There is no sign of life beyond a lone lighthouse on the barren, moon-like expanse of Monomoy Island in 2010. All you can see are dunes, ponds, waves, and marshland. Monomoy is officially considered wilderness by the United States Government, yet rare evidence of Cape Cod’s past remains. It is hard to imagine that over a century ago, the fishermen’s village of Whitewash on Powder Hole Harbor graced these shores. Once known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” Monomoy is rich with stories of shipwrecks, U.S. Military exercises, and even wild and wooly mooncusser legends.
“We’ve got a story that’s amazing. It’s a story that people get: the very American theme of how a place needs, periodically, to reinvent itself,” says Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) Executive Director William Tramposch. The seasoned museum executive, who has been at the venerable Nantucket organization for four years, brims with excitement about key projects underway showcasing the history of the island.
The days when cooking outdoors meant a long, involved process of starting a fire, keeping the fire going while you ran back and forth between your patio and the kitchen inside (always forgetting a grilling tool, condiment, or serving plate in the process) are long gone. Today’s lovers of outdoor entertaining can have everything right at their fingertips—from cocktails to appetizers to full-course meals—with outdoor kitchens that can be customized in every shape and style due to the development of easy-to-design-and-install kitchen components.
There are outdoor kitchens on the market today that offer a limitless array of cooking options—if pizza is your family’s favorite summer dish, you can purchase an honest-to-goodness pizza oven. If your guests love rotisserie chicken, you can have a rotisserie unit built into your outdoor kitchen. Kitchens can be as simple as an open-air grilling center beside a pool or patio, surrounded by porch furniture, or you can ask a contractor to come up with a design that incorporates a complete Caribbean-style oasis with integrated pool-side seating, a swim-up bar, and more. (For a related story, be sure to read how Marston Mills’ Artistic Grounds contractors designed a stunning, Caribbean outdoor kitchen for one North Falmouth family in our Summer issue of Cape Cod HOME, on newsstands now.)
Jason Hogan, head of marketing at Stonewood Products in Harwich and Mashpee, says that the development of high-end, easy-to-move modular components and appliances in stainless steel have made it relatively simple to design and install an outside kitchen—no matter your budget and space limitations.
“The development of modular components has really helped turned the outdoor kitchen market into a growing trend,” says Hogan from the company’s Harwich location. Hogan says that some customers want a relatively small kitchen, with a simple grill, perhaps a sink, and a small refrigerator, and others want the whole works. “Some customers want big gourmet kitchens with all the bells and whistles,” says Hogan, noting that Stonewood had one customer whose fancy outdoor kitchen rang in at close to $70,000. “Some people want really elaborate set-ups, fancy countertops—they want different kinds of stone, or seating for up to 40 people.
“The lightweight modular units, which are built off-site, are really easy for contractors to work with,” says Hogan, noting that Stonewood offers a full line of outdoor kitchen modular options and stone veneer choices, which can be viewed on the company’s web site (www.stonewoodproducts.com), along with a helpful Do It Yourself video on an actual Cape Cod outdoor kitchen installation.
The modular galvanized steel cabinets housing grills, sinks, refrigerators—even kegerators for those who want their beer cold and on tap—are then covered with cement board, which is surfaced with stone veneer. Stonewood has lots of veneer choices for outdoor kitchen customers. “We recommend the thin stone veneer, which is the natural stone,” says Hogan. “The natural stone has come down a lot in price and can be the same, or even cheaper, than manufactured stone veneer. We have a huge display here where people can pick the stone to match their house or their patio. It can be a mosaic look, a pattern—and if they want something that looks like brick, that’s easy too.”
Building an outdoor kitchen may seem like a costly investment, but as Hogan points out, the cost of remodeling a kitchen can be three times the cost of an entire, brand new outdoor kitchen. “When you consider that you can build a really nice, outdoor kitchen for $10-$12,000 in less than a week’s time—and that the cost of remodeling your interior kitchen can run $25-$30,000—you can see that an outdoor kitchen is a pretty reasonable investment,” says Hogan. “And the other thing is that outdoor kitchens are smart environmental choices. Instead of burning fossil fuels to go out to eat or to travel around the country, you’re dining and vacationing in your own backyard.”For information on Stonewood Products, go to www.stonewoodproducts.com.
