Saturday, January 17, 2015

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- January 11, 1962

In this entry, my father is feeling, well, a little sad. Maybe a little removed from the goings on in the world. Maybe it's just mid-winter blues. The piece ends with Wendell (and Muriel?) on the hunt for furniture. This, it seems, is an unfinished entry. We'll never know why there is a sadness to the stranger's house.
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Today is a day of cold, the nation seems locked in a gigantic mass of cold polar air. Snow strands motorists in Tennessee. Chicago reports thermometers reading 15 below zero.

Far to the south in Peru, 3000 souls are buried under a gigantic slide of ice and earth. The Bridge of San Luis Rey is brought up to date by 400 years and multiplied several hundred fold. And of these lives little will ever be recorded except to note their passing.

Here on the Cape it is cold too, but in the teens and twenties and warmer in the sun in a protected spot. I walked on the beach of the bay. It was a silent world. The wind blew enough to make me turn away and hood my parka and yet there was no sound of waves for a billion tiny particles of ice formed a covering on the water some hundreds of yards out from shore to muffle waves and sound of waves. Only from far out over the white tide line did there came the faint hiss and rush of the small white caps that drove against the grated edge of the flow.

Occasionally the lisp of sparrow came from the tangle of beach plum and scrub on the high bank beyond the strands then all was silence except for the soft pad of my shoes in the sand and the crunch they made when I stepped upon a frozen patch of ground.

You found the turnoff into the sand drive by an anchor out at the main road. Following up the drive you came to the house set in a clearing in the pines. It was a frame house, wood-shingled, weathered now after a century so close to the sea and when you stepped out of your car to stand warm in the sun you were surprised to discover that the house had a view clear to the ocean down over the scrub and the moors and the dunes.

The yard had the quality of being now unattended and yet it bore the marks of sharing a life with the house –a spreading back (yard) with its rope ladder for kids to climb, a bird bath set on a high pole where a chickadee came to drink, a toy truck broken and tossed aside, rose bushes in need of cutting back, and around the yard a low stone wall to enclose the lawn.

We knock at the door and ask, “Are you the fellow advertising furniture for sale?”

“Yes, getting rid of what I can,” the man replies, as he sweeps ashes from the floor near the fireplace, the sound of the broom strokes loud in the half empty room. The great open fireplace held smoldering logs, the walls of the room were plaster, the beams in the ceiling natural. There was about the room a simple charm—yet now a sadness…

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- January 3 & 5, 1962 -- Cape Cod Sketchbook

Combining here two short journal entries that show my father continuing to explore the idea of a written sketchbook, cataloging in word statistics and descriptions of nature and the environment.

Also, for your enjoyment, I found a couple pictures of Drummer Cove Cottages, one featuring my three sisters.  ->

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January 3, 1962. Sketchbook
The wind blew in hard for two days out of the west across the bay. And on the third day while still it blew, I went to the beach at Skaket for seaweed and grass to bank the house against the cold. On the beach half covered with sand and drift I came upon an oar. Its blade was split, a third of its power gone, it lay mute along the heaps of black weeds.

I brought the oar home to look at it more closely. Six foot tall, it stands, thin and lean, tapered straight to the blade, and nicked and scared, a piece of heavy leather where she fit the lock. Probably all the way from Scotia, a neighbor said. See, it’s long, like as not for a dory.

Somehow cast adrift, the oar rode the currents south by west through fog and squalls, brine swelled, a strong tough hardwood, bleached white as bone but carrying yet the remnants of yellow paint or varnish while deep within the blade still showed a tint of red where she’d dipped the sea uncounted times. Whose hands gripped this oar? I’ll never know.

January 5, 1962 CCSB (Cape Cod Sketchbook)
A mist rises from the tidal meadow for several forces there are met. Some days ago it snowed, and banks of white are left across the ocher marsh and now it rains a steady coming down of drops too fine to see, a warm rain for January after days of cold.

Add to this a tide not quite at flood but high enough to line the marsh with lakes and flows, a vast wet place, mottled brown and white and gun-metal gray hazed now with mist.

Ducks course the channels of marsh and gulls appear and pass gracefully, silently, in the air above until at last beyond the road and the dark outlines of shrubs there is only mist and with it the strong salt smell of the sea.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- January 2, 1962

A rush and a push and 1962 is ours. Considering my snails pace keeping up with this blog over the past couple years, I'm rushing through these journal entries. (Not sure what will happen to Unreliable Narrator at the end of this...but something exciting no doubt).

Meanwhile, here we are, just into the new year and Wendell ruminates on a whirlwind jaunt back to the family homestead of Madison, New Jersey.

Also, I included another Christmas pic because during a jaunt to my own family homestead of Orleans (to visit my Mom on New Year's), I dug up a few pictures from the time. The above photo is dated December 1961. The dog is Ranger, helping Dad inspect the tinsel.

