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.
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.
Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher
Most of us spend more time at work than we do in any other part of our daily lives. Read more…
Can you tell me where on Cape Cod, Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard you might find this beach? Read more…
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.
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.
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.
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…
"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…
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…
People ask what it is that I do when I am on the island of Cuttyhunk. My answer: as little as possible! Read more…
We are most fortunate to have the summer weather we have on the Cape and Islands. The old timers in Maine describe their year as “nine months of winter and three months of damn poor sleddin’.” However, summer is a short time on the Cape and Islands as well. We long for it much of the year, and now that it’s here, as they say in Rome, carpe diem, or seize the day. Read more…
My first visit to Cape Cod was in 1955 when I was eight years old. For two weeks in August, my family rented an older three-story “cottage” in the village of Old Craigville within walking distance of Craigville Beach in Centerville. The house was right across the street from tiny Lake Elizabeth, with a small dock where my brother Mike and I would go fishing. Of course, we were not allowed to go on the dock without my parents’ permission. My younger brother John went without permission and I reported this to my mother. John was angry with me and told me I didn’t have to do that. I told him that just because I had a lot of freckles he didn’t have to call me “a speckled hen.”
Old Craigville was magical. On the village green, there were organized volleyball games in the evening. There was also a penny candy store, a tiny post office, and a gracious old multistory inn. My grandmother and great aunts stayed at the inn part of the time we were there, and they would take us kids out to breakfast at the inn. All of this was only a short walk from Craigville Beach where we spent most days. A wonderful, tree-canopied walking path ran between the cottage connecting the village green to a huge bluff overlooking the beach. At night, this walkway was lit by the glowing lamps of bordering cottages, alive with laughter and music.
As the family grew, we spent more time on the Cape and the older children, of whom I am one, got summer jobs at Craigville Beach. We were lifeguards, short-order cooks, waitresses, and parking lot attendants. Evenings were busy with ping-pong in the game room, touch football on the beach, and visits to the 1856 Country Story in Centerville and Four Seas Ice Cream parlor. I learned to sail, won some races, and started a business teaching sailing and renting out small sailboats. In 1964, I was being paid five dollars an hour to go sailing. Maybe I should have stuck with that.
During my college years, I learned how to chart a course and handle a sloop large enough for cruising. A few friends and I chartered a boat out of Mattapoisett and sailed to Nantucket, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, Menemsha, and Cuttyhunk. I knew then that eventually I would have to have my own boat and that the Cape and Islands would always be a very important part of my life. Of course, the first cruise was not without incident. The only crew member that could not swim fell overboard when we were moving at a pretty good clip coming out of Vineyard Haven Harbor. Fortunately, he was wearing a life jacket, and we did get him back aboard.
Right after college, I bought a Hobie Cat Catamaran sailboat. It was only 14 feet long and had a trampoline for a deck, connecting two pontoons. Heavens to Murgatroyd was that thing fast! We would trailer to Town Cove in Orleans and sail out of the channel to the ocean facing Nauset Beach. We would sail in close to the beach, and then with the southwest wind at our backs, we would turn out and head into the oncoming waves. The best part was when the entire boat would fly off of a wave and completely leave the surface of the water. We wore wetsuits because it was a wet ride, and thankfully by that time the same crew member had learned to swim.
In 1976, I became a year-round Cape Codder and in 1979 founded Cape Cod Life magazine in hopes of sharing my love of the Cape and Islands with many readers. During the 80s, I met my wife, Judy, with whom I have been most fortunate to share my love of the Cape and Islands ever since. We were married on our beloved island of Cuttyhunk in June 1990. Our boys Josh and Max were born in ’94 and ’97, and we built a new home in ’99. The boys have grown up on the water and I just love to see them both handling boats so well. They sail, they motor boat, and they navigate, in and out of the fog. And, they can both swim.
“The memories we collect and give Brighten our lives as long as we live.”
Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher