Thursday, September 30, 2010

Weeping beside Great Pond ...

Sven and I like to walk beyond Dyer Pond to Great Pond, and pause there on a small deserted beach at the end of the path, deep in the National Seashore. The peacefulness hangs heavy on my spirit. The reeds are picture-perfect and bend in the breeze. I move forward, camera in hand, to snap a photo or two. But my gaze is drawn to the rippling water, and I find myself unable to concentrate on photography. I cannot help but wonder what a highly sophisticated water analysis would reveal? Everyone knows acid rain has fallen across New England for years, causing the National Seashore to put up a sign, warning about mercury in fish. Not that I intend to go fishing or eat any fish from this pond. I contemplate the broad expanse of water, fluid, liquid, teeming with life, but also toxic, no doubt. The idea is so discordant that it causes me to give an involuntary shudder. Invisible toxins are the worst kind. And, they are everywhere.

I have come to the conclusion that the organizations that should be protecting us don’t give a damn. Oh, I know. That statement sounds overly dramatic. But how else to explain the EPA's convoluted response to the BP oil spill and reliance on a toxic dispersant to make the oil sink to the bottom of the Gulf, or the Obama Administration’s current stance on hydro-fracking in Pennsylvania, as reported on HuffPost? (A general from the Army Corps of Engineers, who represents the Federal government, intends to green-light the grandfathered test wells. For those of you who are not familiar with hydro-fracking, the gas companies inject toxic chemicals into the ground to obtain the natural gas that is trapped in the shale.) Read a blog post by Virginia, a citizen protester who has drawn the wrath of Homeland Security by speaking out on the right to uncontaminated water, and weep.

There was an article yesterday in the Telegraph about how endocrine disruptors are gender-bending chemicals, ie. they feminize boys. Read Why Boys are Turning into Girls and weep.

The President's Cancer Panel's annual report warns, 'Our science looks at a substance-by-substance exposure and doesn’t take into account the multitude of exposures we experience in daily life. If we did, it might change our risk paradigm. The potential risks associated with extremely low-level exposure may be underestimated or missed entirely.'" Reflect on the fact that President Obama has not yet embraced this report and weep.

The reform of our toxic chemical laws is urgent. Let Congress know how you feel today. Don't wait for a loved one to get cancer or have a child born with hyperplasia before becoming active on this issue. Toxic chemicals in the environment cause disease and disrupt normal development of the human body. Small children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable.

Update: on Tuesday, Sarasota County, Florida, adopted the Precautionary Principle, already in place in Canada and the EU. Do you think Barnstable County, and every other county in the United States, should follow suit? Do you intend to hide your head in the sand, ostrich-like, the way I did for years, or have recent events motivated you to join me in fighting for (future) grandchildren and putting a stop to this synthetic chemical madness?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Playing Tourist ...

Yesterday morning, I fell for Wellfleet all over again. Inspired by the warm breeze, I decided to take a stroll around our darling little town to capture the end-of-September feel. Not many cars on Main Street, although locals were entering the Congregational Church for a funeral. A few tourists were about, but not many. You can tell them from their leisurely pace. They aren't in a hurry as they walk up from Stone Lion Inn towards the galleries, most of which are closed. Clothing always gives tourists away, as does the map clenched tightly in one fist. I saw a couple taking photos of the lobster on Mac's roof. The wife seemed disappointed that the restaurant wasn't open for lunch. Winslow's was closed, too. Mondays and Tuesdays are tough on visitors because there's little choice on where to go and what to do. Wicked Oyster is one option. Folks were enjoying The Lighthouse, and I saw a couple sit down on a bench with a bag of Wellfleet Marketplace sandwiches. There were cars in front of Box Lunch, too.

The foliage has not begun to turn, although the maple across from the library does make quite a statement. There were apples growing beside the parking lot where I had left my car. Amazing what you see when you take the time to look ...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Do You Think of this T-shirt?