Stephan Connor is a luthier. If your hands know their way around six strings, you already know what that title means—he makes guitars. But more accurately, the Falmouth resident makes classical guitars for world-class musicians like Angel Romero, Eliot Fisk, and many others. And much in the same way that making music requires more than plucking strings, shaping a guitar is more than simple woodworking: Connor’s craft innately blends art, music, physics, and soul to create instruments that bear his label. Connor spoke with Cape Cod Life about his start in this esoteric craft, why the view from his Cape Cod workshop beats that of his former studio, and the excitement of hearing notes soar from a new guitar for the first time. Read more…
A century ago, the Model T, the Wright brothers’ success at Kitty Hawk, and Marconi’s transatlantic transmissions all marked the arrival of an era enamored with technology and invention. But the nation’s youngest generation was hearing a different sort of message—one delivered during its bedtime stories. A fledgling Cape Cod naturalist was imparting gentle lessons on the beauty of the outdoors and respect for its creatures through his first children’s volume, Old Mother West Wind.
A century before the term “going green” came into fashion, author Thornton Waldo Burgess awakened a respect for the natural world with light-hearted tales derived from his youth in his native Sandwich. Even on the 100th anniversary of the publication of his first book, his words continue to resonate. “Burgess’ storybook animals interacted in their habitat naturally,” says Nancy Titcomb, a founding member of the Thornton Burgess Society. “Those realistic messages about wildlife stay with you. To this day, every blue jay I see is Sammy Jay.”
Burgess, who lived from 1874 to 1965, first became a professional storyteller to keep in touch with his young son. A widower and single father who freelanced advertising slogans and news tidbits, he mailed his young son original nursery stories while away with his grandmother. When a struggling magazine (named Good Housekeeping!) printed several of the endearing tales, publishing house Little, Brown and Co. asked Burgess to collect them into a book. “I sent them the stories—fourteen of them,” said Burgess in his autobiography. “Within a week the unbelievable had happened—I [was] a bona fide author.” Burgess pocketed $210 and his woodland characters made their 1910 debut in Old Mother West Wind. There was Jimmy Skunk, wearing a permanent white stripe of shame for stealing grouse eggs; Spotty Turtle, winning a race by secretly hitching a ride on Reddy Fox’s tail; Johnny Chuck, hiding in his underground house from gun-toting Farmer Brown; and children’s favorite mischief-maker, Peter Rabbit. (Burgess’ son already knew Beatrix Potter’s British Peter Rabbit, so “there was no changing the name.”) A typical tale in the book unfolded like this:
“I’ve just come across the Green Meadows,” said Old Mother West Wind, “and there I saw the Best Thing in the World.”
“The Best Thing in the World,” said Peter Rabbit. “Why, that must be great piles of carrots and cabbage! I’ll go and find it.”
Other animals voice similar sentiments, rushing to be the first to find “the best thing.” Finally Johnny Chuck speaks up: “The Best Thing in the World,” said Johnny Chuck. “Why, I don’t know of anything better than my own little home and the warm sunshine and the beautiful blue sky.”
The success of the book led to two sequels as well as a variety of writerly endeavors that came to define Burgess’s legacy: a daily “Bedtime Stories” column for the New York Herald Tribune Syndicate that lasted for 36 years; a weekly Neighbor Burgess radio show airing nationally from 1924-1934; and an astonishing output of 170 books and 15,000 stories. Even Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt followed Peter Rabbit’s adventures devotedly.
As a decorated conservationist, Burgess rallied thousands across the nation through his Radio Nature League and Green Meadow Club to rescue trees from tent-caterpillar infestation, preserve millions of acres as bird sanctuaries, and nurture programs to protect endangered wildlife. While holding in his hand the final known member of the heath-hen species on Martha’s Vineyard, he allowed a glimpse into his naturalist’s heart: “It was sheer, stark tragedy watching that lone bird displaying all his charms, calling for a mate … while I knew that nowhere in the world was there one for him… Man the destroyer had once again overcome Nature the creator,” Burgess wrote in his autobiograpy.
