Saturday, September 29, 2007

Elder Ladies of Wellfleet

May I introduce Margo K? This lovely Wellfleet lady will celebrate her 88th birthday tomorrow. We first met at a Writers’ Guild meeting where Margo read a poem in her clear and resonate but accented voice. Quickly I learned to appreciate this strong, gentle woman who embraced Wellfleet in the second half of her life and now is a well-respected member of the community. “My mother was beautiful, but distant,” Margo tells me wistfully. “My father, he was a dreamer. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had he lived?” She dismisses the thought with a quick wave. Margo never dwells on the past. When she was 12, her mother left for Italy, and Margo spent her teenage years with grandparents on the Rhine. They sent her to Switzerland when the war broke out. “I was imported,” Margo says with a smile to explain the next period of her life, spent on Staten Island where she taught languages. Following a divorce, she acquired a masters and a new profession: art therapist.

Margo first discovered Wellfleet in 1953. From the door of the $20/week rental cottage, she could watch her daughter play in the sand by the bay. “It was very primitive, but just wonderful,” she says with a sigh. Permanent residence started in 1976. First she lived on Commercial Street, wearing gloves to keep her hands warm while painting. A friend on the library staff told her about the passive solar house on Daniels Drive, her home since then. The house is surrounded by wild gardens where black-eyed susans meander from bed to bed. Margo loves gardening, but no longer can tend the garden as intensively to her deep regret.

Two years ago Margo was chosen to represent Wellfleet on the Human Rights Commission for Cape Cod. Town Hall has not always been so supportive. Margo’s tenure on the Planning Board was marked by her wariness of cell towers and refusal to write the cell phone companies a blank check. In the 60s, every Saturday she set up a folding table beside town hall and provide Wellfleet's young men with choices: "between fighting/killing people and resisting the carnage every war brings, or ... to enter the military voluntarily." Margo’s memory of a polio epidemic in Germany motivated her first steps toward activism: a campaign to collect money for the March of Dimes in 1953. Soon Adlai Stevenson inspired her to stand at the Staten Island ferry and distribute leaflets about his candidacy. In later decades Margo, a Quaker, participated in many an anti-war vigil. She is a proud member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and can still be seen about town posting flyers. Most recently Margo organized a program at the library to educate citizens about consumerism.

Margo’s daughters want her to move out west, but she hesitates. “This community is really special. The Caleb event emphasized that to me. It’s quiet here. I can hear the owls. It takes 8 minutes to walk to the library.” Margo is one who thrives on the stimulation Wellfleet provides. If you want my opinion, I think her daughters will have a hard time getting her to leave …

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Outer Cape in the News

On Sunday, I flipped open the New York Times Magazine to the Lives page and the first words of the second paragraph jumped out at me: “Slough Pond is not just any old pond.” (I can only agree there. My godmother Nancy Macdonald was a long-time summer resident, and I used to take my kids swimming in her exclusive pond, right and above, shared by only a few other families.)

Today’s New York Times Editorial Notebook features Verlyn Klinkenborg on preservation of the so-called Hopper landscape in nearby Truro. (When I asked a born-in-Truro friend his opinion, he pointed out that the people, who are offended by the idea of a 6,500-square-foot house, erected their own dream homes during his lifetime.)

And soon, I am sure, some reporter will pick up the saga of Caleb Potter, whose mom, Sharyn, is writing a blog which many people think should be turned into a book, describing how a skateboard accident united a small town ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reflections After Receiving Guests with Chemical Sensitivities

Perhaps these tourists are out on the Wellfleet dunes because of the good outdoor air? Staying at a bed & breakfast or motel can be problematic for some folks. More and more people are developing chemical sensitivities. Sven gets asthma if he touches animals, and red splotches appear on his chest if his clothing is washed with detergent. In France, I was once treated for an allergic reaction to perfume and also react to harsh washing powder. Our hope with the bed & breakfast was to create a space that could be allergen-free. This has proved impossible. One cannot post signs, “No spraying of perfume or cologne, please, and go lightly on the deodorant!” and expect guests to return. Since we are running a business, open year round, the exclusion of all allergens is not a reasonable assumption. Some guests smoke inside, although I have posted a no-smoking sign in Seagull Cottage. Others bring candles for romantic ambiance, despite the fact that I provide fragrance-free on demand. What we can promise, however, is that we are aware of the problem, sympathize with allergy-sufferers, provide 100% natural amenities, and do not use toxic chemicals ourselves.

