Monday, November 30, 2009

On Vacation

Everywoman thinks
As she watches the ocean:
This is harmony.

Blue sky above me
Warm sun on my back and thighs:
Dreaming of summer.

My heels sink in sand
Such a delicious feeling –
Nature heals all wounds.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How My Family Came to Own Chez Sven

November 29th, three years ago, my mom passed away, so I'm honoring Bea's memory today by writing about her influence on Chez Sven. The idea of starting a bed & breakfast in this marvelous old Cape Codder was mine alone, but once the decision had been taken, she never faltered in her support. At the end of her life, my ninety-six-year old mother became bedridden but was not ill. Bea was very social and some of that hospitality must have rubbed off on me. (Here she enjoys a visit with Wellfleet artist Anne Rosen, who used to live in our cottage.) It would have made Bea extremely happy had I brought every new guest into her bedroom for introductions after check-in, but my mother had the sense to realize that was not an option. Still Bea would get vicarious pleasure out of laughter on the stairs. The idea that her house was filled with happy people always made her smile.

Our dirt road will remain unpaved forever thanks to my mother’s foresight. She lobbied the town so it would become a “scenic road.” When my parents bought the house in 1970, she knew to look for real estate with historic value, close enough to the village to be able to walk into town. In fall and winter, she and my dad would watch the sunset from the Mayo Beach parking lot. Mother chose Wellfleet for retirement because Vassar roommate and best friend Nancy Macdonald owned a summer home on Slough Pond. They were friends in the thirties, when this painting was made. (Bea called it “The Broken-hearted Look of the Twentieth Century.”) In 1970, at 61, she could still walk up Old King’s Highway to Slough Pond. The hike took over an hour, but what beautiful scenery along the way! For those of you who are following my quest to publish my memoir about the last seven months of her life, the effort is ongoing....

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chez Sven Launches New Web Site

The weather may be dreary outside but our new Web site went up last night. The site was created by my son (Thank you, Paul!) and is as shiny as this Seagull Cottage doorknob. Cape photographer Dan Cutrona took the interior shots, and there are many more photos than before. Now guests can really check out our rooms prior to reservation. I'm sure there will be some tweaking, and a misspelled word here and there since Paul grew up in France, but I will be able to post specials myself, which was impossible before. Please check it out and report back. We fully expect some people to miss the old look, but I hope the ease of navigation will win hearts. We'll be interested to hear how you like it. So .... what's the verdict?

Friday, November 27, 2009

What’s Happening This Weekend in Wellfleet?

Need a few ideas of what to do with the rest of the Thanksgiving holiday? A tour of the harbor might reveal floats, like these, covered with barnacles. Cape Cool is holding a potluck today, so head to the library for free music from 6 to 7, "Green Songs for a Blue Guitar." Many of Wellfleet's galleries will also be open. I made note of the Small Works show at Harmon Gallery, Saturday, from 5 to 7, and the special Cigar Box Art show at the Sandpiper Gallery, 5 to 8, a benefit for Helping Our Women. Karol Richardson is holding its biannual sale. The shop in Wellfleet will be closed but lots of truly amazing deals can be found at the Orleans location. WHAT’s Yule for Fuel is starting up again with a first performance Saturday night. Don’t miss this chance to hear Robert Finch read in person, as well as to assist Wellfleetians in need of fuel for the coming winter. Review Saturday’s program here. And, for folks with kids, check out the National Seashore event, Saturday from 1 to 3, at the Atwood Higgins House where candles will be made, wool spun, and native foods prepared. Sounds like great fun! Yesterday Sven and I walked the grounds with my daughter and her husband and showed them the dilapidated barn, above. (My daughter commented that the Seashore should hire some expensive lawyers to challenge the folks doing renegade building and use the money from the lawsuit to restore this barn, which looks as if the wind might knock it over in the next big storm!) We also stopped at Corn Hill, where someone had left an offering of corn, both super-sized modern ears and original mini-corn …. How far we have come?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Walking in the Steps of Pilgrims on Cape Cod

Provincetown Harbor was one of the first places in America that felt the impact of the Pilgrims. They anchored at the northwest corner in 1620 before moving across Cape Cod Bay to Plymouth. Imagine the Mayflower, at anchor. What did native Americans think when they saw this strange vessel sail in? I bet they watched the new arrivals carefully. Sixteen Pilgrims went ashore and found a stockpile of corn, which they decided Providence had left there for them. No doubt native Americans were aware of the theft of corn soon after it happened, although history does not tell us that. Last month Sven and I went exploring in Truro and found a marker that indicates where the Pilgrims disembarked at “Corn Hill.” Massachusetts has lots of little-known markers of this kind. I returned the following week with my friend Virginia and again walked where Pilgrims had walked.

