Releasing Dixie out into the early morning, I realized how mild it really was. The cold of the last 5-6 day had broken yesterday and it had stayed above freezing. What a relief!
I started the coffeemaker, then made up a fire in our stove. It was 6am and I was looking forward to a quiet hour with my book. CBC II was playing some nice classical music on their French channel. I have often been wondering why the French have a better taste in music. I knew that turning the knob on my old Transistor radio would only reveal some wild noisy tunes from both American and English Canadian stations. So the radio always stays tuned in on the French station.
But I had to look after Dixie. She was still out there. I took a flashlight and shone it up the property. Like a white ghost she appeared at the upper end of our lot, then followed me to the door. In the kitchen she stopped by her food bowl, before she climbed onto her bed curling up in a corner where she fell asleep immediately.
Now it was time to read another chapter in my book. It was a German edition of an American book which had come out as early as 1928. The title is “The Outermost House”, by Henry Beston. Henry Beston, born in 1888 in Quincy, MA was a naturalist with the amazing gift of describing nature at his time.
The “Outermost House” was a small cabin which Beston got built on top of a dune at Cape Cod. He named the place Fo’castle and once the cabin was finished, he spent an entire winter living in the self-chosen solitude at the North Atlantic. From his window he could look across the wide expanse of the often very wild and stormy waters of the Atlantic. He observed the change of the tides, the birds and his immediate surroundings. Once a week he wandered to the next village, a few miles away to get supplies, other than that, his only human company were the men of the coast guard coming along the beach on their routine patrols.
It was that winter which resulted in his book and it became an immediate success.
After getting married, Beston bought a property in Nobleboro, ME where he died in 1968.
The vast expanse of the Cape Cod National Seashore
His observations along the beach include a shocking account of birds being contaminated with tar. At the time it was common that tankers would release tar into the sea, which was the left-over from oil production in refineries. The tar would then float on the surface of the water until it sank, and seabirds would get their feathers glued together dying a terrible death. So it is remarkable to note that environmental concerns and protection finally took a hold in the law. Unfortunately, accidents still happen, with seabirds, fish, shellfish and sea mammals still falling victims to human failure and neglect.
So, not uncommon for today, Beston notes the decline of bird populations. Yet there must have been a lot more birds during his early life than there is today.
Unfortunately, the National Seashore allows driving on parts of the beach and
Beston would be quite disgusted if he would see the many jeeps and SUVs and the endless hordes populating the beach on warm summer days.
Fo'castle, Beston's cabin and refuge for an entire winter
His cabin, the Fo’castle was swept away by a hurricane in 1978. The place where the cabin stood has become a pilgrims destination for Henry Beston fans. It is now part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. A Henry Beston society has also been founded.
Being born at the coast I have always had a connection to the sea and the beaches - the reason why we live where we live. Many of Beston's observations I can relive here on Campobello. The landscape along Cape Cod is far more open and different than here on Campobello, but the sea is the same, and the wind and most birds, which makes me think it is time for a beach walk with Dixie...