Wish you were here

Sunday 23 July 2017 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — “Hot enough for ya?” Day 

On this day we are officially allowed to utter those words that must suffice when nothing intelligent comes to mind: “Hot enough for ya?”

These are the hottest weeks of the year in New England. We call it “beach weather.” Think of the three “Hs” — hazy, hot, and humid. I last went to the beach as recently as 1983. I wouldn’t want to overdo it. Nevertheless, everyone else is out and about. 

It’s high summer. New England weather can, at least in July and August, be described as “tropical.” The humidity index can surpass 90 percent. Fog hangs low over the land in the early morning and sometimes also in the evening.

Summer is my least favorite season. The very thought of perpetual summer sends shivers down my spine. The only reason I would ever go to a place like Florida is to visit Disney World — and even then I would require several gallons of sunscreen. 

From the rectory, I can hear the old Nobsque (now spelt Nobska) foghorn. It’s just down the shore road in Woods Hole. The foghorn used to be located close to the road but this proved problematic. 

When activated, the foghorn blasts twice every 30 seconds. Unfortunately, people driving past when the foghorn went off would be so startled that there was a danger of them losing control and driving off into a sand dune. The foghorn was consequently moved away from the road and closer to the water. Untold car crashes were thereby averted. I am not making this up.

The lighthouse beacon blinks every six seconds, year round. It emits 28,000 candlepower of light that reaches out 12 nautical miles. This also caused problems.

Neighbors complained that the light was shining in their bedroom windows and keeping them awake at night. So, during the summer, the backside of the light is blacked out with panels. This effectively prevents widespread insomnia in Woods Hole (at least during the summer). 

With its blasting foghorn and blazing beacon, Nobska light is an icon of Cape Cod. Men who wish to wear “Cape Cod casual” can purchase at the local haberdashery slacks embroidered with tiny lighthouses. Add boat shoes (no socks) and a pastel golf shirt (collar upturned) to complete the look. Salmon-pink is always appropriate. Be sure never to wear an “I’ve been to Cape Cod” sweatshirt. You’ll stick out as a visitor.

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Summer brings the possibility of downpours. We sometimes get two inches of rain an hour. With the first sprinkle, the streets flood — with cars. Everyone flees the beaches at the same time, gridlocking Main Street.

Why are beaches so quickly abandoned when there’s nothing but some passing drizzle? Once they dive in the ocean, beach-goers are already soaking wet. How is the water falling from the sky different from the water lapping on the shore? I guess I’ll never be a beach person. 

In a summer storm, the streets also flood with rainwater. Recently, a sudden downpour brought the water level up to the doors of passing cars. Tow trucks were busy all afternoon carting off disabled vehicles. With the sandy soil, the water soon dissipates but for days afterward you will notice lost hubcaps by the side of the road.

Summer on Cape Cod would not be summer without the flowers. The iconic shrub is the blue hydrangea. We even have a Cape Cod Hydrangea Society. A couple of years ago, we planted 28 hydrangeas on the front lawn of the church in a kind of horseshoe-shaped hedge reaching out towards Main Street. As the shrubs mature, passers-by are beginning to notice. I’ve seen summer guests stop to snap pictures.

There’s a young man in the parish who, as an Eagle Scout project, has offered to install a rose garden dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Edward Geishecker plans to have the project completed well before October, the month dedicated to the Rosary. I’m sure the rose garden will be lovely next summer. Hopefully someone will volunteer to help Karen Heard with all that weeding. 

In the St. Joseph wildflower garden, the coreopsis is flourishing. From what I have observed, coreopsis attracts goldfinches. The lemon-colored birds dart about as people enter the church. A parishioner, in memory of the two boys killed last winter in that tragic auto accident, donated benches for those who might wish to spend a few prayerful moments in the wildflower garden. 

Speaking of birds, we are in the second generation of wild turkeys. One of the hens hatched last year is now a mother. She hovers (like a mother hen?) around the church property, protecting her brood of three chicks.

Then there’s the neighborhood osprey. A nesting platform was built years ago just down the street, but the osprey seems to prefer the view from the gilded Celtic cross atop our steeple. I watch at dusk from my second-floor window. 

And so goes another summer on the Cape. Wish you were here. Oh, look. Here comes the sun. Beach day everyone! 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.


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