Yesterday I watched a new promotional film from TravelGuru, entitled "Beyond Boston to Cape Cod." In the film, freelance reporter Kathy Arnold asks, “How long do you need in Massachusetts? I always answer that question, ‘How long have you got?’” She visited Provincetown and the Pilgrim Monument but did not stop in Wellfleet, still I think you will enjoy her film because it really captures the flavor of Cape Cod. Let’s hope she adds Chez Sven to her next travel plan! ... You might also enjoy this article by Doug Fraser at the Cape Cod Times.

The Economic Development Committee came up with some great ideas for activities over the Thanksgiving weekend, but the Historical Society has not exactly rushed to embrace them. As I mentioned in a recent post, some Wellfleetians prefer their town when only the 3000 year-round residents are around. Lots of non-residents return to celebrate the holiday every year. One by one the house lights twinkle on, so that the woods are lit up like a Christmas tree. I bet similar lights brighten the Truro landscape ...

Would you come to Wellfleet for Thanksgiving or do you consider Turkey Day such a family occasion that Cape Cod would not be a first choice? What type of fun activities would draw you back? Have you ever thought about the Pilgrims or the Cape's original inhabitants while here?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Google Searches Lead to Chezsven Blog?

I am always intrigued by Google searches, which show up on my Stat Counter. Take a look at the most recent:

• Wellfleet health food store
• Wellfleet lodging with a cocktail bar
• Lyme disease St. Germain-en-Laye forest
• Environmental Activists Wellfleet

Let’s examine the last one first. The same person, who lives in DC, Googled Conservation in Wellfleet. Let’s hope the search was made by a like-minded soul, who found documentation of our efforts against NStar on this blog.

Wellfleet has not had a health food store for about 15 years, in the building that became the Flying Fish. How lovely it would be if someone created a new health food store here! For the time being, we have to travel to Orleans or Provincetown, where Bradford Natural Market, in the center of town, recently got a makeover.

Wellfleet lodging with a cocktail bar – as far as I know, none of the B&Bs open year-round offer clients a cocktail bar. I don’t even think any of the motels have a liquor license. That's a question for the ladies at town hall.

Lyme disease in St. Germain-en-Laye: Sven and I used to live in St. Germain a dozen years ago. Strange that Google linked my blog to this request! I do not think ticks with Lyme exist in France but could be wrong. Germany has them, as does Sweden. Sven liked to jog in the St. Germain forest. I don’t remember a lot of underbrush.

There have also been a flurry of searches for information on the PB Boulangerie, no doubt from non-residents trying to find out whether dining there will be an option over the Thanksgiving holiday. When we went by yesterday the restaurant was still not open, so I think the answer to that question is no.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday. Hopefully the new Web site will go up over the next couple days. This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for your patience and thankful that you all read Chezsven Blog!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Globe Mentions Cape's Not-so-Green Power Lines

It has come to my attention that Boston Globe reporter Beth Daley wrote an article called "Green Lines" this weekend but got some facts wrong regarding Cape Cod (page 4), so I corrected them in the comments section. I discovered these errors when Michael sent me a message that arrived by email: "I read Beth Daley's piece about power line clearing in Sunday's Globe. It mentioned the pesticide plan for Cape Cod. It almost gave me the takeaway message - herbicides are good for the bees ..."

