Friday, March 31, 2006

Water Everywhere = Incredible Light

Wellfleet has been enjoying unseasonable warmth for the past few days. All the crocuses and jonquils are pushing their way into the world. The weatherman says Boston will reach 70 today. I doubt it will get that hot here though, because, in spring, Cape Cod does not heat up as quickly. One reason is the fact that we are surrounded by water, and the Atlantic is still 40.

The difference in temperatures will continue throughout the summer. I have even noticed the air to be cooler on the Cape side of the Sagamore Bridge. You cross the canal and bingo, temps drop, sometimes as much as ten degrees.

In winter, living on a peninsula can produce snow flurries, called ocean-effect snow, on days when the mainland remains snow-free.

Being surrounded by water creates a different light environment, one reason the Outer Cape has always attracted artists. When we walk out at Duck Harbor on Cape Cod Bay, I have often noticed how the surface of the water reflects the blue sky. Everything is brighter, more intense. The atmosphere does not smog up the way it does in cities. The clarity makes Cape Cod an ideal location for painting landscapes. Artists recognize this difference. It must be inspiring, like being closer to the Impressionists somehow. Now that is is warmer, easels will soon be popping up all over town.

At Duck Harbor, the tones right before sunset are particularly awesome. Everything seems to glow. Even this dune merits a photo. I wanted to capture the wind-carved village on its flank but was moved by the warm sand instead. Sometimes Sven wonders what I am doing, angling my camera this way and that before each photo. My husband is good enough not to comment, however. He told me how similar the light is here to Skagen, in Denmark, a place I have never been. Skagen also attracts artists, he says.

I just had a call from an artist about booking a room while she is in the area for an exhibit this summer. I was thrilled. Artists develop special qualities, which we value here at Chez Sven. Perhaps because they take the time to really examine the world around them? They see beauty in the most mundane things. What a shame modern society does not encourage more people to develop this gift!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Walk with Sarah James to Dyer Pond

Today I finished This Organic Life, which I read mostly because I had heard Barbara Kingsolver liked the book so much she got to know its author. This Organic Life now sits on our new environmental shelf next to The Natural Step for Communities by Sarah James and Torbjörn Lahti. Sarah stopped by last weekend and, at my request, signed my copy. Sven and I showed her our walk around the far side of Long Pond. We explored the surroundings of the three pond houses confiscated by the government and agreed it is a shame no one can use them anymore. Sarah exclaimed about how pleasant it was to be able to reach several different ponds without crossing any paved roads. Indeed, we are lucky to live so close to the National Seashore.

Dyer Pond is surely one of the most stunning kettle ponds on Cape Cod. Look at how clear the water is. Kettle ponds are not lakes. They must be treated with respect. No soap, no pets, no young bathers who have not finished toilet-training. Unfortunately, all National Seashore guests do not obey these simple rules.

To our distress, Dyer Pond was profiled three years ago by a New York Times travel writer who called it, “the most beautiful, the most hidden, the most serene.” I’m afraid this description no longer applies. New Yorkers in search of summer serenity have been hiking through the woods ever since.

One of the downsides of increased tourism is pond overuse and bank erosion. The Department of the Interior has attempted to limit the erosion with signs and a clearly delineated path down to the beach. In the seventies, when I took this photo, each bather would descend the southern bank from a different angle. There were several little beaches then. Now a fence keeps pedestrians off the bank, and everyone congregates in the same spot. The pond is still serene, but it has lost its "secret" quality.

It was a brisk, bright day when we went walking with Sarah James. She took real pleasure at the discovery of what was for her virgin territory. It’s true that people who walk tend to get stuck in a rut when it comes to itinerary. The senses participate more fully if you don’t know where you are going.

Back at Chez Sven, we said goodbye and Sarah left for a conference in Stockholm. Her company specializes in town/city planning that is oriented toward the goal of sustainability. We met years ago when she brought a group of Harvard graduate students to Wellfleet as part of a town planning seminar. Sarah is a woman who practices what she preaches. She drives, of course, a Prius!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Thinking Green

In March, I long for my garden. The remedy is simple: bring nature inside. I choose the branch of a tree with buds close together – our native wild cherry works fine – and select a few side shoots for a favorite vase. This winter "bouquet" jazzes up our bed & breakfast as tiny forced leaves appear. Here are the bare branches, currently on the windowsill. After a week or two, I will replace them with some forsythia. When its blossoms fade, I will cut back the geraniums, which have spent the winter in a sunny window, and make geranium-shoot bouquets, filling the house with the promise of spring.