This September we had a guest with extreme chemical sensitivities who spent four nights in Seagull Cottage. (She had developed the condition when her workplace was sprayed with pesticides years ago.) Her search for accommodation includes detective work, a vigorous background check of the premises prior to booking, and much hopeful anticipation. Here at Chez Sven, she did all right, although the bed linens, washed in Seventh Generation and then air-dried, proved problematic for some reason. After departure, she sent me a brochure with information on the Hidden Dangers of Fragrance, distributed by The Environmental Health Coalition of Western Massachusetts. I plan to try one of the washing powders listed. For more information, go to this Web site.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hatch's End-of-Season Sale & Seals at Le Count!

This morning I took advantage of the sale at Hatch’s Seafood and Produce, unfortunately closing for the season. Sven & I returned to Le Count Hollow this afternoon. Cars jammed the front of the parking lot as tourists and Wellfleetians alike celebrated this marvelous first day of fall at the beach. The water shone aquamarine, and gentle waves lapped at the shore. We were not the only folks out walking, nor the only beings to enjoy the extraordinary weather. Beachcombers paused to stare at the ocean where nine seals cavorted in the surf.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Last Days of Summer

The sun was reflecting off the waves at Wellfleet’s backshore today. There were a number of tourists out, eking out the last rays of summer sun. Some came in cars, others by bike. How different the ocean can be from one day to the next! This is, perhaps, why one never tires of walking on a beach. The view changes with the tide and weather and season. Sven and I then spent the afternoon waiting for guests to arrive. Waiting is decidedly one of the least pleasant aspects of being an innkeeper …

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Spectacular Day!

Crisp clean air, blue sky, cool temperature at night ... Who could ask for more spectacular weather? Our cottage guests went off to work at being beach bums all day, while the folks in Liberty Coin Suite chose Provincetown biking. Sven and I skipped out for a half hour at LeCount Hollow where the wind was whipping white caps towards the shore and the ocean appeared three different shades of blue-green. A pirate flag was flying below the Stars and Stripes. Caleb Potter seems to be on the mend at last. Downtown, seasonal restaurants are beginning to cut back their hours. Thank goodness for Wicked Oyster, which remains open year-round!

Friday, September 14, 2007

A September Day in the Life

My day started with a trip to Orleans, shopping for organic fruit and other staples. I also went there – to Staples – for recycled paper. Back home, I vacuumed Seagull Cottage and made the beds while Sven cleaned the bathroom and kitchen. After lunch, we proceeded to exercise our cleaning skills in Liberty Coin Suite. The sky was deep blue and more than once I thought how nice it would be to take a walk later in the afternoon. While I was picking zinnias in the cutting garden, a red car appeared. Ginia Pati, representing the Cape Cod Institute in neighboring Eastham, told me Institute guests have expressed a desire to stay in bed & breakfasts, rather than hotels. Her mission was to sell advertising to innkeepers. I sat down with her and explained Wellfleet innkeepers do not need to advertise in June, July and August when the Institute holds courses. We had a nice visit, nonetheless, and she left me the latest issue of Cape Healing Arts magazine, whose theme this fall is everything green. Sven and I were ready for our guests at 2, but they did not arrive until 5:30. My plan to go to the beach? Foiled again!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wellfleet Flea Market in September