The gentle ecologist’s profound love for all things wild can be traced to his bucolic native town of Sandwich, where he was descended from one of the original settlers. He and his mother lived in 10 different houses throughout the town, and in 1891 he was part of a nine-person graduating class at Sandwich High School. After moving off-Cape some years later, he returned often, craving “the flash of sun on distant dunes and the whistling of shore birds … a blessed relief from the turmoil of the outer world.” It is a jarring fact that as a boy Burgess liked to hunt and trap, collecting the town’s irresistible 25-cent bounty for muskrat “tails and noses.” But his eccentric aunt, Arabella Eldred Burgess, offered a counter influence. She lived in the 1756 Deacon Eldred house by Shawme Pond and communed regularly with the woodland animals, often welcoming them into her home. Arabella was reputed to summon fish by patting the water and calling to them. When Burgess, by his own description, “put away the gun for camera and typewriter,” Arabella’s creatures figured large, as did locales in Sandwich that inspired his Old Briar Patch and Smiling Pool, which have now been preserved as conservation land.
It is only fitting that following the environmentalist’s death, Aunt Arabella’s cozy dwelling came to house the Thornton W. Burgess Museum. “The town owned the vacant house and was about to demolish it for a parking lot!” says Titcomb. “The Sandwich Women’s Club worked to refurbish it and facilitate its rental to the newly founded Thornton Burgess Society.”
Today, the sun-dappled parlor of the museum still evokes a 19th-century mood as it displays early editions of Burgess volumes, drawings by his illustrator Harrison Cady, and animal toys depicting his characters. The Burgess Society, which also operates the Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen, is commemorating the centennial of Old Mother West Wind with a smorgasbord of activities honoring Burgess’ legacy (see sidebar). “He still inspires children to learn and care,” says Education Director Mary Beers. “Peter Cottontail is by far the most popular character. We always have a real live Peter here. Children are in awe when they meet the current one.”
Although newer storybook animals have emerged to help put little ones to sleep at twilight, Burgess’s “friendly neighbors in fur and feathers”—as he affectionately called them—have held their ground. Beers says she has received questions about Burgess from teachers in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Canada. “His writings are not relegated to the stuff of great-grandparent memories, but read by young readers today just as enthusiastically as they were 100 years ago.”
Celebrating Old Mother West Wind at 100 The Thornton W. Burgess Society marks the 100th anniversary of Old Mother West Wind with a full schedule of activities. “In his day, Burgess was one of the most popular people in the country,” says Burgess Society Executive Director Gene Schott. “This year we celebrate the book that launched his career with a wonderful variety of centennial activities:” Visit www.thorntonburgess.org for additional information. Through October: Exhibit on the Life and Times of Thornton Burgess
10-4 (closed Sun.)Thornton Burgess Museum,
4 Water St. (Rte. 130), Sandwich. $2. August-October: The Many Faces of Peter Cottontail (Exhibit)
10-4 (1-4 Sun.); Green Briar Nature Center,
6 Discovery Hill Rd., E. Sandwich
Portraits of Peter by Burgess’ illustrators. $2. Aug. 11: Peter Rabbit’s Animal Day
10 to 2; Thornton Burgess Museum
Live animals, story times, hands-on activities,
and a costumed Peter. Free. Aug. 28: Centennial Gala
Call for details: 508-888-6870 Sept. 11, 12: Bird Carvers Show/Sale
10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Green Briar Nature Center
Demonstrations and sale by 18 local carvers. $5. Oct. 10: My Life As a Crow
6 p.m.; Green Briar Nature Center
With Cape crow expert, June Auger. Aug.-Dec., Last Friday of Every Month:
Burgess’s Book Club for Children
4-5:30 p.m.; Green Briar Nature Center —the new Putnam Education building
Meet the animal featured in the day’s story. Ages 6-12. $2 per month (for snack). Burgess Museum “Cup Plates” Display: Burgess characters appear on these colorful collectibles, patterned after small glass plates used as saucers in colonial times. Crafted by Pairpoint Glassworks, Sagamore. Sold in museum shop at current valuations: $15-$175.
