Cover image for The Outer Beach : a thousand-mile walk on Cape Cod's Atlantic shore
Title:
The Outer Beach : a thousand-mile walk on Cape Cod's Atlantic shore
Uniform Title:
Essays. Selections
ISBN:
9780393081305
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
xvi, 327 pages : map ; 25 cm
Contents:
Introduction: A view from the beach -- Beginnings -- Monomoy -- North Beach/Pleasant Bay/Pochet -- Nauset Beach -- Nauset Marsh -- Coast Guard Beach -- Nauset Light Beach -- Marconi Beach -- LeCount Hollow to Cahoon Hollow -- Newcomb Hollow -- Ballston Beach to Higgins Hollow -- Long Nook to Head of the Meadow -- The Provincelands -- Long Point -- L'envoi: The rain of time.
Geographic Term:
Summary:
Those who have encountered Cape Cod-- or merely dipped into an account of its rich history-- know that it is a singular place. Robert Finch writes of its beaches: "No other place I know sears the heart with such a constant juxtaposition of pleasure and pain, of beauty being born and destroyed in the same moment." And nowhere within its borders is this truth more vivid and dramatic than along the forty miles of Atlantic coast-- what Finch has always known as the Outer Beach. The essays here represent nearly fifty years and a cumulative thousand miles of walking along the storied edge of the Cape's legendary arm. Finch considers evidence of nature's fury: shipwrecks, beached whales, towering natural edifices, ferocious seaside blizzards. And he ponders everyday human interactions conducted in its environment with equal curiosity, wit, and insight: taking a weeks-old puppy for his first beach walk; engaging in a nocturnal dance with one of the Cape's fabled lighthouses; stumbling, unexpectedly, upon nude sunbathers; or even encountering out-of-towners hoping an Uber will fetch them from the other side of a remote dune field. Throughout these essays, Finch pays tribute to the Outer Beach's impressive literary legacy, meditates on its often-tragic history, and explores the strange, mutable nature of time near the ocean. But lurking behind every experience and observation-- both pivotal and quotidian-- is the essential question that the beach beckons every one of its pilgrims to confront: How do we accept our brief existence here, caught between overwhelming beauty and merciless indifference? Finch's affable voice, attentive eye, and stirring prose will be cherished by the Cape's staunch lifers and erstwhile visitors alike, and strike a resounding chord with anyone who has been left breathless by the majestic, unrelenting beauty of the shore.

Finch prevents a collection of essays that represent nearly fifty years and a cumulative thousand miles of walking along the storied edge of the Cape's legendary arm, the Outer Beach. He considers evidence of nature's fury: shipwrecks, beached whales, towering natural edifices, ferocious seaside blizzards. And he ponders everyday human interactions conducted in its environment with equal curiosity, wit, and insight. Finch pays tribute to the Outer Beach's impressive literary legacy, meditates on its often-tragic history, and explores the strange, mutable nature of time near the ocean.
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Summary

Summary

Those who have encountered Cape Cod--or merely dipped into an account of its rich history--know that it is a singular place. Robert Finch writes of its beaches: "No other place I know sears the heart with such a constant juxtaposition of pleasure and pain, of beauty being born and destroyed in the same moment." And nowhere within its borders is this truth more vivid and dramatic than along the forty miles of Atlantic coast--what Finch has always known as the Outer Beach. The essays here represent nearly fifty years and a cumulative thousand miles of walking along the storied edge of the Cape's legendary arm.Finch considers evidence of nature's fury: shipwrecks, beached whales, towering natural edifices, ferocious seaside blizzards. And he ponders everyday human interactions conducted in its environment with equal curiosity, wit, and insight: taking a weeks-old puppy for his first beach walk; engaging in a nocturnal dance with one of the Cape's fabled lighthouses; stumbling, unexpectedly, upon nude sunbathers; or even encountering out-of-towners hoping an Uber will fetch them from the other side of a remote dune field.Throughout these essays, Finch pays tribute to the Outer Beach's impressive literary legacy, meditates on its often-tragic history, and explores the strange, mutable nature of time near the ocean. But lurking behind every experience and observation--both pivotal and quotidian--is the essential question that the beach beckons every one of its pilgrims to confront: How do we accept our brief existence here, caught between overwhelming beauty and merciless indifference?Finch's affable voice, attentive eye, and stirring prose will be cherished by the Cape's staunch lifers and erstwhile visitors alike, and strike a resounding chord with anyone who has been left breathless by the majestic, unrelenting beauty of the shore.


