Thirty-Five Years… and Counting

I do not remember a time when I was not fascinated by well-written words and the good turn of a phrase. When I was in grammar school in the 1950s, I was reading such books as Confessions Of An Advertising Man by David Ogilvy and The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard. When I was 16 and a junior at Boston College High School, I founded the school newspaper. We called it The Eaglet.

After graduating from Holy Cross in 1969, I worked for Cahners Publishing, a national publishing company based in Boston. In 1979, in business for myself, I published the first issue of Cape Cod LIFE. I will always cherish the memory of receiving a congratulatory letter from Norman Cahners, founder of Cahners Publishing. Norman wrote, “Brian, few people can appreciate as much as I do the significance of the accomplishment of publishing your first issue of Cape Cod LIFE.”

Thirty Five Years and Counting

The following summer, photographer Gail Davis and I staged the cover photo for our Indian Summer issue at The Cash Market in Marstons Mills. I asked a charming looking lady walking by if she would pose as a customer in our photo. She said to me, “Young man, (Remember now, this was a long time ago) if I let you take my picture, what do you propose that you would do with it?” I said if it would be okay with her, I would put the photo on the cover of the next issue of Cape Cod LIFE.  She said, “I have never seen Cape Cod LIFE.” I did not have a copy with me, so I went into the Cash Market, purchased an issue, and gave it to her. She said “okay.” Later, she was very appreciative when I brought her a few copies of the magazine with her photo on the cover. At the top of the photo, there is a tree branch, which I am holding. The branch is covering some phone wires; we were careful to crop out my thumb.

In the summer of 1983, writer J.P. Neath, photographer Alison Shaw, and I visited with legendary television news anchor, Walter Cronkite, at his home in Edgartown. A few minutes in, I thought the interview was going swimmingly. However, when J.P. and Walter started talking about Walter’s love of sailing, I could not resist. I interrupted by asking follow-up questions about sailing. Mr. Cronkite stopped the interview and asked me to wait outside until it was over. How many people can say they were thrown out of an interview by someone known as, “the most trusted man in America”? After the interview, Walter took me down to his dock and aboard his beloved 42-foot sailboat, the Wyntje (pronounced Win-tee, the vessel was named for the first woman to marry a Cronkite in the New Amsterdam colony in 1642).

Thirty Five Years and Counting Thirty Five Years and Counting

In December of 1987, our cover featured a Christmas wreath hanging on a front door with a red border all around the cover. I was really flattered when I received a strongly worded letter from Time magazine telling me never to run a red border again because Cape Cod LIFE was infringing on Time’s trademark and copyright.

In the summer of ‘89, writer and photographer Stephanie Foster, Art Director Donna Murphy and I visited the home of Millie and Tip O’Neill in Harwichport. At the time, Tip was congressional speaker of the House. Our interview actually was with Millie, much more so than with Tip. We titled the article, “Speaker of the Household.” The following excerpt is memorable: “At home, he calls her ‘Mom.’  When she hears ‘Millie’ she knows trouble is brewing. They are a devoted couple that kid each other in mock arguments, but Millie rules the roost. To get his goat, she calls him ‘Speaker.’ The Speaker smokes his cigar outside the house.” Stephanie photographed all of us out on the beach. Tip put his arm around Donna and said, “So, how is it going, Murph?”

Thirty Five Years and Counting

In December of ’91, we devoted a special issue to the subject of Hurricane Bob.  When the storm hit, much of Cape Cod was without power for about one week. My home away from home, my classic wooden motor sailer, the Lady Carline, ended up high and dry on Amrita Island in Cataumet. I was standing on the beach taking photos when a helicopter was lifting the 10-ton Lady Carline overhead and back into the water. The power of the downdraft from the copter was phenomenal. I was looking through the little viewfinder on my camera when something passed in front of my eyes and over my head. A wooden rowboat that had been lying on the beach in front of me was now lying right behind me. Heavens to Mergatroid!

Ten years ago—in 2004—Cape Cod LIFE celebrated with a special 25th anniversary issue. I was so happy to receive a congratulatory letter from Senator Ted Kennedy.  He wrote a warm, personal letter about his family’s love of the Cape going back to his father and mother, Joseph and Rose’s first visit here in 1922. He wrote how he and Bobby and Jack played football on the beach. He went on to write, “Jack felt that creating the Cape Cod National Seashore was one of the finest of all his achievements in public life. He knew it would guarantee that all future generations would be able to enjoy the blessings of this special place he treasured most of all.”