Every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday of the summer the Wellfleet Flea Market, located on the parking lot of the drive-in theatre, is open for business. By the time September rolls around, the flea market only operates on weekends but remains a great destination. My kids love going. Weekly visitors in summer do not feel they have “done Wellfleet” unless a trip to the flea market is among the ways they chose to spend their vacation time. The Wellfleet flea market is right up there as a fun activity, nose to nose with Provincetown. One guest last year returned with a beautiful old quilt, which she intended to give a son-in-law as a wedding present. Last Saturday 60 vendors set out their wares. There were sunglasses and jewelry, bric-a-brac and what my son calls “junk.” The hustle and bustle and crowds are gone, but shoppers can still find a treasure or two. I did the "junk" aisles and came away with a small carafe for orange juice, perfect for the B&B.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Guest-Blog: The Body Burden Test

Having a guest in Seagull Cottage this week who suffers from chemical sensitivity due to early exposure to pesticides, I thought the time was right to post a guest-blog from Sheri Gibbs, green innkeeper extraordinaire:

"Nothing you use with chemicals in it can't be replaced by something safe.

There is, forming right now in this country, a massive movement to try to get toxic chemicals labelled and/or removed from all products used by humans...because the deadly things in our shampoos, colognes, perfumes, soaps, lotions, hair dyes, nail polishes, cosmetics, household cleaning products, furniture, clothing, food, printing, packaging, and a million other everyday things people use with no clue they are not safe for human exposure are causing glaucoma, a multitude of cancers, and somewhere between 40-156 million Americans are now suffering full-blown serious environmental illnesses. Millions of us are so loaded with what is now officially called the 'Body Burden'...a lifetime's build-up of toxic chemicals... that they can't travel, can't go to any kind of public event, and can barely stand to be in a grocery store long enough to dig up anything that is safe to eat. They are being referred to as 'the canaries in the coal mine,' and, if we don't wise up, don't listen and take action, refuse to buy the stuff, clear it out of our homes...we're toxifying our world so fast there soon won't be any way to escape from what we've allowed to be done to us. We all now have our own individual Body Burden, according to where we have lived, worked, and what products we have used in our lifetime.

Because of my committment to green, chemical-free lodging at White Pines Victorian Lodge B & B, I'm shoulder deep into the battle now, too, and want to urge you to raise your own awareness and that of others you know and care about, by taking the simple quiz on this amazing Body Burden website. According to what you fill in for the things you use in your home, on yourself, what you cook with, and your every day routinely used things, this test will give you a score and explain to you, personally, what you have ingested in your lifetime, and give you suggestions for what could save your life, definitely help your health. We all have a lot of stuff we use every day, or regularly, that has no business being on us or in our homes, or in our workplaces, which is where so many people are getting seriously sick. It only takes a few minutes and the results will knock your socks off!

Click here. In seconds, it will give you a score on the chemicals in your body and tell you where you stand with the four main bad chemical groups. It will tell you where and how you most likely have got (or still get) exposure to them, and offers suggestions for what you can do to lower exposures. For example, it's time for us all to get all the fleece clothing out of our closets here in the north. And get that cheese out of that plastic wrap, quick. This really is remarkable and well worth the few minutes it takes to do this quiz. Results like these from expensive, specialized blood testing cost upwards of $10,000!

I write these words with the hope that it will help make your health, your future and our Planet Earth a safer place to person at a time!"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Flowers

Yesterday I got up early and drove through Wellfleet before 8 o’clock. Main Street was deserted, except for one lone car, parked in front of the liquor store. The tourists, who had the sense to choose this week for their vacations, were still snug in their beds. During the day I heard more than one person comment on how nice it is now that the crowds are gone. I spoke with Tracy, at Winslow’s Tavern, who also had a very busy summer. She has lost weight and looked a bit harried, rushing about her duties. I could only wonder if the stress showed on my own face, too. Here at Chez Sven, we are treating ourselves to a week with family. We made many new friends over the summer and were able to enjoy return visits from guests who are now old friends. Everyone seemed to admire the garden despite the lack of rain. A couple of long-term guests sent seeds over the winter. As high, high season ended, the inobstrusive little plants finally flowered.