Last Thursday I was helping sort books for the two summer book sales sponsored by the Friends of the Wellfleet Libraries, and one of the other volunteers held up a guide to the hospitality industry. She checked the publication date and muttered, “I never stay at bed & breakfasts.”

Bet your life I pricked up my ears. “Excuse me,” I said. “We have some very good bed & breakfasts here in Wellfleet, and I run one of them.”

“It’s all the fabric, I can’t stand,” she hastened to add.

I assured the lady we have no frou-frous at Chez Sven. I doubt many B & Bs in town do. Strange how people get impressions that have nothing to do with reality.

One way in which Chez Sven differs from other Wellfleet establishments is that we are “green.” I am not crazy about the word since it reminds me of Kermit the Frog singing about the hardship of being different. Environmentally-friendly. Specialty: eco-tourism. There, that’s better. Actually, I would be happy if more local innkeepers adopted similar policies. Apparently eco-tourism is gaining in popularity. The New York Times recently called it “buzzword of the year”.

From that article you will learn the state of Wisconsin is taking measures to promote green lodging. While this is a wonderful initiative, it comes too late for a green pioneer on Sturgeon Bay. Sheri Gibbs has decided to sell her beautiful bed & breakfast. Over the past year, Sheri gave me much encouragement and advice. If anyone out there is looking for a great turn-key inn, check out White Pines Victorian Lodge.

The decision to go green came to us quite naturally. It just seemed like the sensible thing to do, especially here on this fragile sandbar that is Cape Cod, where shellfishing is a major industry. One of the neighbors used to maintain a neon green lawn. Every time I drove past, I would cringe at the idea of all that fertilizer washing into the water table and bay. Fertilizer causes algae to grow. When I was at town hall last week, I picked up a new leaflet with the headline, “When you’re fertilizing the lawn, remember you’re not just fertilizing the lawn.” Here at Chez Sven, we use no chemical fertilizer. All that goes into the garden is compost and well-rotted manure.

We used to be the only green bed & breakfast on the Outer Cape. I’m delighted to say there is a second now, in Eastham. Night Heron Bed & Breakfast. Let’s hope the two of us can inspire other innkeepers in the region to change their ways and go green!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Cahoon Hollow Beach Cannot Be Beat

Beyond this fence lies what must surely be one of the most spectacular beaches on earth. Cahoon Hollow has acquired quite a reputation over the years. The small sandy parking lot can only accommodate a limited number of cars. On beautiful summer weekends, it fills up by 10 am. Limited cars means limited people. It’s easy to walk a short distance and find privacy.

So-o-o-o, beachgoers-in-the-know arrive early. Almost hidden behind colorful beach chairs, coolers, umbrellas, boom boxes, volleyballs, and other assorted beach gear, they troop down the seventy-foot dune with the firm intention of staying all day. Cahoon Hollow is the closest ocean beach to Chez Sven, a two-mile walk up Long Pond Road. We offer complimentary drop-off service to any guest who requests it.

For lunch, Cahoon Hollow beachgoers eat picnics or grab a burger at the restaurant beside the parking lot. Cahoon is famous as the home of the Beachcomber, located in what used to be a lifesaving station, built in 1897. The structure was later converted to an inn. Its name comes from one of the rooms, decorated with driftwood.

The current owner bought the Beachcomber in 1978. The rustic eatery doubles as a nightclub. Live bands play Saturday nights. No wonder Cahoon Hollow attracts such a vibrant crowd!

Another reason must be the steep dune. Couples with young children choose Cahoon because of the dramatic drop, a beach-experience not soon to be forgotten. I used to take my kids to Cahoon Hollow in the seventies. What fun they had frolicking in the waves at low tide!

Cahoon is also where young men show off muscles to bikini-clad admirers. Few beachgoers actually swim here. They seem to prefer volleyball.

There are some summer visitors for whom Cahoon Hollow is synonymous with vacation. We have a couple tenants like that. They wear matching Cahoon Hollow t-shirts and practically live at the beach. That it narrows to a few yards at high tide doesn’t seem to matter. Such devotion is not unusual.

The fact that tourists love this beach so much gave the owner of the Beachcomber a great idea. He installed a Web cam on the third floor. Anyone dreaming of summer can check out the view in real time. I recommend dawn-viewing. The sunrises are truly awesome!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

10 Good Reasons to Choose Wellfleet for Your Summer Vacation

One of the advantages of staying at a bed & breakfast is the personal attention the innkeeper can give each guest. We know what to recommend, what people have liked and not liked. When guests ask me to name my favorite vista, I send them to Great Island. The drive up Chequessett Neck Road always takes my breath away. Here is that view, stunning even in winter. Natural beauty is definitely the primary reason people come to Wellfleet. The scenery here is incredible. But, there are other reasons, too:

2.) Pleasant sunny weather with gentle breezes. (Rain is scarce as low pressure rides up the east coast to Maine in the summer.)
3.) Multiple beach options: cold ocean, cool bay, warm ponds. Salt water, fresh water, chlorinated water. (Yes, some motels do have swimming pools!)
4.) Numerous fine seafood restaurants. (Try a new one every night for two weeks.)
5.) Galleries, open late. (After sun, surf, and fish dinner, stroll around town, taking in the art.)
6.) Wellfleet’s world-famous oysters.
7.) Old-style drive-in, which doubles as a fabulous flea market four days/week.
8.) WHAT, where edgy drama takes precedence.
9.) Nightly literary and cultural events at the Wellfleet Public Library, called "the pulse of Wellfleet" by author Philip Hamburger.
10.) Provincetown without the hassle, close enough to explore as a daytrip.

Not yet convinced? Let me add two more, bringing our total to an even dozen:

11.) Nature walks at both the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cape Cod National Seashore.
12.) The Gestalt International Study Center which offers a wide variety of stimulating seminars.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Trip to the Wellfleet Transfer Station

In quiet season, visiting the Wellfleet Transfer Station is one of the highlights of our week. This afternoon we filled our Volvo with garbage bags and recyclables - not to forget a few items for Swap Shop exchange - and, with Wagner on the radio, headed down Route 6 towards Cole's Neck Road. I hummed a little tune in happy anticipation. A trip to the Wellfleet Transfer Station is like going to a candy factory.

An attendant greeted us at the top of the hill. He is quite friendly but we will miss red-headed Ginny, who retired last year. The row of teapot-planters she salvaged, shimmering in the sun, always made me smile. A profusion of pink and white geraniums would poke blossoms skyward as if to proclaim this "dump" a civilized place.

We stacked newspapers to the left, deposited bottles and glass on tables to the right. Number 1 and 2 plastic went into a separate bin. I noticed how neat the recycle area was.

After throwing the garbage bags into a truck for transport to SEMASS, we turned our attention to the Swap Shop. I deposited my old sewing machine on the floor and glanced around. Sven was already leafing through a book, having recycled an item we had "borrowed" earlier: a rubber boat. On the floor, I found a box of china, the same hard-to-find pattern that my mother enjoyed for years. Will she ever be delighted!

A man was just leaving, a wistful look on his face. "Nothing today," he confided. "Once I opened a little suitcase. There was this trumpet inside, in perfect condition. People junk the darndest things."

It is indeed fascinating to see what people throw away. We have put to good use recycled furniture, mirrors, and innumerable kitchen items. Our dump treasure remains the Swan painting Sven found. We had it cleaned after discovering its value - $500.

Denny O’Connell drove up in his red truck with boxes of books for the Friends’ of the Wellfleet Libraries' shed. Sven and I helped him unload. You always meet the nicest people at the dump!

On the way home, we paused at the metal pile. Lawn chairs, barbecue grills, mattress coils were fused into an enormous ball. I gazed at these objects, which were once so indispensable to someone's lifestyle. Spikes stuck out at angles, a sinister symbol of how wasteful our consumer society has become. A man had just discarded a Peugeot bicycle with rusty pedals. My husband appropriated it on the spot. "Candy" in hand, we headed for the exit until our trash containers again overflow.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Wellfleet Blues

Blue ocean.

Blue sky.

Blue boat.

Blue tarp, yellow boat.

One blue canoe.

True Blue.

Blossom's blue bottles.


Blue litter on Route 6.

(Do we really need our newspapers delivered in plastic bags?)

Beautiful blue door at the former Catholic Church.

Blue welcome sign.