I just turned down a booking for six days in late October because the couple from Switzerland have a toddler, and our only available room has no central heat. Yikes! That was not easy. Now, I have a quick question for you, dear readers. What do you think of the message on the T-shirt above? The caption: "A quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem." Do you find the message offensive or cute? Is it a good way to attract economic development to our town? What would you say to the shopkeeper if you were me? I will pass your comments on in an effort to get him to remove this item from his shelves. I look forward to hearing from you and thanks!...

Letter to the Editor Published by Cape Cod Times

Once upon a time Wellfleet had its own newspaper. The Advocate was bought by the Provincetown Banner a dozen years ago ... unfortunately. It's good for a small town to have its own newspaper. There are three local newspapers now that get read by the Wellfleet population on a regular basis: the Banner, the Cape Codder, and the Cape Cod Times.

The second pruning party last week was covered by the Cape Cod Times. The reporter is a good guy but did not really explain, in my opinion, why folks had taken time off from work to stage what was, in fact, a type of protest. Yes, we wanted to show pruning works, that toxic chemicals should not be used simply because they are the cheaper option. But the whole point was water, pure drinking water, water that is not contaminated, water that natives and tourists alike can drink without a second thought. We do not want our water polluted by the utility company with its mixture of five herbicides. We believe this mixture is dangerous to human health, that traces will filter down into our sole-source aquifer and enter drinking water. So, I sent a letter to the editor, which was published on Monday. In case you missed it, here's what I wrote:

"I feel your Sept. 23 article "No beating around the bush," missed the point. We were out there pruning in the hot sun to demonstrate how much we care about Wellfleet’s drinking water.

Your article states, 'N. hopes the herbicide program will eliminate the need for clear-cutting vegetation along the power lines, a method that can be disruptive to wildlife and problematic to landowners along the right of way.' Disruptive to wildlife? How about a few words about how disruptive these five herbicides can be to human life? Their combined effect is unknown. Pregnant women and small children are especially vulnerable.

On the Outer Cape, water comes from private wells, fed by a sole-source aquifer. That means, when someone uses Round-Up (ie. glyphosate), to kill a weed on Briar Lane, traces can end up in drinking water on School Street.

The President’s Cancer Panel suggests filtering water to avoid environmental contaminants. From its annual report, 'Our science looks at a substance-by-substance exposure and doesn’t take into account the multitude of exposures we experience in daily life. If we did, it might change our risk paradigm. The potential risks associated with extremely low-level exposure may be underestimated or missed entirely.'"

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Unexpected Consequence of Divorce

Losing friends after a divorce happens a lot. People often take sides. Friends feel greater allegiance to one person or the other and cannot imagine remaining close to both spouses, an unfortunate situation. There is another consequence that usually is not on the radar during divorce proceedings. Favorite places can get lost in the shuffle.

Both spouses vacationed in a special place, like Wellfleet, while children were small. They watched their kids play in the waves or dig into a plate of French fries at Lobster Hut, faces rosy with sunburn from having spent an extra hour in the sun. They did the bunny hop together at the Wednesday square dance, or enjoyed ice cream at Just Desserts. Then, divorce deprives one partner of a coveted Outer Cape vacation spot, be it a rental, a home, or a house owned by in-laws.

"I used to come to Wellfleet a lot," a Boston-area doctor told me. There was a pause, pregnant with emotion. "When I was married to my former wife. Now, Wellfleet is her territory."

I’m paraphrasing, but that was the point he was making. This man misses Wellfleet but doesn’t come anymore because his wife got the house after the divorce. He no longer feels welcome or comfortable.

Sometimes Sven tells me about missing an island off the coast of Sweden, where his family would spend a month in the summer when his children were small. Sometimes he and his ex skied over in winter, with the kids on sledges. There were no cars. Everyone rode bikes. He misses going fishing with his father-in-law. "It’s horribly sad, really, but I’m not going to cry over that now," Sven said yesterday.

