While Pandemic Summer editions of this newsletter have been few and far between, the rest of this year will bring you more frequent postings — not on a set schedule (please, there’s a pandemic) — and mostly Minis.
A hundred years ago in 2019, I started (and finished!) an experiment. For one year, I documented the cyclical nature of my internal landscape, as well as the natural world around me as it responded to the seasons. It was a messy circle of notes (November: weather turns quickly, be prepared!, July: visitor overload, schedule time AWAY FROM EVERYONE, March: Gurl! watch out for uber Pisces in Pisces Season sensitivity.) The compiled result — now fashioned in the shape of a full moon — has been my personal lifesaving almanac these past few months.
I tracked both external (December: hunting season, wear flame) and internal benchmarks (February: low energy, low activity, plan for busy spring and summer). Granted, my natural internal rhythm is following a special 2020 tune unlike last year’s, but Mama Nature has been mostly unimpeded by viruses and terrible ogres.
There are reminders about when my anxiety flutters back (January + mid-August), reminders to be prepared for resentment of the toomuchness in summer, and notes to shift my thinking to separate indoor and outdoor to do lists so I can dodge and weave with the New England weather.
Externally, August looks like this: hibiscus bloom, mimosa tree bloom, sea lavender, beach plum harvest, rose hips, sedge cotton in dunes, coastal shore bird migration, Great Blue Herons in marshes, feathers on the ground (birds molt in late summer here.) Internally, there’s a reminder to order an elderberry syrup kit for the inevitable September cold, pick up another batch of local honey (same reason), clear space in my calendar, focus on busy work rather than deep tasks, and prepare for extreme anxiety to kick in mid-month. August is one of the more crowded months. With May (bird migration, lady slippers, swamp azaleas, blooming beach plums, wisteria, scotch broom, lilac, baby geese, bird nesting), it’s a giant parentheses on summer.
Mary Oliver’s favorite pond is 1.4 miles from my house. While most of the trail around the dragonfly incubator of a pool is elevated with steep drop-offs on the pond side, there is a special spot on the trail where you can easily walk to the edge of the water. Covered in lily pads, Blackwater Pond reverberates there with deep frog vocalizations. Mary has brought millions of people to this spot with her words. I feel deeply grateful to place my actual feet, enshrined in tick-repellent socks and waterproof hiking shoes, here whenever I need a stolen moment to pretend I’ve disappeared down a magical path into a children’s picture book where all the animals talk.
As the days turned into the steamy heat pounding of August, I dug through my giant rock basket for the large white and pale pink ones and placed them on the deck railing for the dragonflies and butterflies to rest upon. Mostly I just got houseflies.
On my first up Cape trip in ages, I turned onto the narrowest road marked by the tiniest sign so I could explore a butterfly meadow. A plump groundhog not so quietly moved smoke monster style through the towering goldenrod and milkweed and thistle and heavenly scented sweet pepperbush. I know people come to the Cape for our beaches, but our saltwater marshes and meadows and woods are magical. And delicate and endangered and to be treasured.
The tiniest and most earnest of hummingbirds came over one afternoon to see what I was doing during my hourly Futzing of the Plants. He visited me every afternoon for weeks afterwards, each encounter leaving behind tears puddling my vision. I miss him.
We watched the Perseids from the benches at our secret spot in the dunes — every streak met with a delighted squeal.
I encountered a pack of coywolves. At noon. In August. I was slowly creeping on the area where my beach plums should have been just about plump with purple-y treasures, turned my head, and saw one, two, three, maybe five. Sleek, beautiful creatures. We locked eyes. They turned and ran. (Note: I was still in my car. Otherwise, I would have pissed myself.)
My crazy plumed hot mess of a male cardinal lost his head feathers. I have a soft spot for bald cardinals with their solid black head creating the illusion that they are wearing a red turtleneck.
All summer I watched extra closely for the hatch year transformations of our fledglings. The puffed toddler belly of a cardinal took on all the colorings of her mama — her once brown beak all of a sudden neon orange. The robins lost most of their white-ish underbelly spots. The catbirds fuzzy grey heads now don a sportingly sharp black cap. What a treat to catch these glimmers of them metamorphose into their final form.
One afternoon, there was a terrible thud that led to the heartbroken discovery of the loss of a member of our bird gymnasium family. One of my catbirds lay on the deck, eyes X’ed out, nevermore. I cried and lit a candle. And refused to step on that spot for the rest of the summer because that’s gross.
Afterwards, I obsessively watched the kitten fledglings, certain that one was now an orphan and would starve. I watched as a mama bird shunned one of two open-mouthed fledglings in front of her. (Bitch!) That abandoned bird then flew over to the feeder, slipped feet first into the jelly, and began feasting.
I’ve been picking up wind-blown weathered scrub pine sticks to add to my collection jar. My theory is the true test for discerning a townie house from a second home in this town is by the number and variety of bits and baubles from the outside world adorning it.
I ordered snowdrop and pink yarrow flower essence drops and a Elizabeth Warren prayer candle to help me get through the next few months. Frequent excursions into the nearby deserted woods to scream, “ELIZABETH!! FIX IT!!!,” are also scheduled.
On the evening of the full moon, after gathering all my crystals and heading for the front porch, The Super Mr. asked me what I was doing. His response after I told him: “Charge ‘em up! We need all the help we can get!”
