7 April 2017 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — tax time
I have, dear readers, spent more than half of my 45 years of priesthood on Cape Cod — in Bourne, South Yarmouth, North Falmouth, and now Falmouth Village. This I know from personal experience: Cape Cod winters are exceedingly dreary. It’s the reason so many Codders flee to Florida.
My starkest winters on the Cape were spent in North Falmouth. The rectory is on Quaker Road, across from Old Silver Beach and Wild Harbor. In the summer, Quaker Road is teaming with chatty people, all happily heading to the beach. In the winter, there is only resounding silence.
To make things worse, the rectory is built far back from the road, on the edge of a small kettle pond (appropriately dubbed Dam Pond), scraggy woodlands, and old cranberry bogs.
In winter, the only traffic one hears during the week is the garbage truck emptying the dumpster. It was a welcome sound. Even Simon the Stylite would go stir crazy in such a place. “Celebrate your aloneness,” was the advice of the late Father Jim Clark, formerly pastor of the next parish over, St. John the Evangelist in Pocasset.
Of course, that was decades ago and there has been some home construction in the neighborhood. Perhaps things have changed.
The other three rectories were at least located on main thoroughfares: Station Avenue in South Yarmouth (which is more like a city than a town) and, literally, the Main Streets of Buzzards Bay and Falmouth. There was human activity even in the winter. The latter two were especially conducive to foot traffic. There was an actual neighborhood to perambulate.
In the summer, there was so much traffic you hesitated, at least momentarily, before leaving the house. Your daily junkets were dependent upon traffic, day of the week, time of the day, and weather conditions. You developed an algorithm based on these factors. Sometimes your formula failed miserably but it was a chance you had to take. Above all else, you needed to avoid crossing the bridge.
While people throughout the diocese long for spring, this is especially true of Codders. On the Cape, spring comes later rather than sooner. This is due to the fact that Cape Cod juts out into the frigid ocean. We make up for it in the autumn, when summer weather lasts longer than anywhere else in the diocese. Call it a trade off.
Codders, for the most part, keep their minds and hearts attuned to the cycles of nature. The songbirds have been chirping at dawn for two months now. I hear them.
I don’t feed the backyard birds during the winter. I read somewhere that during the winter months, there are plenty of berries and other food sources still readily available to them. Food supplies, however, begin to run out in early spring, say the ornithologists.
It’s time for me to begin feeding the backyard birds. I ran my oxymoronic “squirrel proof” feeder through the dishwasher on the sterilize cycle, filled it, and hung it back up on the old oak tree behind the rectory. It will take the wary birds a while before they feel comfortable enough to nervously approach the feeding station. There is as yet no leaf-cover to give them protection from predators. The sharp-eyed hawk watches attentively from his usual perch on the steeple’s gilded Celtic cross. Along with the songbirds, I see him too. I’ve named him “Ralph.”
The sprouting irises have long been visible by the entryway. They showed themselves before the snowdrops, as they always do, but it will take them until June to bloom. The crocuses in St. Joseph Wildflower Garden are blooming, though. I notice they bloom by color code. First come the purple, then the yellow, and finally the white. They have worked out their own priorities. For a brief time, all crocuses are in bloom simultaneously. Talk of assignments and transfers among diocesan priests always blooms with the crocuses, I’ve noticed. I don’t think there is any scientific causality, however.
My dog Lurch loves this time of year. It’s difficult to get him back inside once he’s out in the yard. He prefers to frolic in the greening grass and roll around in the fresh earth. Can’t say that I blame him. I would join him, but such behavior on the part of the pastor, I’m quite sure, would be considered unseemly. The residents of the nursing home next door would see me. What would Father Wallace think? (Yes, dear readers, FXW has returned as a patient to the nursing home next door.)
Then, of course, there is the perennial matter of my income taxes. It’s not that I’m a procrastinator, dear readers. I start thinking of my tax forms soon after I take down the Christmas tree. And, after all, personal finances aren’t all that complicated for a poor country priest. Still, year after year, I end up waiting until the very last minute.
Yes, spring will eventually come and summer will follow — but probably later rather than sooner here on Cape Cod.
Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.