A November Day in the Life

I traveled down Route 6 this morning to see the dentist, stopping in Orleans on the way back for provisions at Phoenix. When I returned home, Sven was eager to show me three barrels full of cut branches from the old cherry tree that grew beside the Seagull Cottage parking area. Disease finally made us decide to chop the tree down over the weekend. I also cut the last fennel flowers and placed them in a bouquet of store-bought flowers for Seagull Cottage. The tiny whirls of yellow are so delicate and add great contrast in texture to the daisies and carnations, don’t you think? Next I wrote the letter I posted to the blog yesterday and followed that with a second letter to State Senator Robert O’Leary, who had responded to my interest in banning “certain toxic substances” in a letter of his own. Then I wrote Alastair Sawday to protest changes to his online policy regarding establishments that are not in his print travel guides. A whole lot of writing going on! (I have firmly believed in the power of the written word since the day a letter of mine succeeded in convincing the high school principal at my daughters' school in France to install a condom machine!) I spent an inordinate amount of time reading blogs, emails from friends, and news on the Internet. Have you noticed how email addiction bites into your leisure time and spits you out frazzled and slightly droopy around the edges? I had intended to go plant tulips in the garden of a 90-year-old neighbor before the rain but simply didn’t have the energy. Meanwhile, Sven kept an eye on the bricklayer who was fixing the chimney prior to installation of our new wood stove. After three weeks without a single guest, the income fairy will visit this week. Hurray! I had planned to start cleaning for our Thanksgiving guests, two groups for two days each, but the day flew by and soon it was time to prepare dinner. Every once and a while I checked to see if my son had carved out an hour or two for the new Web site launch, but no. Guess it will have to wait until tomorrow …

Monday, November 23, 2009

Should Concern for Wildlife Trump Concern for People and the Environment?

I finally got around to writing a response to the letter I received last week from the head of EPA New England. It will go into the mail this afternoon. Blog readers get a first look:

Thank you for your response, dated November 13, regarding my letter to Lisa P. Jackson, head of the EPA. I am glad to hear you plan to request that the pesticide regulatory program conduct pesticide use inspections for rights-of-way applications on Cape Cod. However, this measure is not enough. These applications by NStar need to be halted and permission rescinded. Over 2000 Cape residents have signed a Green Cape petition against herbicidal spraying beneath the power lines. Barnstable County already has a high rate of breast cancer. People are concerned that traces of these toxic chemicals will end up in drinking water. The sandy soil here is porous. Chemicals leach through into the sole source aquifer. Most of us have private wells. We do not want the Cape treated by chemicals when mechanical cutting is an option. Surely you are aware that 30 years after the application of DDT, it’s still present in dust here, according to Julia Brody, principal investigator of the Cape Cod Breast Cancer Environmental Study?

The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife may have determined a chemical approach to vegetation management as less disruptive to wildlife and state-listed species habitat than the mechanical removal of brush, but what about long-term effects on people’s health, not to mention honeybees, which pollinate our crops and flowers? Please do your utmost to ensure our welfare and protect the environment here on Cape Cod. Thank you.

Newfoundland, boring? Maybe! Wellfeet, boring? No Way!

Last week I received a comment that deserves more than a cursory answer: “Years ago, when I visited Newfoundland, the lighthouse keeper told me that she entertained herself during the winter by memorizing the 1) dictionary 2) the US states and their capitals 3) the US presidents and their VPs. 

It made me realize that I never wanted to see a Newfoundland winter.” Perhaps the problem was with the lighthouse keeper’s job, rather than Newfoundland in winter? I think I would have gone crazy, too, if I had to guard a lighthouse. (I don’t even like visiting lighthouses, although I know some people do.) This comment gives me another opportunity to explain how glorious Wellfleet is in winter, although most non-residents see the town as merely a summer destination.

The Economic Development Committee has been grappling with this issue: how to attract and nurture a year-round population that inspires local businesses to remain open and brings children to the elementary school. Our committee zeroed in on people who live from the Internet as ideal new residents because they work out of a home office and often can afford housing – real estate is pricey due to desirability; year-round rentals are hard to find since most homeowners opt for lucrative summer rentals instead.

But don’t be fooled. A lot of Wellfleetians are happy with Wellfleet as is and don’t especially want change. At first glance, the town may seem lonely and desolate in the off-season, but that’s precisely what residents prefer. They like the absence of traffic, the laid-back atmosphere, the lack of a line at the restaurants, the quiet and closeness of nature.

Who lives in Wellfleet in winter? There are the service trades folk, the shellfishermen and business owners, the school teachers and local medical staff, and, a smattering of creative types eking out a living from the arts. What makes Wellfleet unusual is the number of talented older folks who also live here, in retirement. They have time on their hands and life knowledge to share. Their energy flows freely through the community, keeping us all on our toes. These people form reading and writing groups. They founded the Wellfleet Forum. They do volunteer work for local charities like Mustard Seed Kitchen or Helping Our Women. They join town committees or work as Selectmen. Most recently, people from both groups banded together to start Preservation Hall, set to open in January 2011.