By accident, I discovered the butterfly weed that I discarded last year was thriving despite-it-all in the organic creep of nature that serves as our backyard. Visions of next year’s butterflies dancing across yet-to-be-planted milkweed, green echinacea, blue-eyed daisies, and mountain mint flashed in front of me. The Cape has taught me to savor the slow march towards long range payoffs.
I started the seasonal switch a little early this year — maybe because it was dry AF and everything turned brown. We ordered a chiminea for Yard Snacks, Fall Edition. I also ordered (faux) sheepskin slippers in a shimmery silver and a pale blue fuzzy fleece.
Somewhere between the Instagram post of a tone deaf first-time visitor advertising our town as a COVID-free zone (like, shut up!), and a native son proclaiming “the dunes are a shit show,” I crossed over the line to join my fellow Bitter Locals.
I’m not-so-secretly hoping that the recent power outages on the Outer Cape caused by osprey activity will send visitors intent on overstaying their welcome back to whence they came.
Also, here’s some stuff:
“The Black Introverts” episode of The Stoop. This had my brain all twisted up trying to understand how one even begins to navigate these conflicting societal expectations. // Midlife Mixtape’s “Listeners’ Gen X Childhood Summer Stories.” FINALLY, a podcast host I can relate to. No vocal fry, just pure snark. The tagline is genius!: “for the years between being hip and breaking one.” // “The Sunday Read: The Accusation” episode of The Daily. Sigh, the Specialness in academia. Truly a WTF story!
The Toucan Chrome extension. I’m still working on my Portuguese (Day 150 in Duolingo!) and this extension changes random words on websites to their Portuguese equivalent. (OK, it can be a bit annoying, but you can turn it off.)
This Nostalgic Kitchen playlist. Englebert Humperdink’s “Quando Quando Quando” + a French 75 + Johnny Mathis. Tink-tinking for my soul!
The Speed Cubers (Netflix). Of all the recommendations in this edition, this is my triple-quadrupled starred review. YOU MUST WATCH THIS! It’s a delightful short documentary about the people who compete in Rubik’s cube competitions. // Uncorked (Netflix). Instead of taking over the family BBQ business, the main character just wants to be a simple master sommelier. // The Assistant (Hulu). A slow burn of a brilliant performance by Julia Garner who portrays the horror of a single day in the life of an assistant to an anonymous-but-not-really “entertainment mogul.” // Bad Education (HBO). Based on the true story of the largest public school embezzlement in American history. It is a trip! // Cobra Kai (Netflix). Children of the ‘80s, this is our show! Daniel and Johnny are still battling it out in mid-life. And Daniel-san is kind of a dick. Hashbrown Cobra Kai.
The Good Liar (HBO). A story of the ultimate revenge starring two powerhouses, Helen Mirren and Gandalf. VERY satisfying! // The Half of It (Netflix). A queer romcom that doesn’t take the predictable path and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. // Get Even (Netflix). There’s a murder mystery and badass girls getting even with the assholes in their high school. A pure binge-y delight! // Train to Busan (Netflix). Zombies on a train in a foreign language. The best kind of edge of your seat terror where you frantically wave your arms at the TV hoping the characters will see you and start to run! (BUT, IT LEAVES NETFLIX SEPTEMBER 17!!)
NPR has brought us a soul-affirming Tiny Desk Concert from Protoje’s backyard in Kingston. (And, off his new album, this has been my late summer chill out jam. Plus here’s a little primer on rum and ting in case that’s more your thing.)
FREE Things: Elizabeth Wood’s free Self-Care Summit started yesterday online. I watched the sessions on mindful hiking and herbal remedies. Looking forward to learning more about medicine walks, Qigong tapping, and sound healing. // The National Book Festival will also be online September 25-27. Colson Whitehead, Ann Patchett, Emily St. John Mandel … check out the schedule here. // Resilience Skills in a Time of Uncertainty course. Last month, I finished this FREE four-week course offered by the Center for Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Lots of good practical skills and helpful self-assessments! Plus you can easily skip the academic blah blah blah.
“2AM” by MK (featuring Carla Monroe). I am missing Tea Dance this year something fierce.
A few local things:
Cape Cod Home Remedies’ Elderberry Syrup Kit. Buy some local honey at the Longnook Meadows Farm stand to mix with it and you have the most local of elixirs for your seasonal ailments.
The Wellfleet Public Library just published their first free, online edition of Quaranzine.
WCAI’s weekly News Roundup on The Point podcast. For those of you planning to stick around the Cape in the offseason, here’s a good way for you to learn about what matters to locals. Episodes every Friday.
Mark your calendars for some online local shopping specials: the Love Local Fest will be online September 27-October 3.
Also! The 2021 Many Moons Lunar Planner went on pre-order. It sells out quickly so get yours here!
I leave you this time with a little wisdom from three sources:
“While you’ve been obsessing
Over what the world thinks
Life is passing you by
Life went out for drinks
Look, I get it
You’re dazed, you're depressed
But we never know how much music is left”
“Living defined by terror is itself destructive of the spirit.
Joy was never an evasion of the depths of the wounds, it is literally a sustaining life force.”
—Imani Perry, Professor of African American Studies at Princeton
May you all find your Joy somewhere safely between Quarantine and Party while Elizabeth fixes it.