A wild, rank place: one year on Cape Cod by David Gessner

By David Gessner

A tender author confronts lifestyles, loss of life, and literary ancestors amid the stark fantastic thing about Cape Cod.

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Sample text

This book was written and conceived under the difficult circumstances of my father's illness and death. I can't say enough about the strength and support of my entire family, Scott, Jenny, and, in particular, Heidi and my mother, Barbara, who, despite all the evidence to the contrary, has always believed. On Cape Cod I could always rely on my second family, the Schadts. The Cape also brings to mind two close friends. It was with David Rotman that I first spent an off-season on the Cape, and the memories of that strange, difficult, and wonderful year have been with me ever since.

Rather than an erosion-aiding slide down the cliff front, I decide to exit inland, picking my way through the poison ivy and briars of Stone's backyard. Once I've escaped private property, I hike over to Old Town Lane. Recently, a wealthy widow died and her children sold the land along the street as subdivided lots. When I was growing up the road was a tunnel of honey locusts, the most interesting of the Cape's winter trees. They looked like giant mushroom stems, dry and brittle and twisted, woven with greens and blues.

The white chest of a seagull carcass heaving up from the sand, its beak bright red like lipstick. An old lobster trap washed ashore. Climbing up the side of the bluff, I come upon more abandoned homes. I peer into the dirt tunnels built by swallows. The holes are burrowed into rich orange-brown chunks of rock-sand. A thin line runs down the center of one tunnel, as if a miniature boat had dragged its keel into the lair. Considering the bluff's erosion, I should turn around and not add to its decay, but on impulse I climb to the top, up over a small ledge of sand between rash-red poison ivy and thorn bushes.

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