Wellfleet is a thinking man’s place. Early on Edmund Wilson called it home. Dwight Macdonald and his wife Nancy, my godmother, spent the summer on Slough Pond. There were the modern architects from abroad who adopted Wellfleet as their own and designed houses here. Robert Jay Lifton and his wife BJ still hold an annual invitation-only seminar in September that unites heavy hitters in the brain department to examine the world situation ...

And then, there’s our library and its award-winning librarian. Something interesting is always going on at the Wellfleet Public Library. Once the late Philip Hamburger, of The New Yorker, described our library as “the pulse” of Wellfleet. (He summered here, too!) If the lighthouse keeper from Newfoundland had lived in Wellfleet, at least he/she could have borrowed books through the CLAMS system that allows residents a phenomenal choice of reading material. No need to study the dictionary.

I'm a city girl: Manhattan, Washington DC, Paris, France. When Sven and I moved here, I thought we would be going back to the city once my parents had passed away. My parents chose Wellfleet in retirement because my mother wanted to be close to her friend Nancy, but also for all the reasons listed above. We quickly discovered what a special place Wellfleet is. For the time being, we have no plans to leave.

The Wellfleet lighthouse keeper is long gone, as is the lighthouse, moved to California. All we have left is The Lighthouse Restaurant, a great place for luncheon specials in the dead of winter. While enjoying a plate of mussels and a sandwich, you’ll probably overhear some pretty intense conversations if you listen in, because often the groups that meet at the library move to The Lighthouse for lunch…

I mentioned one word above that’s really important. Can you guess which one? Yes, nature. Wellfleet does nature in a big way. The ever-changing Atlantic never looks quite the same. Regular blog readers know from my photos that winter in Wellfleet offers hungry eyes amazing variety. How could anyone ever be bored here?

NOTE: Coming soon, Chez Sven's new Web site. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reflections at the Post Office …

I notice a landscaping firm has been putting the final touches on new vegetation to the east of WHAT, a vacant lot which used to be a wasteland. As I drive around the Post Office complex and park in front of the theater, I wonder whether the firm’s owner has green standards like Laura at Littlefield Landscapes?

The Wellfleet Post Office is deserted. Not a single person in line, unusual for a Saturday morning. I deposit my postcard on the scale, ring the bell, look around at the large, faded photo of old Chequessett Inn before the ice storm. Theoretically, postcards do not need to be weighed, but this one’s going to Europe, and I’ve lost track of the latest increase in postal rates.

A female employee emerges from a back room, someone I don’t recognize. Perhaps the regular mail clerk is sick or on maternity leave?

The woman throws a suspicious glance down at the post card. “Does this contain anything liquid, fragile, hazardous, perishable or powdery?” she says, fast, as if she were an eight-year-old, eager to show off recently acquired skill at tongue-twisters.

“Excuse me?” I say.

A stranger has appeared with a package, and the postmistress, who was sorting through a pile of letters, now pauses to listen.

The mail clerk repeats, in a tone that shows impatience but only slightly, “Does this contain anything liquid, fragile, hazardous, perishable or powdery?”

“But it’s only a post card!” I turn to the stranger, eyebrows raised.

“My God, it’s a postcard!” she chimes in, disbelief in her voice.

“If we have to weigh it, we have to say it,” the clerk says in singsong.

“Imagine I were a criminal and intended to send a dangerous substance through the mail, do you think I’d answer yes to your question?”

The clerk shrugs and offers up a tight little smile.

Anthrax is one good reason to beware of postcards I suppose, but what’s the probability that I had powdered it before leaving home? After all, I’m not wearing gloves and would have made myself sick, too. On the way back to the car, I think about the world we have created where it’s okay to use Round-Up in the garden, as much as you want, even if it ends up in our drinking water because it’s a free country, anything goes. But, at the post office, you’re expected to fess up to dangerous substances that might injure Federal workers, and if you try to send something toxic through the mail, you will get arrested. Seems like we need the same rules for our environment ….

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Walking at Marconi in Search of History

This week my friend Virginia invited me on a morning walk through the woods behind the Marconi Station. She was trying to locate a drivable road, part-way to the old army camp, in order to bring some friends, too feeble to walk from her cottage. The walk turned out to be more of a hike. We walked for two full hours. Still, I’m glad to have come along. Our destination? Camp Wellfleet. To be more exact, we were looking for the old airstrip.