Choosing Blue demonstrates what one can accomplish with blue paint. One of the first chapters describes Gustavian Blue, named after Prince Gustav who introduced French-style furniture to the Swedish court following a visit abroad. (To obtain Gustavian Blue, mix clear blue with white, then add a touch of raw umber.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

A March Day in the Life

With coffee cup in hand, I field several inquiries about summer availability, then over I rush to Seagull Cottage, now almost fully booked for August. Since we have guests this weekend, I tidy up and make the bed with fresh organic cotton sheets. I pause to watch the chickadees, chattering away at the feeder. With birds on my mind, I call Massachusetts Audubon to ask where at the Sanctuary to find flocks of bluebirds. A lady tells me to check Marconi Headquarters instead.

Sven is still asleep when I set out for a morning walk with my trusty camera. I drive through a pine forest to the new parking lot at Fox Island, in search of elusive blue herons. The marsh there is said to be full of them. I have scheduled the trip according to the tide, in-coming, as Denny O’Connell, President of the Wellfleet Conservation Trust has advised. Unfortunately, a sharp wind blows up out of the northeast and no blue herons venture forth. They must have all taken cover in the reeds. I then proceed on to Marconi where an employee tells me the bluebirds have indeed congregated on the lawn out front, but two weeks ago. I return home without a photo of either a blue heron or a blue bird. Such is life. Sometimes everything works like a charm. Sometimes whatever you try doesn’t pan out.

A package from Amazon awaitd me on the front step. Inside I find six new books for the environmental shelf in our library. Sven is having breakfast and perks up when he sees them. In fact, he immediately appropriates Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities For Our Time. For me, finding time to read is more problematic. Still, I intend to devour The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices, by my friend Sarah James and Torbjorn Lahti, a Swede. Sarah has even installed solar panels on her house over by Hamlen Farm.

March is a good time to spruce up Web sites, so I review ours, scribbling a few notes, which I will communicate later to my son. I am blessed to be an innkeeper with children willing and able to help. Stephanie makes my calling cards. Paul does the Web site. Natalie helps me out financially. Running a bed & breakfast in a seasonal economy is not always easy.

While online, I check Google and Chez Sven is right up there on the first page, when you type in bed breakfast Wellfleet. Position 9. Not bad!

We raked up the last dead leaves and Sven took them to the dump. While he was gone, Anders Neumeuller called from Scandinavian and Swedish Press Magazines. He is writing a feature on Chez Sven and wants to interview my husband. The article, for the “Treats” column, will be published this April.

Off we go after lunch to Hyannis for Sven's appointment with a doctor. I drop him off and drive over to Trader Joe’s in search of their environmentally-friendly cleaning products, highly recommended by a friend. I also buy tulips for this weekend’s guests, red with yellow highlights. Really nice!

Back in Wellfleet an hour later, Sven calls Anders Neumeuller and has a twenty-minute conversation, which I cannot understand since I do not speak Swedish. I do get the part about ancestors though, some his, some mine, both from the same part of Scandinavia. Mine had the dogs and the whip. His paid the taxes. Sven also tells Anders about his excitement at finding the Liberty coin under the house during renovation. I wonder what the article will be like … Can't wait!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lyme Disease: Up Close and Personal, Part II

While checking my stat counter, I noticed a visitor from the Netherlands, who had been reading my 3/11 blog, so I followed the contact information back to a Google page and found a list of blogs related to Lyme. If the subject is on my mind again, it’s because I devoted my morning to a draft on LD for the Wellfleet Health Department. I had contacted the health agent to request information on the prevalence of Lyme in Wellfleet. Hillary Greenberg reported 19 documented cases in 2005 for a population of 3000 winter residents. We discussed how important education is to increase awareness. Then she asked if I wanted to help with a brochure.

Borrelia burgdorferi has been around since the early 20th century, but was only first recognized in Lyme CT in 1975. For an excellent summary see Dr. Jonathan A. Edlow's book, Bull's Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease. Lyme has spread fast because of the decline in deer hunting. Writer Amy Tan has chronic Lyme. Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates canceled concerts last summer after his diagnosis. I want guests from abroad to know about the risk.