People do not talk about this type of loss much, but it must happen here more than you might expect. I’m quite sure people think about it anyway, because in novels set on Cape Cod, often divorce is an integral part of the plot.

What makes me write about losing Wellfleet? Over the weekend my ex visited our daughters in Boston. He has not been to Wellfleet in over 20 years and has no intention of coming back. Sometimes I wonder if he ever misses this beautiful place. Do you have friends who have been in this situation?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gifts from the Sea

When I had a cat, before having a husband who is allergic to cats, that cat would leave little presents on the doorstep for me: mice, once a ferret, various types of bird. Guests also leave small gifts behind sometimes, beautiful stones and shells that they have carried back from the beach and deposited on the window sill or mantelpiece. These objects come in all shapes and sizes. In shallow water, some stones appear irresistible. Often they have been tossed about in the waves for years. I particularly like the sparkly one. Check them out!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bonus Post: Duck Creek, This Afternoon

Gluten-free, Hot Cross Buns & Fake Plastic Fish

No post today but you can go read my guest post over at Beth Terry's Fake Plastic Fish. Beth has been having an issue with eyesight, not ideal for a blogger, so please leave a comment, wishing her well. Here again is a photo of Liz and Ian, from Surrey, who absolutely charmed me this past week. Read our full conversation about tote bags in the guest post. Thanks to Ian, I have been experimenting with gluten-free bread. More and more people eat gluten-free. He told me his mum bakes a similar type of bread for him. Yesterday it was hot cross buns. Different guests, different needs. And, it’s gardening time, so I will be busy installing the new bench I bought at Sonflowers, for the area behind the cottage, and planting a decorative garden over the next few days …

Friday, September 24, 2010

What’s Happening This Weekend?

Fall, already. Time to think about dining at PB Boulangerie Bistro, or make a reservation anyway. There’s a brand new play at WHAT, Danny Casarelo Died For You. Take an elder relative to the beach to enjoy the view. And, of course, check out CLASH, which translates into lots of interesting food happenings across the Cape. The Cape Land and Sea Harvest is always fun. Blackfish, in Truro, is participating again this year. (CLASH now has a Facebook page.)

The event I really want to tell you about is the collection of unused meds, taking place at the Wellfleet police station, from 10 to 2. Read details here. There was even an article in the New York Times this morning, which told horrifying stories of drug addicts, breaking into the homes of the elderly or injured in search of painkillers. Collecting "pharmaceuticals" also ensures that they do not get flushed down the toilet and end up polluting our sole-source aquifer. What a great idea to collect old drugs this way and dispose of them!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

B&B Etiquette: On Leaving Early

What’s wrong with the photo above? The table is set for four, but there are only two guests eating breakfast ….

The decaf had begun to brew. As I broke the third egg into a bowl for French toast for my Liberty Coin guests, I began to wonder why they had not yet come down. The clock said ten past nine. Outside, Liz and Ian, our Green Room guests, a nurse and a policeman from Surrey, had already poured their first cup of tea. They love staying at B&Bs. In fact, I had joined them on Wednesday for a discussion of what makes a good bed and breakfast. Last weekend’s New Hampshire retreat had not measured up, apparently.

“It felt like the innkeepers were playing at it,” Liz explained.

“It was clear they had not slept in the room themselves,” Ian added.

Here was a topic that interested me, guests from Britain finding fault with American innkeepers. I’ve noticed Americans do not make such good B&B guests either. They often arrive with expectations of maid service and act way superior to their hosts. When guests behave this way, they are really missing the point. If you choose a B&B, you choose to stay in someone’s home, as a guest, very different from an overnight stay in a motel, and being welcomed into someone's home merits some respect.

“I don’t think the other guests are here anymore,” I told Liz and Ian, placing their gluten-free toast on the antique garden table.

“What?” Liz said, furrowing her brow. “Yesterday they did tell us they were going to Martha’s Vineyard.”