The terrain was quite flat, with pine trees growing on either side of a windy road. There were tracks of coyotes and deer in the sandy roadbed. We also saw evidence of a struggle, between a coyote and a quail, no doubt. Not surprising who won! I was relieved to know these woods still have bobwhites. My children used to love seeing them in the 1970s, when the plump birds would strut their stuff through our garden. Recently I read about a boy in Brewster who raised a family of quail and released them into the wild.

My thoughts turned back to the matter at hand when Virginia said, “I can remember the convoys, out on Route 6. As kids, we loved to ride behind them.”

We went deeper into the woods, having found, at last, the right path. The faint sound of waves crashing had reached our ears. Soon it became a roar, like a freight train. The road narrowed to five or six feet across, with abundant underbrush on either side, new growth dating from the time the army stopped clearing access to the cliff. Pine needles crunched underfoot.

“So, where’s this airstrip?” I asked finally, looking around for a break in the pines that might lead to what I imagined as an abandoned runway, made of concrete.

“This is it!” Virginia said and led the way to the edge of the cliff. “The drones took off from here. Mike Parlante has one of the propellers in his restaurant.”

From the Camp Wellfleet site, I learned these small metal planes were used in anti-aircraft training. The site even has a message board where a soldier named Jack Chitwood wrote about his memories of Camp Wellfleet, 1955-56: “My duty time there was like a vacation. I will never forget the beauty of the countryside as I traveled to Hyannis, Provincetown, and Orleans to walk town patrol. My duty on the Cape was an adventure to an 18-year-old kid from Memphis, TN whose only look at water was looking at the Mississippi River. I have always wanted to take my wife (of 47 years) to the Cape but it hasn't happened for various reasons. Our unit was always treated well by the people of the Cape.”

Once home, I told Sven about my morning adventure. Of course, the propeller became our main goal that afternoon. We found the shellfisherman at the bar of his restaurant, The Bookstore, warming himself prior to spending the rest of the day out on the flats. Sven ordered a bowl of clam chowder. When I asked about the propeller, Mike took us upstairs.

“Got it off of eBay,” he said proudly. “Guess nobody else knew what it was.”

The propeller was way cool. It seemed to be made of two different types of wood. There was still red paint on the tips. Sven got a big kick out of holding it. How historians do love to touch an object when real history is involved!

Friday, November 20, 2009


Feeling frustrated that this is our third weekend with no bookings, no calls, no emails, no reservations, I wrote lyrics to the playful tune by Herman’s Hermits, No Milk Today, recorded in 1965. So, without further ado, time for a bit of fun, with this blast from the past:

“No rooms today, my guests all stay away
Seagull stands forlorn, empty dusk ‘til dawn
No rooms today, it seems a common sight
Recession’s passing by, must be the reason why

How could they know just what vacancy means
The end of my hopes, the end of all my dreams
How could they know the silence at the inn
Behind the door where you get twin or queen

No rooms today, it wasn't always so
Summers are so gay, we're full day after day

And all that's left is a place dark and lonely
An empty house in the woods in back of town
Becomes a pain if I think of it only
Love to have you down …”

How about December 4 & 5? The first weekend in December is turning into an event here on the Outer Cape. On Sunday, December 6, Wellfleet will be decked out with wreaths for the holidays. There’s going to be a craft fair at Preservation Hall, caroling, etc. I have even heard talk about a possible hayride. Of course, Wellfleet's deserted beaches are wonderful at low tide in winter as long as a fierce wind isn't blowing. Seagull Cottage and our Green Room are still available ….

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Breast Cancer on Cape Cod

Did you realize groundwater feeds our kettle ponds, like Great Pond, above? This is why cancer researchers have been analyzing pond water, as reported at State of the Harbor last Saturday.

Yesterday I journeyed down to Hyannis for the annual Silent Spring Institute research update, scheduled during lunch-hour, a great idea, which allowed fifty people to attend and listen while munching sandwiches. Cheryl Osimo, Outreach Coordinator and Director of Events and Communication for the MA Breast Cancer Coalition, gave background history and explained that John Klimm, our host and Barnstable Town Manager, had been instrumental in helping her get SSI started in the nineties. Again, a statistic that bears repeating: breast cancer rates are approximately 20% higher on Cape Cod than the rest of Massachusetts. SSI researchers are trying to figure out why. Is this difference due to intensive spraying of cranberry bogs in the past? Spraying for gypsy moths? Mosquitoes? DDT has been banned for thirty years but there are still traces in Cape Cod dust. What other synthetic chemicals have gone into our aquifer since then that might explain the high breast cancer rate?