Dr. Malloy, the arthritis and Lyme specialist in Plymouth, pronounced me cured last fall. In December I saw Dr. Rothfeld at Whole Health New England who wasn’t so sure. He prescribed an herb called Cat’s Claw, as well as boosters for my immune system. It is rather disconcerting when doctors do not agree. There is actually a term to describe this situation in general: the Lyme Wars.

I tend to believe those who maintain that if a patient does not receive appropriate treatment early on, the disease can become chronic. Some say Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are actually undiagnosed Lyme. Recognizing LD is a challenge since symptoms vary from person to person. More medical professionals should be encouraged to specialize in this new field.

Research is needed, ie. funding for the development of better tests and for the study of alternative therapies. Scientists must come up with more satisfactory prevention methods. Why doesn't some business invest in a machine that attracts ticks, based on the same idea as the mosquito magnet?

I have written two letters to the Oprah show urging Oprah to help focus attention on LD, but so far, no reply. In the meantime, here at Chez Sven, we do our best to avoid ticks. 60% of Wellfleet is National Seashore. There are deer in the park. The ticks they carry have probably even made their way into downtown Wellfleet, deserted in this photo taken today. The beach is the only place in town that is totally safe, although, in the dunes, ticks have been spotted hanging out on beach grass.

Today we started removal of the firewood stored near Seagull Cottage. Mice make their homes in woodpiles. Tick larvae choose mice as their first blood meal. Mice sometimes carry Borrelia burgdorferi. After the larvae feed, spirochetes enter their gut. As nymphs and adults, they can transmit Lyme to humans.

Two of my New Year’s resolutions were making the Wellfleet population, both resident and non-resident, more aware of Lyme Disease, and landscaping our yard to diminish possible tick habitat. Both goals are now well underway.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Winter at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

We drove down to the Wildlife Sanctuary at Massachusetts Audubon, hoping to see the flocks of “neon” bluebirds, reported in last week’s local paper, but not one bluebird did we spy. There were chickadees, and redwing blackbirds, as well as cardinals and starlings, all of which serenaded us as we proceeded along the Silver Spring path. Each treetop seemed to have been claimed by a different type of bird. The branches of huge old trees reached down towards the murky water. There were brambles everywhere, and, in some places, a canopy of vines. Sven commented that it was fun to see the landscape, no doubt similar to what this whole area must have looked like in the past. Ice remained visible on the inlet despite the recent thaw. We crossed the wooden bridge. The medley of silver, gray and burgundy surprised us with its stark beauty. We paused to admire the somber colors, which sprang into greenery more than once in my imagination. I did notice one over-zealous clematis sprouting tiny green leaves, as eager for spring as we are.

How distressed the staff must have been after the December storm! The slope was covered with pine. Everywhere tall trees had been knocked down. At one point, along the trail, we counted five downed trees. Perhaps Audubon will set up some picnic tables in the new clearing?

Construction is in full swing. Several new structures have already been built beside the old Nature Center. There was no one around, except for a few carpenters and a couple of tourists from Illinois. Hard-hat only areas are off-limits to birdwatchers. In fact, only one trail seemed to be officially open.

We sat down on a bench near the hummingbird garden and listened to the joyous symphony, being conducted in the barren trees above our heads. The birds must have been pleased to have visitors. They would flit from feeder to branch and back again, thistle seeds in their beaks. It was very peaceful there.

The Nature Center’s composting toilets were closed today. With grant money from the Renewable Energy Trust, Mass Audubon is going way beyond its four original composting toilets. The new buildings will be “a model of green design and energy efficiency, featuring passive heating and cooling, innovative water management, daylighting and environmentally sound materials.” We were able to admire the large bay windows. I look forward to our return once the Nature Center opens to visitors again.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lyme Disease, Up Close and Personal

With spring on the way, the ice is breaking up in Blackfish Creek, a view familiar to anyone who loves Wellfleet. This year I will miss winter. Indeed, I have acquired a new appreciation for freezing weather.

In winter, when I step outside, I know there is no risk deer ticks can spring onto me from some low bush. If I bend to pick up a piece of firewood, nothing will crawl onto my feet. Should I rake up dead leaves, I am safe because of the cold. I know such a reaction sounds extreme, but I was really, really sick last summer. I have learned my lesson. No more ticks are going to infect me with Lyme Disease!