So, I went upstairs, and sure enough. There was a note. I rushed back down.

“How frustrating!” I exclaimed. “Remember our discussion about Americans and B&Bs yesterday? These folks left without telling me. Incredible!”

“I think it’s a bit rude as well,” Liz added.

Not intentionally rude, but yes, gauche for sure. I was up at 7. Ian told me he had heard the other car pull out at 8. It would have been easy to duck one’s head into the kitchen and say thank you: goodbye. No breakfast today, thanks.

Last year I wrote a post called B&B Etiquette: On Noise. I’m realizing there are a lot of do and don’ts that no one has explained to Americans when it comes to staying at a bed & breakfast.

Here’s another lesson: If you must leave before breakfast, tell the innkeeper the night before!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pruning Party Update: What Citizens Want

Another pruning party was held in Wellfleet today, under the leadership of Paul Sieloff, Town Administrator, and the guidance of local organic gardener Laura Kelley. This second expedition along the power lines adjacent to Duck Pond was symbolic, of course. The headline could be “Wellfleet Pruners Demonstrate Vegetation Removal Without Herbicides To Be Option.” And, there were almost as many photographers and reporters present as hearty souls wielding pruning shears or lopers. Still, progress was made and soon neat little piles of baby pines had accumulated along the sand path.

(For those of you who are new to this blog, our utility company is required to maintain vegetation under power lines by Federal law, but Federal law does not mandate the use of herbicides. The utility company will remain nameless because they pay someone to follow blogs and newspapers, and will read these words if I mention their name.)

Today’s goal was to remove
as many root systems as possible. It was hard work, no doubt about it. Can you find Sven, dressed in a Wellfleet T-shirt, in this photo? He had sweat pouring off his brow. A man named Carl said he hoped to start a similar group in Orleans.

I was glad to see two newcomers, Melody Thibodeau, and Dick Morrill, both present at the Monday screening of “A Chemical Reaction.”

“The movie showed the power of the chemical companies,” Dick said. “They are really just interested in money. They don’t care about us.”

More history: Several thousand Cape Codders signed a petition last year against herbicidal spraying.
Officials from 13 towns signed on and legislators followed up with a letter. Congressman Delahunt wrote the EPA, but none of this seems to matter. What citizens want does not matter. Hundreds of letters were sent to the DAR Commissioner, with scientific facts to explain why spraying five herbicides is a bad idea. (The Cape Cod Commission did obtain a one-year moratorium so that private wells could be adequately mapped, but it ends 1/1/11.)

Eric Williams, reporter for the Cape Cod Times, came to the event and summarizes it on his popular video show, Cape Cast:

If the utility company does spray up to five herbicides, traces will filter down through our sandy soil into the sole-source aquifer. On the Outer Cape, most of us have private wells. Corporate “deciders” live elsewhere and do not drink Cape Cod water. Like the chemical companies mentioned by Dick above, the utility folks do not care about us. Herbicides present a cheaper solution. What citizens want does not matter.

Today I learned that federal funds are being used in California against anti-pesticide non-profits like the Environmental Working Group, which created a handy “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” news that I find shocking. Where is Michelle Obama when we need her? (Remember the video of Ms. Obama planting an organic garden at the White House? Have you seen any new clips showing the harvest? Are food bloggers reporting on a White House chef, concocting an organic feast? If not, why not?)

I’m grateful that here in Wellfleet our Town Administrator Paul Sieloff is a leader who dares to take a stand on behalf of citizens. Such action is becoming more and more rare in this new century where the Supreme Court has ruled corporations have the same rights as people … What do you think of the Supreme Court decision? Will it impact your life? Do you think environmental groups should resort to civil disobedience? Would you like to join the next pruning party? What more can Cape Codders do to ensure their drinking water is not polluted with toxic chemicals?