Poet. Screenwriter. Journalist. Blogger. Author. Ultimately, they are all writers. And whatever the niche, the Conference of the Cape Cod Writers Center likely has a class to make their words read better.
For nearly five decades, the oldest writers group on Cape Cod has quietly held its flagship conference every August at the Craigville Conference Center in Centerville, drawing an array of distinguished instructors and speakers—Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, and a host of others have lent their talents to the proceedings—and thousands of scribes eager to polish their craft. This August, the 48th annual conference carries the theme “Books, Bytes, and Beach,” an allusion to the intersection of print and digital publishing. Technology has made it easier than ever for writers to get their words to an audience via blogging and self-publishing, for example. “But on the road to traditional publishing,” says Nancy Rubin Stuart, director of the conference, “the bar is probably higher today than it ever was.”
Getting a story into print is very different than it was in the summer of 1963, when a group of wordsmiths called the Twelve O’Clock Scholars organized a writers workshop. Under the direction of Marion Vuilleumier, a long-time Cape wordsmith, the workshop turned into an annual conference that grew alongside its year-round counterpart, the Cape Cod Writers Center. Today, the center hosts a variety of writers groups and events for its more than 300 members, like Breakfast with the Authors, an ongoing series of talks and book signings from a range of writers. President Kevin Symmons says the constituency ranges from novices who have finished a draft of their first chapter to veterans who have published their seventh book, many of whom need support and guidance after realizing the revelation he made early in his own literary efforts. “Writing is probably the most frustrating and at the same time the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Symmons says.
The crux of the conference remains nuts-and-bolts instruction in the evolving craft of arranging words. Rubin Stuart, who among other achievements has authored six nonfiction books like the award-winning The Muse of the Revolution and served as a contributor to The New York Times, taught two classes at the 2009 conference before signing on as director. The Sandwich resident describes a friendly classroom full of published and aspiring writers alike, an atmosphere brimming with enthusiasm and empty of competition. “The goal is to prepare [the writers] for publication,” she says.
The range of classes is as varied as the goals of the body of registrants. Multi-day classes in nonfiction, humor, commercial fiction, and graphic novels exist alongside one-off courses in travel writing, blogging, digital publishing, and instruction in marketing and business matters. The Young Writers Workshop for burgeoning high-school writers, keynote speeches from the likes of WBZ radio personality Jordan Rich and historical fiction novelist William Martin, and manuscript evaluation sessions fill out a slate of happenings that, quite frankly, is too large to fit on this page. There is no guarantee of success in the fine print on the registration form, but there are success stories. Shutter Island and Mystic River author Dennis Lahane and distinguished Cape Cod writer Anne LeClaire—who teaches this year’s “From Memories to Memoirs” course—both attended the conference earlier in their careers. It’s also where Sally Gunning, author of The Widow’s War, found her agent.
What constitutes “publishing” might be markedly different. E-books, self-publishing, on-demand publishing, and countless other methods are all viable in the 21st century. “It’s our mission to apprise and keep our members’ skills up to date with the changing environment,” Rubin Stuart says.
One thing that has not changed is the appeal of the Cape’s sea-sprayed environment to budding authors. In some ways, this backdrop to the conference is just as crucial as the expert instruction. “It becomes a marvelous source of inspiration for people . . .” Rubin Stuart says. “Art and literature and writing and oceans have always gone together. It’s a natural fit.”
48th Annual Conference of the Cape Cod Writers Center
August 15-20, 2010
Craigville Conference Center, Centerville
For more information and to register,
visit www.capecodwriterscenter.com or call (508) 420-0200.
Tucked away on a quiet piece of farmland in West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks buzzes with activity. Glass artists hone their craft in the hot shop, shaping and coloring the glass to their liking, as customers mill about the gallery, browsing the wares and inquiring about the pieces being made before their eyes. According to gallery co-owner and head glassblower Mark Weiner, this unique customer experience helps set Glassworks apart from other studios. Read more…
When asked what I wanted for Father’s Day, I said, “Thank you, but I really don’t need anything.” I don’t have room in my closet for another shirt. Of course, my wife Judy loves to suggest we make room in the closet by throwing away my favorite old clothes. Our sons, Josh and Max, agree with Judy on the subject.