Here are some of the points raised by researchers Laurel Schaider and Robin Dodson:

1.) A new SSI project on pharmaceuticals and hormones in drinking water was completed in October. The public wells chosen are located between Brewster and Falmouth. The goal is to understand the susceptibility of Cape Cod drinking water supplies to contamination by wastewater and evaluate the influence of factors such as land use in recharge areas. Results will be back in a month. The researchers hope to do similar testing on private wells.

2.) Biological mechanism + human exposure = a basis for action. (Please note, only 10% of all breast cancer cases are hereditary.)

3.) Mammary carcinogens damage DNA. Endocrine disruptor compounds (EDCs) make tumors grow.

4.) Numerous chemicals have been found in recent water studies across the country. Many are EDCs. Many do not break down easily. The levels of these chemicals are very low but their presence alone is worrisome, although it is not yet clear whether these low levels have an effect on health.

5.) On Cape Cod, where most people have wells and septic systems, sandy soil allows traces of chemicals to filter into our shallow aquifer.

6.) Babies and developing fetuses are the most at risk.

Robin also provided a no-nonsense list of household tips.

Since I cannot do these two ladies justice, I suggest reading Cynthia McCormick's report in today's Cape Cod Times and seeking additional information at the Silent Spring Institute Web site. Much more research is needed, of course, but headway has been made, and all Cape Codders should feel grateful to Cheryl Osimo and the other SSI founders for their persistence and dedication.

One thing is clear: back in the 1750s, when Cape Codders pumped water up from the aquifer, they did not have to worry whether that water contained traces of synthetic chemicals.

What can the individual do? Eat organic. Filter water. Advocate for pesticide-free green spaces, encourage neighbors to use less toxic products, properly dispose of unused pharmaceuticals. Finally, support Alliance for a Healthier Tomorrow. Spread the word to friends and family members and write a check this fall for Silent Spring, which lost a major donor to the economic crisis, so that this valuable work with continue.

What can the innkeeper do? Go green; spread the word to guests.

What can the writer do? Draw attention to the connection between chemicals in the environment and cancer.

Which brings me to the letter I sent to the EPA in September about NStar’s plan to spray herbicides beneath the power lines, a short distance from Chez Sven, as the blue heron flies. I received a two-page single-spaced response. Not victory, but a tiny first step. EPA New England now plans to do testing once NStar has sprayed in June. The struggle continues!

Do you have a friend or family member who survived breast cancer? Did this diagnosis cause a change in habits and lifestyle? Does she believe environmental factors played a role in her disease?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bridge Open Thanksgiving - Hallelujah!

The Army Corps of Engineers has announced the Sagamore Bridge will be fully open over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Even the birds, down at the marina, seemed to be celebrating this good news.

In the Spotlight: Fine Arts Work Center

Destination Provincetown, twenty-five minutes down Route 6 and the Fine Arts Work Center. FAWC was founded 40 years ago by a group of artists and writers, including Stanley Kunitz and Robert Motherwell, who had conceived of a community where young talent could be nurtured in a place that had long been an arts colony. The FAWC is tucked away down a side street off Bradford, not far from the bustle of Provincetown. After a three-year fund-raising campaign, the old Day’s lumber yard building is undergoing a complete renovation, scheduled to end in late March. Besides the writers and artists in the seven-month resident program October to May, every summer the FAWC offers ten weeks of courses in the visual arts and literature. I almost took a seminar with Margot Livsey last June but unfortunately could not accept my wait-listed spot due to prior engagements for Chez Sven. I mention this to indicate space-limited really does mean space limited. The 2010 catalog will go online in January. Exhibits and readings take place all year long and feature writers like Elizabeth Strout, who won a Pulitzer in 2009 and read from her collection, Olive Kitteridge, October 9.