Incognito No More

I have been bringing you lots of beach photos over the past few weeks because I know many readers are feeling withdrawal, now that summer is over, and have been missing Wellfleet. It’s been cool, actually cold yesterday morning, so I had to serve breakfast inside. I chatted with our Green Room guests for an hour, about this and that. One of the main topics was renovation: another, what makes a good B&B, where guests feel comfortable, welcome and happy. Once our Liberty Coin Suite guests had arrived, it was time for LeCount Hollow.

“Who would have expected it to be warmer on the beach!” Sven exclaimed as we set off on our walk.

A fisherman positioned his poles, while his daughter played nearby. The surf was still vigorous, due to Igor, and a hint of fall had slipped into the air despite the warm sun. No seals in view, but we did see a couple beachcombers. The sand felt just right, hard as rock, perfect for walking. The waves rolled in, shooting foam up the beach. Sven even got caught unawares by a wave, which does not happen very often.

Meanwhile, I was taking photos. It's tough trying to capture the absolute beauty, because there’s this split second where you have to position and snap. If you miss that second, the photo is off. I like this shot though, don't you?

After our beach walk, Sven and I drove downtown to buy a few provisions at Wellfleet Marketplace. I ducked into the store and headed right back out. A man with short curly hair stood on the sidewalk, in front of a pick-up truck, and he was holding out his hand, as if he expected me to shake it.

“Are you the person who runs Chez ….the bed & breakfast?” he asked.

“Chez Sven. Yes, that’s me,” I said, wondering how he knew.

The stranger broke into a happy smile.

“My name is Don. I read your blog every day. I tell everyone I know. We have friends in Switzerland. I tell them, too. If you want to know what Wellfleet is like, read this blog.”

I was touched and thanked him, extremely moved. (Again, thank you, Don!) It’s nice to have one’s work recognized from time to time although it looks like my days of going incognito in town may be drawing to an end …

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Film Sparks Debate at Library

Jules Besch, which sells stationary in town, had the most beautiful hydrangeas in bloom last month. Check them out. This photo reminds me of one of our summer guests, from Canada. Chantal told me how she had tried to transplant a blue hydrangea years ago, but could no longer provide the type of soil required, due to the strict environmental laws in her country, and that the blue blossoms had turned pink. I learn all kinds of things from guests. I did not know, at the time, how much further advanced Canada is, compared to the United States, when it comes to the environment ...

Yesterday evening, at the library, I watched “A Chemical Reaction,” a SafeLawns film about how a small town in Quebec enacted a ban against pesticides that went all the way to the Supreme Court and influenced legislation in other provinces, including Ontario. While it’s wonderful that one woman in Hudson was able to get this ban enacted, her success has serious implications for Massachusetts, which is one of 41 states that was subsequently targeted for preemption laws by the chemical industry. What that means is a Massachusetts town can no longer create and vote in a bylaw that is contrary to state law. And, changing a state law would be a monumental endeavor. The Poison People have got us in a bind. (You may have heard of Marblehead's success: it was able to ban pesticides on town property but cannot impose a general ban.)

Following the film, there was an animated Q&A. A man in the audience expressed frustration with a neighbor, who had hired a chemical spraying company to kill ticks on his property and "protect" his four children. What the neighbor, a doctor, did not seem to realize is the high risk these toxic chemicals pose not only to his kids but to the abutter's family – as well as to our water. We all drink water from private wells. The water comes from a sole-source aquifer. Put chemicals in that aquifer and we all suffer. The general conclusion was more education of the population on the effects of toxic chemicals is required.

There will be future screenings of other films on the subject here in Wellfleet, organized by myself, Laura Kelley, and Beverly Callistini, in the months to come as we struggle to educate ourselves on the toxic soup our world has become. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pearls ...