So I said, “I know what I want. Let’s all spend one afternoon together hanging the lobster trap buoys back up on the boathouse where they belong.” Judy liked the idea, but the boys looked at me as if I were about as much fun as a barrel of monkeys.
Our collection of lobster trap buoys had been sitting in a heap since they were removed in order to paint the outside of the boathouse. We call it the boathouse because that is where we store our life jackets, anchor lines, boat soap, flairs, whistles, horns, you name it. The “Lady Carline” life saving ring, from our former motor-sailer, hangs prominently on the back wall.
We have called the lobster trap markers, “beach treasures,” ever since Josh and Max have been old enough to walk the beach and help find them. For years family vacations regularly included beach walks on Cuttyhunk and shoreline searches of nearby islands in a small motor skiff. Right after a storm was always the best time for collecting. How fondly I recall the peopleless, rock-strewn shorelines with the constant rushing and crushing sounds of the surf. We would respond with delight to come across a lobster trap buoy, not tied to a trap, and yet in good enough shape to be worth bringing home. We were heedless, heartfelt, and headstrong.
Technically speaking, existing regulations indicated that any wash-a-shore or otherwise found fishing gear should be left alone, in hopes the original owner might find it. I say, “What are the chances of that happening?” Well, in fact, one lobsterman I met a few years back told me he had seen our boathouse collection from his boat and that I had one of his buoys hanging up there. Knowing the regulations, I immediately offered to return it to him if he would tell me which one it was. He said, “Oh, no thanks, I like seeing my buoy hanging in your collection.”
To me the lobster trap buoys represent more than fond memories of family times at the shore. They are symbols of Cape Cod’s proud sea-faring heritage. They remind me of the hard working men and women who have fished and shell-fished New England waters for centuries, that we might enjoy the bounty of the sea. I have done just enough lobstering to appreciate the work involved. I feel that if I am lucky enough to live by the water, it is appropriate to pay this symbolic respect to the Cape’s seafaring way of life.
So, we did spend the afternoon on Father’s Day, just the four of us, hanging our beach treasures all around the boathouse. It was a fun-loving project, after which Joshua photographed the boathouse for me. As the boys get older, now 13 and 16, family time becomes ever more precious.
Also, I did receive a few small gifts for Father’s Day. I am hard to shop for, but they know I enjoy books of quips and quotes. So they found one for me entitled Are You A Miserable Old Bastard? Thus far, I am enjoying reading it. Tells me something.
P.S. “The memories we collect and give
brighten our lives as long as we live.” -Unknown
Finely wrought, glass “sea bubbles” capture the alluring movement of the swirling blue and green waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and hold a bit of the Cape and the Islands wherever they are displayed. Each four 1/2 inch ball is filled with sand and seashells, resembling a sea bubble caught in the ocean waves. The ocean balls are crafted by local glassblower Michael Magyar, at his studio in East Sandwich. No two are alike; each one has a different design, color, and size. The ocean balls are part of the Cape Cod Sea Bubble Collection and can be custom-made in a variety of sizes, colors, styles and even can be engraved at no additional cost. Ocean balls are $58; for more information visit the Glass Studio on Cape Cod, 470 Route 6A, East Sandwich, 508 888-6681, www.glassstudiooncapecod.com.
Settle down with The Captain’s Widow of Sandwich: Self-Invention and the Life of Hannah Rebecca Burgess, 1834-1917 ($45) and acquaint yourself with some captivating local history. Author Megan Taylor Shockley delves into the true story of the spouse of a Sandwich sea captain. Digging into primary sources, Shockley masterfully crafts a portrait of the widow, unearthing her resourceful character’s fascinating story. As a woman who commandeered her dying husband’s ship single-handedly and refused several second marriage proposals after his death, Burgess defied the traditional gender roles of her day. Despite this, she seemingly lived quite comfortably within the social constructs of the Victorian era. The biography opens a window into the complexity of the Victorian Age and the drama of Cape Cod’s famous seafaring past. For more details, visit nyupress.org.