The Fine Arts Work Center provides the space, time, and leisure to create. One of my favorite writers was able to take advantage of a winter fellowship: Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Giant’s House: A Romance, which takes place on Cape Cod. Today I was asked to guest-blog at A Traveler's Library and chose to write about this novel. Scoot on over and discover Vera Marie Badertsche's great blog for travelers who like to read about where they are going prior to departure. (Anyone attending a FAWC course in May or June, 2010, contact me for a discount on Chez Sven's Green Room!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Compare the two photos, above and below, Before and After, taken at the same spot on the ocean, halfway between Marconi and LeCount Hollow. Chez Sven is located two miles from the ocean. Over the weekend, during the storm, we could hear the ocean roar, which meant waves were pummeling the coast, not as bad as further south, according to the weatherman, but dramatic none the less. Sven and I went down to the sea late Sunday afternoon, after the fog had rolled in. “I miss hearing the fog horn,” he said, remembering one in Sweden. That’s how much fog there was. We walked right, as is our custom. The fog kept growing thicker, so it was only possible to see a few yards by the end of our walk. I felt sorry for all the people who only walk this beach in the sunshine. They don’t know what they’re missing. It’s a totally different place. Spooky, perhaps, but amazing to experience. The beach looked as if a giant Halloween witch, with a great big broom, had lingered for fifteen days and swept the exposed sand clear of debris, stones, shells, seaweed, everything! How smooth the surface. The dune was no longer the same either. I had detected cracks over the past few months, but now the change was spectacular. Whole layers had fallen away, revealing sediment of different shades of beige, evident even in the fog. I did not have my camera Sunday, so we came back yesterday to record the erosion. There was a line of burnt ocher that we took to indicate the presence of iron. I don’t like to think that the land mass is eroding, but that fact cannot be denied.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Trouve Tout … à la Bibliothèque de Wellfleet!

In France, there’s a popular saying that resulted from a commercial for a Right Bank department store. “On trouve tout à la Samaritaine!” One finds everything at the Samaritaine. That’s the way I feel about the Wellfleet Public Library where something interesting always seems to be going on. Sven recently started a seminar on Celtic history. Besides seminars, there are art exhibits, weekly poetry and writing groups, activities for toddlers, and much, much more. Three recent events worth mention:

Oct. 18: Two founders of the Georgian Textile Group demonstrated how to make a felt rug, above. They used sheep’s wool, which is rough but very soft. Two dozen excited Wellfleetians participated in this exclusive crafts workshop. Everyone made designs with wool of varying colors and placed their creations on the rug. The leaders sprayed hot soapy water, then rolled it up. Barbara Prazak and Betsy Williams helped with this strenuous physical activity, quite an experience, apparently, that I’m sorry I missed. “People were high on it the next day,” Elaine McIlroy, our award-winning librarian, reported. The ladies intend to bring back traditional textile arts to the Republic of Georgia and were in the USA thanks to an American Friends of Georgia donor from Orleans. This was the second of two workshops. (On Saturday, Wellfleetians learned to knit slippers with five needles. “The slippers are very popular in Wellfleet now!” Marusya Chavchavadze told me with a laugh.) Library-goers can bid on the rug starting Wednesday. Bids start at $100. Proceeds will benefit the Georgia Textile Group.

November 7: Don Cameron spoke to a full house about shamanic healing. Calling himself a “feet-on-the-ground” type of guy, Cameron said he had left high tech engineering to follow an ancient path, after receiving a nudge from a snowy owl. The reluctant shaman from Scotland shared stories of his training with the Incas and his practice, then fielded questions from a fascinated group of listeners, representing many Cape towns. If you’ve got “a few dings in your energy field,” go see Cameron in Hyannis to get them fixed. “Clients do not have to believe; they only need to have the intention to be healed.” Here Sven chats with Cameron after the event.

November 14: Two dozen women and two men gathered to watch Toxic Bust, a powerful film about breast cancer, its probable causes and its prevention, produced and directed by Megan Siler in 2006. The forty-three minute film contains some frightening statistics, including the fact that every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, 200 synthetic chemicals have been found in breast milk, and less than 10% of all breast cancer cases are hereditary. Just one important statement to retain: “We know there are toxic chemicals that can initiate a cancer.” Cape Cod has a 20% higher rate of breast cancer than the rest of Massachusetts. Silent Spring Institute, founded by the MA Breast Cancer Coalition, is trying to figure out why. After the film, event coordinator Cheryl Osimo and board member Dr. Pat Rainy fielded questions related to drinking water, how to avoid toxins that can disrupt DNA, and the risks of radiation involved in mammograms. The two women laughed off the fact that they are referred to as “hippy activists.” One last chilling revelation: the genes that determine predisposition for breast cancer are now owned by Myriad, and patented so that Myriad is sure to do all further testing. Incredible!!