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We left Orleans the day after Christmas for Madison (New Jersey). After making arrangements for a license (registration expired December 31st, 1961— a fact I hadn’t discovered until the day before Christmas, a Sunday), getting a tarp for the car rack, having the dogs at the vets, we were off from Hyannis about 1:30 PM. It was a clear, sunny day and we reached motel row beyond Providence at dusk and decided to stop at the Sky-View Motel, the same one we stayed in when we moved up last June.

We paid $16 for a family unit, which is two rooms with connecting bath and closet. We always get a good night’s sleep in a motel because after the kids are tucked in bed there is nothing to do but hit the hay.

Arrived (in) Madison about three the next afternoon. The snow of 8 inches that had preceded us by 2 days gave us no trouble except that we had cold, icy weather the whole time we were in Jersey. We saw the Grants on Thursday night, the Pikes Friday afternoon, Grandpa in Tabor Friday, Bob and Anne’s Friday night, Steve and Jesse’s Saturday evening.

Sunday after Sunday school we started back, a foolish time to start, 11:00 o’clock, but we packed sandwiches and at dusk came through Providence, a dinner in Taunton, and arrived home by 8:45 p.m. I think the next time we drive it we’ll make the trip at night when the children are asleep.

Monday night it snowed and we awoke Tuesday to six inches of snow. School had been cancelled for the day so after ten days’ vacation the children got a one day reprieve and their parents a one day extension of their sentence.

During the morning the snow slackened off and gradually the bank of gray clouds moved eastward and out to sea leaving the sky free for a sparkling sun that glittered on the white and tan marsh.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- December 25, 1961 -- Lower Cape Sketchbook


I love this entry. Though dated the 25th of December, it doesn't hint at Christmas but instead gives an idea of what my father was trying to accomplish with writing this journal. You can see how his writing and his art are fusing to evoke what the Cape, and the environment in particular, means to him. So that readers can "feel the feel of it."

Knowing it's Christmas when my father wrote it, I wonder when he had the time. Did he get up early while the rest of the house still dozed with sugar plum visions in their heads? Or was it later in the day? Perhaps in the afternoon when my sisters were busy playing with their new toys. Or later still, after everyone was tuckered out from the festivities and tucked in bed. There he is, with his lined paper atop a book propped on his lap (or, more likely, smoothed out on the kitchen table) and he writes out longhand, writing about writing.

Oh, and that's another Christmas pic of my Dad, this one from 1974 when we lived in Eastham.

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Lower Cape Sketchbook

Perhaps I have already begun this book with the infrequent entries in a diary started last summer. But what sort of book could I write concerning our life on the Cape? Not a diary simply, for too many books take that form. A chronicle of nature that follows the cycle of the seasons. In some respects it might follow this form.

Rather I will write a sketchbook of what I see around me from the elbow of the Cape north to Provincetown – Cape Tip – or wherever my travels on the Cape take me. For every few days finds me in a different spot, nosing around; the beaches, the bay, and marsh shores along the tideline rubble, looking for flotsam to add to my beach collages.

In my collecting trips I look for almost anything that carries the marks of time. Anything characteristic of the environment of sea, bay, shoreline; whether wood, metal, shell, or bone. If they are small enough to carry I take them and dry them out and let them set for a time to make (them, us?) aware of their bounty.

So I will record in my sketchbook that which I cannot carry but which is part of the environment – wood, metal, shell, or bone. Indeed it may be part of the scene, the effect of where I am. It will be a collage in words, a searching for the same effect that time-worn objects have—words on paper for wood on wood. Cork on wood. I want the reader to be able to rub his hand over a weathered washed up plank and feel the grit of it, the smell of it. To feel the feel of it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- December 15, 1961


Here's another installment, which finds Wendell reflecting more and more on Cape Cod nature and weather, in weatherproofing his new home and also through his art.

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The wind comes in gusts in off the bay, gusts but never dropping below 30 to 40 miles per hour in force it would seem. For half a mile out white caps race toward the shore and at Skaket Beach the sand lashes at the car and dances up the road away from the beach in windy (riverlets?) of sandy clouds. I parked there at Skaket for a moment with Cindy and Shelley. Overhead a score or more Canadian geese hung winging into the wind, forming and reforming until at last in a V they flapped off Southwest along the shore of the bay.

It is now that I find the many jobs have not been completed as far as weatherproofing the house. Two storm windows still to be put up in the back upstairs (this accomplished by hooking them from the inside, and not a job for a windy day), the garage door leaks too much air, a window pane in the garage nearly out for lack of putty, the front “storm door” torn and in need of repair, and then there is the seaweed I had planned to stack around the foundation of the house, at least along the wing, which is usually 5 to 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house. And so it goes. The jobs string out in endless line, and it takes a driving wind in the twenties to remind you of them all.

I have put together two beach collages. The first one I like so much that I took it to Hyannis to see if I could sell it at the Christmas sale. The second one hangs in the living room. I find them attractive because of the use of drift wood and small shell, etc. The various materials in a pleasing arrangement but mostly various woods mounted on a sea-worn board or plank. It would seem as though there might be a market for such things. They make striking decoration.