The folks who left this morning were darling, celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, all the way from Harwich. I know, not far, but sometimes you need to step out of your own world to get a real holiday. One guest who will not be missed? Igor. The hurricane is churning in the Atlantic right now, heading towards Newfoundland. A brisk breeze blows inland. Yesterday, late afternoon, Sven and I did get to the beach where the swells had already begun. The weatherman warned of rip currents, and we could almost see them as the waves pulled back from the shore. The foam was so frothy that it resembled whipped cream. I returned home with images of bright blue sky and sea bobbing in my mind like pearls.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hatche's Closes for Nine Months

The place to be this morning was the Town Hall parking lot where a line had formed at everyone's favorite fish shop. The doors were to open at 10 and people must have come down at least twenty minutes earlier, eager to take advantage of the extraordinary closing day prices: one half off everything. I eyeballed the line and decided what I needed was fruit and veggies, rather than fish. So, I took up position behind Liz Grant, beside the bananas.

"You must be the famous local blogger," she said, which made us both laugh.

We chatted as the veggie line began to move. Before the fog horn, conch shells and trumpets sounded to announce ten o'clock, eight ladies and one gent posed for the photo above. We will miss Lauren and the opportunity to buy fresh local produce and organic fruit. Good-bye until next year!

The Score: Earl, 1; Seals, 1; Tourists, 0

After a number of guests returned with tales of dozens of gray seals, resting on a sandbar at low tide, Sven and I finally got around to visiting High Head in Truro to see for ourselves. We left the car in the crowded parking lot and followed a sand road towards the beach. People were coming and going.

“Popular spot!” I said to my husband, as we passed hikers, bikers, and tourists.

There were yellow flowers growing here and there. Someone had abandoned a mountain bike. Further on, athletic shoes had been shed. The scenery allowed a spectacular view of low dunes from time to time (above), but most of the terrain was flat, with dense vegetation growing on either side of the trail. I kept thinking of the Pilgrims, having explored this area and their need to hack through the vegetation ...

“See any seals?” I asked a couple, heading in the opposite direction.

“About half a mile up the beach,” the man said, wiping his brow. He shook a sophisticated camera at his wife. “Betcha they look like dots.”

I followed Sven who had continued to trudge up the hill.

The entrance to some of Truro’s beaches is so dramatic. You walk up, up, up, surrounded by beige sand, and then, all of a sudden, when you have almost given up hope and are beginning to dream of camels in the Sahara, the ocean appears. Blue, everywhere. The majestic Atlantic dominates the view.

At the beach entrance, we passed a National Seashore sign - “Gray seals resting ahead. Do Not Disturb” - and proceeded down to the water’s edge, where the sand is more firm. There we turned north. Finally what was left of the sandbar came into view. The seals were playing in the shallow water beyond. I was surprised by how many people were on the beach: sunbathers, fishermen, a group of tourists, with a guide, no less. I could tell from the respectful way the tourists behaved and the clip board that the guide was a Park ranger. Park rangers are almost sacred. She had sparkly starfish dangle earrings, which clashed a bit with her uniform and clunky shoes. All the tourists held binoculars, aimed at the sea.

Sven and I edged into the group to listen in on what the ranger was saying. I learned we were looking at horse seals. They were no longer visible on the sandbar because of Earl, which had redistributed the sand in a dramatic way. The ranger took a step back so the tourists could continue gawking. Now, for what happened next, we have two versions. You choose your favorite:

ME: “Sven approached and asked about the great white shark. The ranger told the tourists about the recent sightings and the video of the shark eating a seal.”

SVEN: “Then Sven approached the Park ranger and said, ‘What about the big white shark?’ She looked at him and said, ‘Oh, thank you, sir. I almost forgot that part, sir.’ With tears in her eyes, she came up and gave him a big hug. ‘As the gentleman just pointed out, around three weeks ago, wasn’t it, sir?, a great white shark was sighted at this very spot where we are standing. A man in a vehicle filmed the shark eating a seal, with blood in the water and everything …’”

Either version will do to draw gasps from the tourists.

Sven and I were glad we made the trip, but have gotten a better look at seals right here in Wellfleet. Check out these cuties!