Author Notes

Robert Finch has lived on Cape Cod for forty years, currently in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. He is the author of seven collections of essays, most recently of his radio scripts for his weekly commentary, "A Cape Cod Notebook," on the Cape and Islands NPR Station, WCAI.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

One of the world's most fragile and evanescent landscapes furnishes enduring life lessons in this collection of atmospheric ecological meditations. Naturalist Finch (The Iambics of Newfoundland: Notes from an Unknown Shore) reckons that during his 40-odd years living on Cape Cod he took some 1,000 miles worth of strolls up and down its sweep of ocean-facing beach, and recounts many of those strolls in these essays. In rich and subtle detail, his portraits of the beach capture its ever-shifting elements: the myriad tempos of wind and surf, sudden incursions of fog, intricate tidal currents, swarms of shore birds, detritus thrown up briefly and then swallowed up again by the waves, even the tiny flows of sand trickling down the seaside bluffs. It must be said that after very many such sketches of surf, fog, birds, flotsam, and sand, this palette of effects starts to exhaust its expressive potential, and the reader is relieved by the appearance of more dramatic and singular figures and events, including shipwrecks, beached whales, the destruction of cottages and other buildings by storm-tossed seas. As the ocean ceaselessy gnaws away the Outer Beach, Finch draws lessons on the impermanence of life from this settlement built on sand, lessons that resonate with his evocative panorama of restive natural forces in an iconic setting. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

Lyrical reflections, natural history, and nuggets of wisdom inspired by walks at the shore.In 40 years of walking along Cape Cod's Outer Beach, Finch (Cape Cod Notebook 2, 2016, etc.) estimates that he has covered 1,000 miles, rambles that have informed nine previous books. In his latest collection, he chronicles his beach walking from south to north along the Cape's 40-mile stretch of glacial bluffs, barrier beach, and islands. The author chose John Keats' remark, "Description is always bad," as an epigraph for the book, but that comment surely does not apply to the precision and sheer loveliness of Finch's prose. One night, walking through fog, he could barely see the surf but suddenly smelled the ocean, "rich, salt spiced, redolent of fecundity and decay." Under moonlight, the waves "came in silhouette, low black forms, like great fish swirling in on the moon-crusted surface of the sea." Like the surfers he enjoys watching, Finch has learned to read waves, "each with its own distinct shape, height, alignment, speed, curl." Each wave "speaks its own watery sentence, which the surfer has to parse." The author reflects often on change and time. "The more mobile we become," he suggests, "the more immobile we demand nature to be." But the shore is in constant, repetitive flux: "The Cape's outer shores are a solid metaphor for the river of time, into which we can step only once." Finch once brought a distraught friend to the shore, hoping to help him discover "the need to adapt continually to change, always to be watching for undertows and rogue waves, to dance nimbly along its edges." His friend returned to the solidity of hills; Finch found "solace and reassurance from the beach." Even without the possible rise in sea level because of climate change, scientists estimate that the Cape will be eroded in 6,000 years. Nature, Finch knows, is more powerful than human intervention, and it is this power than enthralls him. Vivid and graceful reflections on water and wind, shifting sands, and the inevitability of change. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Preeminent nature writer Finch has lived on fabled Cape Cod for more than four decades and walked the thousand miles of this essay collection's subtitle in countless hikes, paying close and curious attention to beach, sea, and sky. Many of these reports on outings both brief and extended address an underlying and evocative theme, the concept of impermanence. Winds, tides, and, especially, storms constantly reshape Cape Cod. And all manner of things--shipwrecks, the foundations of houses, peat bogs become entombed in sand, then reappear years later, only to be hidden once again. No need to lament a favorite sand dune sculpted away by the wind, for it has reincarnated in another form elsewhere. Finch, a recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for his radio commentaries, is a warm, perceptive companion as he knowledgably describes waves, plants, birds, and the entire ecosystem and atmosphere of this history-soaked peninsula, the subject of classic works by Henry David Thoreau and Henry Beston.--Carr, Dane Copyright 2017 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE, by Gail Honeyman. (Penguin, $16.) Eleanor, the socially awkward, terrifically blunt heroine of this quirky novel, is a loner, spending her weekends alone with vodka and frozen pizzas. But a blossoming romance with her office's I.T. specialist, Raymond, and their friendship with an elderly man help stave off isolation, opening them all up to the redemptive power of love. THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. (Flatiron, $17.99.) The author's work as an intern at the firm that defended an accused murderer and pedophile compels her to re-examine her own past abuse. She devotes herself to finding parallels between her molestation by her grandfather and the firm's client, and indicts what she sees as society's refusal to acknowledge wicked acts. MADE FOR LOVE, by Alissa Nutting. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $15.99.) After Hazel's husband - a wealthy, manipulative tech visionary - implants a chip into her brain, she leaves him, showing up at her father's senior living community to stay with him and his sex doll. As our reviewer, Merritt Tierce, put it, the novel "crackles and satisfies by all its own weird rules, subversively inventing delight where none should exist." THE OUTER BEACH: A Thousand-Mile Walk on Cape Cod's Atlantic Shore, by Robert Finch. (Norton, $16.95.) Finch, a nature writer, shares 50 years of observations from a stretch of shoreline. The book, arranged chronologically from 1962 to 2016, devotes a chapter to each place up the shore; our reviewer, Fen Montaigne, wrote that "Finch artfully conveys what is, at heart, so stirring about the beach: how its beauty and magisterial power cause us to ponder the larger things in life and drive home our place in the universe." OUT IN THE OPEN, by Jesús Carrasco. Translated by Margaret Juli Costa. (Riverhead, $16.) In this bleak, dystopic debut novel, a young boy flees his tormentors and family's betrayal into a parched, unnamed land. When he is joined by an old goatherd, the pair recalls Don Quixote as they make their way through a merciless world, trying to evade cruelty. Faced with suffering, the novel asks, will we respond with grace? I WAS TOLD TO COME ALONE: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad, by Souad Mekhennet. (St. Martin's Griffin/Henry Holt, $17.99.) As a Muslim of Moroccan descent raised in Germany, Mekhennet, a Washington Post reporter, has been able to access inner circles of Islamic militants. Her book takes readers into the world of jihadi recruiters and their targets, and assesses the risk the West faces.