In the spring of 2009, Senator Kennedy agreed to let Cape Cod LIFE reproduce a painting he had done of himself sailing his beloved Mya—and that we could put it on the cover of our annual Cape Cod ART publication. We posted the image on our website and heard from folks all over the world enthusing about his talent as an artist.

When I founded Cape Cod LIFE 35 years ago, the magazine’s original mission statement included, “hoping to contribute to the long-term enjoyment of our beautiful, fragile peninsula and nearby islands.” I thank all of our readers, writers, photographers, staff members, advertisers, and distributors for their support enabling Cape Cod LIFE Publications to serve the area we love so much. And thank you for enabling me, Judy, Josh, and Max to live the Cape Cod life. As we look to the future, I invite and ask for input from all of you to further enable all of us to contribute to our long-term enjoyment of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and the Elizabeth Islands. Please and Thank You!

My Best,


Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher

Natural Beauty Comparable to the National Seashore

The panoramic majesty of the marsh on either side of Scorton Creek is mesmerizing.

This is my first note to you since Judy, Josh, Max and I moved to East Sandwich in September. In all of my years on Cape Cod, I have always lived in the Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay coastal villages. I have loved it but I have rarely gotten beyond the west end of the Cape Cod Canal, when I have been boating.

Natural Beauty Comparable to the National Seashore

Now, I am very close to the east end of the Canal. Since in 2014 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Canal, I figured I owed it to Cape Cod LIFE readers to move closer to the Canal. And since Sandwich, the oldest town on Cape Cod, is celebrating in 2014 the 375th anniversary of its incorporation as a town, I thought it best if I moved to Sandwich.

The house fronts on Scorton Creek. This is a tidal creek which winds its way for miles, from north of Route 6A out to Cape Cod Bay. My writing table is upstairs and I can see over Cape Cod Bay, past the east end of the canal to the shore of White Cliffs in South Plymouth. Now I can reach all of our harbor villages fronting on Cape Cod Bay by small boat from right behind my house. I may never go to work again. Wait a minute, what am I talking about? This is my work!

The panoramic majesty of the marsh on either side of Scorton Creek is mesmerizing.  Looking due west from the house, the marsh is about one mile from side to side.  The tidal creek has carved its way, snaking east, then west, then east, going for more than five miles to where it joins the Great Marshes just west of Barnstable Harbor. Barnstable Harbor is bordered on the north by Sandy Neck; this scene is captured by photographer, Nancy Welch, on the front cover of the Cape Cod LIFE 2014 Seascapes Calendar mailed to subscribers with this issue. If you don’t have our 2014 calendar, or want an extra one, see ordering information below. But I guess I digress.

Have I mentioned in the past that I am fascinated by the changing tides? On the Buzzards Bay coast, the average difference between high and low tide is approximately five feet. At the east end of the Cape Cod Canal, past Barnstable Harbor and out to Wellfleet and Provincetown, the average tidal difference runs nine to ten feet. The result in Scorton Creek is a surging tidal current with the power to carve the shape of the creek throughout the length of the marsh. The New Moon and Full Moon tides are noticeably more significant. In general, I have a pretty good understanding of where we are in the monthly phases of the moon just by observing the tide.

For me, the waves constantly rolling in as sea swells through the bay until they land on the beach, signify the pulse of the earth. The tidal tributaries form arteries feeding the sea to the great marsh, and the marsh feeds the world in it and around it.  Each blade of marsh grass stands tall and rich green on the first day of summer. As summer melds into autumn, each blade of marsh grass is dyed golden, starting at the top and each day draining down the stem in direct proportion to the dwindling hours of daylight.  The lowering sun warms and weaves the greens and yellows in a glowing patchwork quilt.

This time of year I always think of my favorite line written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “How well I know what I mean to do, when the long dark autumn evenings come.” I feel energized.

I need my energy at this time, as does the whole Cape Cod LIFE staff; we are gearing up for celebrating Cape Cod LIFE’s 35th anniversary in 2014.  Stay tuned.