I used to be Lyme-ignorant. Sure, I had read the plasticized flyer distributed by Barnstable County. I knew deer ticks carry disease and exist on Cape Cod. I thought I was avoiding them. Then, on the 4th of July, I fell ill. “Too much sun,” I muttered, lying down. My fever soared to 103 and stayed high for three days. I could feel the contagion coursing through my veins. “I’ll be fine,” I told my loved ones. “Just a nasty flu virus.”

Later that week I mustered all my strength and made my way to Outer Cape Health. “Did a tick bite you?” a doctor asked. Like a zombie, I shook my head. Ticks had been ON me during the past month, but I had picked them off. No, I had not been bitten. There was no telltale bull’s eye rash. “Let’s do a Lyme test anyway,” he said.

The test came back negative, and everyone concluded I did not have Lyme. But my energy was gone. For weeks I could barely get out of bed, problematic when one is in charge of a bed & breakfast!

To make a long story short, no evidence of Lyme showed up because the test had been done too early. I must have been bitten the last week of June. The tick was on me, probably on my back, for 24 to 36 hours before it regurgitated the Borrelia burgdorferi in its gut.

Borrelia is a spirochete, like syphilis. If treated in the early stages with antibiotics, the patient recovers. Without timely treatment, Lyme Disease can become chronic. Spirochetes take over. The crafty little buggers hide in cells, avoiding destruction at the hands of the antibiotic troops. Check this out!

In August I developed severe pain in my neck, as well as extreme exhaustion. I requested another Lyme test, positive this time.

I started Doxycycline August 24. The doctors wanted a 3-week treatment. Now, this is where things get complicated. The medical profession does not agree on the appropriate length of treatment. I called an infectious-diseases doctor-friend in Baltimore and he recommended 6 to 8 weeks, “because there was a delay in diagnosis.” The doctors at Outer Cape Health were not pleased, but the matter was no longer in their hands.

After taking my meds, I made myself walk briskly. The idea was to disperse the antibiotics as thoroughly as possible through my body. All the while I would imagine an arsenal of weapons destroying spirochetes, the cause of my persistent fatigue.

The good news: I seem to be cured. The bad news: I can get Lyme Disease again.

So-o-o-o, what can one do? Take precautions. Avoid ticks. Wear tick-repellant. Stop going barefoot. Examine oneself after being outside.

I loved the feel of soft summer grass squishing through my toes. No more!

Typical tick habitat is close to the ground within a wooded tract such as a conservation or recreational area. But ticks have moved into suburban neighborhoods, too. They travel on deer. Lyme Disease has spread to every state except Montana. The larva need a blood host to change into nymphs. Often they choose mice. The nymphs, as small as a poppy seed, can infect you as easily as the larger adult females. The females lay up to 3000 eggs. Ugh!

Education is needed, as is further research.

To be continued ….

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Whole Lot ‘a Buildin'...

Last year I attended a meeting on the town’s future. One of the Selectmen said that never, in his wildest dreams, could he have imagined all the renovation projects that would be undertaken downtown during his tenure. It is true. Wellfleet has had a serious facelift. Main Street retains its weathered charm, but everywhere storefronts sparkle with fresh paint. The sound of hammers and saws blends into the regular Quiet-Season hum. There’s a whole lot of building going on...

Last winter Marshall Smith, an entrepreneur from Boston, waved a magic wand over Lema’s, and it metamorphosed into Wellfleet Marketplace. An amusing rendition of the store's contents can be admired on the windows. This local alternative-place-to-shop now gives residents a good reason to forego the twenty-minute trip to Orleans. Gone is the moldy broccoli. In its place shoppers can gawk at a variety of organic products. And, that’s not all. The people in charge have vision, as well as retail smarts. The Marketplace is now expanding sideways. A deli and take-out counter will soon occupy the adjacent building.

Across the street, Aesop’s tables were stored away. The well-established restaurant beside Town Hall received such a thorough makeover that a former owner had difficulty recognizing the place when she finally gathered up the courage to step inside. I sent a lot of guests to Winslow’s Tavern in 2005. They spoke highly of the inexpensive, tasty bistro fare.

We cannot leave Main Street without mention of the stately old house next to Nickerson’s Funeral Parlor. For over a year Wellfleetians were able to appreciate the huge amounts of TLC – and money – going into its restoration. 348 Main will now inspire artists who must have shied away as long as it was a ramshackle eyesore. (Note 5/15: It is now clear that 348 Main is a real estate office.)

