red rock canyons any time with a turn of the page.

(And the Twitter goat club will be happy to hear there’s a goat in Animal Dreams.)

Related Post:
Writer…Uninterrupted – during Vacation

Do you choose novels based on setting? Have you ever taken a favorite author along on vacation? 

Hidden Colors

frozen ocean

After months of snow and ice, we feel like we’re living in a black and white movie. We become color deprived. The ocean is frozen and icicles are everywhere.

sand icicles

But somewhere underneath it all, the colors are waiting. Maybe if the sun doesn’t melt the snow, the colors will.

marsh flowers

castle

flowers

ocean

marsh

Whether you’re enjoying the beginnings of spring or fall or an everlasting summer, I hope your colors are shining through.

Melting Into Words

melting leaf

Frozen gray skies melt into blue. Signs of life appear: a singing stream, babbling birds, ducks visiting the birdfeeder.

visiting ducks

ducks in the woods

Ducks don’t usually visit a house in the woods. But somehow, these ducks sniffed out the birdseed from their lakeside home. Now the springtime sound of chirping combines with quacks, reminding me how funny life can be.

frozen pond

As the snow glaciers retreat, we smell the Earth again. It smells like life. We inhale it. Slices of green delight poke through the ground, waiting to bloom. Cranberry bogs that served as skating rinks over the winter are thawing out.

cranberry bog

I’ve been revising and tinkering with the novel through the winter, but it still seemed frozen into place while I knew it needed more. Lately though, whatever was frozen has been melting into words. Whether our words drip or flood in, it’s progress. Every word, every revision, brings us closer to a finished book. It takes time but that’s true for anything worth doing. If your words were frozen over the winter, I hope they’re melting.

stream

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” – John Muir

Happy Spring! Have you ever had a pet duck? Does the weather affect your creativity?

Winter Ocean

winter ocean

There’s a certain beauty to a winter ocean. It’s a desolate beauty: one that makes you feel.

winter ocean

winter ocean

The wind is strong enough to push you along. Flying seems possible with open arms. Once the cold sucks all the air out of you, a warm numbness takes over. The sand blasts your face. No matter how tired you might be, a visit to a winter ocean will always wake you up.

snow art

It’s not the one sunbathers worship. It doesn’t comfort. As raw and brutal as nature can be, it challenges. In meeting that challenge to walk along its shores, you’re rewarded with a new appreciation for life. The beauty of a winter ocean leaves you breathless.

winter ocean walk

Have you ever walked along the ocean in freezing temperatures? What kind of beauty takes your breath away?