Library Journal Review

Nature writer and NPR correspondent Finch is quick to deny the validity of his book's subtitle; readers will note, too, that this isn't a guide for Cape Cod walkers. Instead, it's a love letter to life on the Cape spanning his 40 years walking "the back side of Cape Cod" via a series of episodes-some only a long paragraph, others filling pages. Finch arranges his time on the Cape by location, beginning in the South of the Outer Beaches, and, following in chronological order, from the early 1960s to the present. The lack of illustrations or photographs may disappoint readers unfamiliar with the area, while a map at the beginning means a fair amount of page flipping. A master stylist, Finch is both a naturalist and philosopher. A 1977 essay titled "The Cape as a River of Time" illustrates the charm of his prose: "Thoreau's beach-or most of it, or the site where it was-is more than a hundred yards out to sea. The Cape's outer shores are a solid metaphor for the river of time, into which we can step only once." VERDICT This beautiful book is to be savored in small bites by anyone yet to visit the Cape, and swallowed whole by those who love it as much as Finch does.-Janet N. Ross, formerly with Washoe Cty. Lib. Sys., Sparks, NV © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Introduction: A View from the Beachp. xv
1 Beginningsp. 1
2 Monomoyp. 13
3 North Beach / Pleasant Bay / Pochetp. 41
4 Nauset Beachp. 97
5 Nauset Marshp. 107
6 Coast Guard Beachp. 125
7 Nauset Light Beachp. 145
8 Marconi Beachp. 163
9 LeCount Hollow to Cahoon Hollowp. 171
10 Newcomb Hollowp. 197
11 Ballston Beach to Higgins Hollowp. 243
12 Long Nook to Head of the Meadowp. 259
13 The Provincelandsp. 273
14 Long Pointp. 309
L'Envoi: The Rain of Timep. 325
Acknowledgmentsp. 329