Out on Route 6, Rookies restaurant sports brand new shingles, a regional Catholic Church will rise on land adjacent to Consider the Lilies, and, beside the post office, WHAT will soon break ground for a 200-seat theatre. Finely JPs, an eatery that offered great food in a small space without soundproofing, is currently being transformed into real competition for the Outer Cape’s other fine restaurants.

And wait, that’s not all. Gourmet chefs, prick up your ears! The Lighthouse, smack-dab in the middle of Main Street, is up for grabs. Eric’s on Route 6 can also be purchased. Ditto for Captain Higgins, on Wellfleet harbor. Looks like soon our little town will have so many good restaurants that I will not know where to send guests for dinner!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Walking again, through the National Seashore

This weekend’s Seagull Cottage guests left for Boston, contented with their stay in Wellfleet and eager to return. That’s the way we like it. With satisfied customers, Sven & I become happy campers. Today spring is in the air. Soft breezes waft through the pines as we set off for another walk through the Cape Cod National Seashore. Our destination: Long Pond. Once there, I photograph the view for insertion into a January episode. Again we were awed by the clarity of the water.

The "Seashore" was created by President Kennedy in 1961. There are still some 600 private homes within the park boundaries. The government used Eminent Domain to acquire 100 cottages built after 1959, granting owners a 25-year lease. 40 of these owners saw that lease come to term in the last three years. Any structure built before 1959 received “improved property status,” which allowed owners to renovate, expand or sell as long as the property was not increased more than 50 percent.

At the assessor’s office last week, I learned the modern house at the southeastern corner of Long Pond was among the homes seized by the government and will, at some point, be removed. It must have been really hard for the owners to lose the place. They will not find another spot like this, ever. It is so-o-o-o beautiful here.

No one had moved any of the downed trees along the path. The top half of a pine hung eerily above our heads, cut by a chainsaw somehow, and left there, dangling in space, craddled by another tree that must have caught its fall. So very many pines were broken in two during the freak storm last December. They say that with climate change, we can expect more bizarre weather, and hurricanes, mightier than Bob, which blew 13 trees down in our yard in the late eighties.

We continued on, up up up a rise to what must be one of the most desirable locations in the area. Twin cottages sat perched at the top of a hill overlooking not one, but two ponds. We read the name “Idle Ours” beside a window. On the Great Pond side, the owners even have their own private beach. Whenever I see real estate like this, I am grateful Chez Sven does not have a waterview. Friends on Slough Pond are obliged to rent their house in the summer to pay the taxes. I imagine the town now levies a much higher tax on "Idle Ours" than when it was built. Still, how amazing to own such a piece of paradise!

Luckily the National Seashore is a jewel everyone can enjoy. We certainly appreciate its beauty. Both Sven and I regularly encourage guests to explore this marvelous nature park, located within walking distance of our bed & breakfast.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Memories of 2005

As I look forward to another season, my mind lingers over memories of the awesome people the past year brought to our door: the couple from Vermont, so enthusiastic about hiking, who invited us to join them for Romantic Getaway champagne on the Seagull Cottage deck; my new environmentally-engaged buddies, eager to share information on Lyme Disease, a professional hazard in the Hudson River Valley; the two psychologists from New York City who enjoyed showing off flea market finds and beach treasures; the Manhattan obstetrician and her Russian friend who spent their first few days catching up on sleep; the architect from Virginia, back with his family for a third year. The list goes on and on ….

I will never forget the exuberance of our one and only Swedish-American actress. Thank goodness she convinced me to slip a short booking in between two August reservations! Strangely enough, her boyfriend had lived at 2118 Old King’s Highway as an adolescent and did not realize it until I showed him a photo of the house, wearing pink shutters. He told us his father had once entertained Faye Dunnaway here some forty years ago.

And then, there were the children, always such a delight: my little friend from Harlem, a Chez Sven veteran at 5 with two visits under his Karate belt, charging into the kitchen every morning to see what I was doing. He helped me plant bean seeds one year and then brought some purple beans from his mom’s rooftop garden as a present the next. I still have an image of him in my mind, genuflecting away with break-dance moves learned from neighborhood kids, to snappy music programmed on a miniature synthesizer. I also loved the dear little girl who apparently exclaimed she wanted to return to “Say Sven” every day after the beach. And, last but not least, the sister and brother pictured at the top, children of Norwegian diplomats, who kept smiling despite exhaustion as they experienced a kaleidoscope of Outer Cape sights and sounds. The nine-year-old even pointed out the spelling mistake on our antique sampler: Cap Codd. Smart girl!