My Best,


Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher

How Well Do You Know the Cape and Islands

Can you tell me where on Cape Cod, Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard you might find this beach? Read more…

Today is Josh’s Birthday

Due to lead times in magazine publishing, I am writing this on May 18th for the July issue. I get in trouble with Jeff Harder, our managing editor, if I don’t turn in my column on time. Jeff gave me a deadline of Monday, May 21st. This works well for me because I prefer to write on weekends. Plus, I learned a few days ago that Jeff was spending the weekend in the Azores with his wife, Siobhan, and would not be back in the office until Tuesday. So, he will never know if I made the Monday deadline as long as I have it on his desk by Tuesday morning.

Josh was born on May 18,1994, at Falmouth Hospital, the first member of our Shortsleeve family to be born on Cape Cod. So, he turns 19 today. He is a little older than many of his classmates graduating from Bourne High School in two weeks.

Judy and I had him repeat a year when we did not feel that he was ready for first grade. Josh has often reminded me that he would be further along in this or that, if we had not kept him back. At that point I always remind Josh that we would not have done so if he had been working to his potential while in kindergarten.

Actually, it has worked out: Josh has done well in school. Just this past school year, Josh participated in a dual-enrollment program at Cape Cod Community College; he earned credit for his senior year of high school and, also, almost all of his first year of college. Sean Burke, Josh’s guidance counselor at Bourne High School, recommended this program for Josh. We are all very lucky to have Sean Burke guiding the students of Bourne High.

For some time now, Josh has been saying that he wants to pursue a career in business. I keep reminding him that business is not all “executive lunches.” But Judy and I encouraged Josh, since he had the opportunity, to take classes at the college including “Accounting 101.” I just wanted Josh to first learn the basic language of business. He plans to major in business at a college located within reasonable walking distance of good surfing, and he has already been accepted to a few.

I suggested to Josh that in lieu of the cost of education that he consider working in business for one year to get a better idea of what aspect of business he would like to pursue and study. Then he could come out of college prepared to work at something that he knows is important to him. He said, “Fine, Dad, why don’t I go to the Bahamas for one year and work as a surfing instructor?” Judy and I replied that since he feels he would like to pursue “sales and marketing” that perhaps some work with that particular focus might be a more worthwhile experience.

Today is Josh's Birthday

He and I are talking about Cape Cod LIFE and some sales and marketing projects that I have in mind. We will see. I think Josh would do well in sales. Ever since he was very young, he has always related well to adults. Several years ago, when Josh was maybe 13, a friend of mine on Cuttyhunk said of Josh: “How many kids his age can walk up to an adult, look them in the eye, shake their hand, and ask ‘How was your winter?’ and mean it? And then carry on a conversation?”

I always give Judy flowers on both Josh and Max’s birthdays. Josh took the photo above.

My best,


Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher

P.S. I won’t know until the end of the summer for sure what Josh wants to do. For this summer, on the island of Cuttyhunk, he has his own summer rental and work, all within reasonable walking distance of good surfing.

Marianna, This One is For You

Speaking of “the best,” I would like to write a few words about Marianna Lynch.

In A Backwards Glance, Edith Wharton quoted Henry James: “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Read more…

Never Let School Interfere With Your Education

During our school years, summer job experiences are important in many ways. Read more…

How Well Do You Know the Cape and Islands?

FOR MANY YEARS, ONE OF MY HOBBIES HAS BEEN COLLECTING history shots of the Cape and Islands. Read more…


"It is Only With the Heart that One Can See Rightly; What is Essential is Invisible to the Eye"

If you think about it, when we go on vacation, we realize how little we really need on a material level. Time spent needing little on the outside provides opportunity to consider on a more personal level—say, an internal level—how much or how little we really need. Quiet time puts us in touch with ourselves, further enabling us to be in touch with others. What really comes between people is not space and time so much as a lack of space and time to be in touch with ourselves. And when we are strangers to ourselves, we are strangers to others. Read more…

Glad I Listen to Our Barber

Five minutes from our home as part of Cataumet Crossing, where our son Max, now 15, works summers, sits Michael’s Barber Shop. A few years ago, Mike Flemming bought the business from Wayne Fredrick, a popular and very respected barber and stylist. Like Wayne before him, Mike is very personable and makes friends with you and your whole family. When I am there, Mike picks up the conversation where we left off last time, usually following the exploits of my sons, Max, and Josh, now 18. It is not just small talk: he is sincerely interested and you can feel it. Read more…