National Geographic : 1975 Jul
Cape Cod's Circle of Seasons By TOM MELHAM Photographs by JAMES P. BLAIR BOTH NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSTAFF THE WINDS WERE UP EARLY, tear ing at my too-light windbreaker as I paced Nauset Beach just after dawn on a chill winter day. Seaweed and chunks of salt ice littered the sand where, a few months before, I had squeezed my way through eddies and whorls of summer vaca tionists. Now, except for the gulls chorusing overhead, the beach was deserted. As else where on Cape Cod, shops were shuttered, guesthouses empty. The summer glut of tourists and street vendors, clambakes and beach parties had melted into memory. Heading south, I neared a "ghost town" of weathered wood shacks set like an Andrew Wyeth painting amid low, sculptured dunes fringed with sun-coppered beach grass. The sea, sand, and salt air merged in a haunting panorama of elemental beauty. This, to me, is the real Cape, the off-season Cape stripped of summer varnish. Born of glaciers, shaped at the whim of wind and wave, on the map it seems a thorn in Neptune's side as it juts crookedly into the Atlantic from mainland Massachusetts. Feathered fishermen joust for space atop a cod-shaped weathervane in Chatham. Whirled by wild northeasters in winter, barely nudged by summer's salt-laced breezes, the vane spins out a tapestry of seasons hardly guessed at by vacationing "summer people."