I asked Sven about his favorite memory, and he could not come up with one: “They were very nice people, all of them actually.” He did single out the two boys, both the same age, one in Seagull Cottage, one in Liberty Coin Suite, whose heartwarming instant friendship put the FAST back in breakfast.

One Seagull Cottage regular recently reported this sweet little story. She was walking to work with her son in the jog stroller, discussing the weather and how spring was just around the corner. Her son wanted to know what they did in the springtime. They talked about going to Florida and the beach. Mention of the beach reminded him of Cape Cod and "the beach house." The next thing that popped out of his mouth: "I like Sven." (The thrill of riding in Sven's inflatable boat had stayed with him since August!)

At Christmas, I decided to contact every single person who visited Chez Sven over the past year.

This photo of our beautiful gardens went out over the Internet in the hope past guests would return in 2006. Some may, some may not. In any case, I'm sure they all appreciated being remembered in this special way.

I could not close without a nod to our April guests. They chose Wellfleet for a romantic rendezvous: he drove down from Montreal; she flew up from Baltimore. This couple enjoyed Seagull Cottage so much that they came back a month later and he proposed. We just received an invitation to their wedding. Guess that’s just an example of Chez Sven, working its magic!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Kukushka & Bumper Stickers

The weather has been too frigid recently to allow beach walking, but today, at last, the wind chill has died down, the air is clear, and the cool winter sun lights up the sky, bright blue as usual. I bundled up in down and we headed for LeCount Hollow where the sand, for once, was frozen. Much to my surprise, the path resisted under our boots as we descended from the parking lot. I tried to place my feet in the footsteps of others, as I always do, and found it quite a challenge. So, then I stepped onto the crust of windswept sand, which did not yield under my weight. Slipping and sliding, I descended, leaping the final yards onto the beach, shoes full of sand.

Sven and I frequently discuss movies during our beach walks. Yesterday we viewed Aleksandr Rogozhkin’s The Cuckoo, a film that takes place in Lapland, a landscape familiar to Sven who lived above the Arctic Circle for 17 years. The scenery in "Kukushka" is spectacular. The three main characters speak different languages, so one of the themes is communication. All are weary of four years of war. The Finnish soldier and the Sami woman can understand each other somewhat, because their cultures have coexisted for so long. The Russian soldier speaks only Russian. The Finn is an intellectual, a student in Stockholm before the war, and tries to break down barriers by using references from literature, which does not necessarily work but makes for funny scenes. Even without speaking the same language, the three manage to communicate on a deeper level than would be possible through words. As Sven puts it, “They were able to see the human beings behind the stereotypes and uniforms.”

I bring up this movie because I intend to purchase the DVD for the B & B so our guests can enjoy it, too. We try to offer films, which often go unnoticed but merit attention. That is another fun thing to do in the Quiet Season: watch movies!

We had kind words from last weekend’s guests: “Chez Sven is simply the best. We do not want to go home. It is so peaceful and tranquil in winter. We very much enjoyed watching the birds, building fires, walking on the trail to Dyer Pond, and just relaxing. We also loved the Bookstore Restaurant and walking along Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro. We had a wonderful time and hope to return soon.” They liked Wellfleet so much they hope to move here!

I got the nicest note from a stranger today who complimented me on this blog. I hope it may inspire her to visit beautiful Wellfleet some day. I love the ocean from Oceanview Drive. It fills up the horizon like a cup. We opened the sunroof, I stood up, and snapped away. The Comcast truckdriver behind us must have thought I was the kukushka. There were no other cars around, but I was determined to capture the view, typical of this part of Wellfleet.

I thought it would be interesting to think about the character of this town based on a sample of the bumper stickers I recorded this month:

My other vehicle is my imagination.

If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.

After Iraq, France.

I am an artist and I vote.


When I lived in France, I had a great bumper sticker, which Oedipus, formerly of WBCN, gave me. My little Renault advised DIE YUPPIE SCUM. Over and over people commented on it, unable to understand either the meaning or the language. My car wore that bumper sticker proudly. Now I am on the lookout for another, appropriate to a green B & B. Any suggestions?