Breakfast Smoothie – Three Seasons on Cape Cod

(If you have never read “Breakfast Smoothies” you might want to read the short introductory page. Explanations about the most blatant lies usually follow the essay.)

There are only three seasons on Cape Cod.

“What brought this on?” Erica looked at Ben.

Ben whispered, “His sister asked him to visit. Don’t say anything. This morning he is serving Cape Cod smoothies, they’re pretty good.”

Winter, tourist, and hurricane. Those are the only three seasons.

“No spring?” Ben said.

It’s a scientifically proven fact that there is no spring on Cape Cod. The same ocean temperatures that have kept the Cape from being brutally cold all winter, take until July to warm up. So the winds that blow all through what would normally be spring are so frigid that there is no actual spring. You can look it up.

“So there are only three seasons on Cape Cod?”

Yes. There’s winter, when everybody from Cape Cod goes to Florida. There is tourist season, when everybody who lives on Cape Cod stays home because they can’t get on the crowded roads or beaches. And there is hurricane season.

“What do the natives do during hurricane season?” Ben asked.

They are confused. They can’t go to Florida. I think they drink a lot.

“You sound so negative. What about all the good things I read about the place. I mean, even Thoreau wrote an entire book glowing about it.”

Marketing. All marketing.

“Henry David Thoreau is a product of marketing?” Ben said. “I can’t believe it.”

Yes. They’ve taken him way out of context. Thoreau actually tried to warn us about the three season of Cape Cod. Nobody listened.

“How do you mean?”

Well, take his most famous pronouncement about Cape Cod.

“A man may stand here and put all America behind him.”

He was actually writing about standing in traffic on a Friday afternoon waiting to get over the Sagamore Bridge.

“You don’t say,” Erica rolled her eyes.

Yes. Listen to what else he has to say about tourists and traffic. These quotes are all from “Cape Cod.” Nobody wants you to know about them.

“We decided to go by way of Cohasset. We found many Irish in the cars.”

“…we were told that the Cape roads were very “heavy…”

“…having two or three thousand busses…”

“You sure he was talking about Cape Cod traffic?” Ben said.

Yes. He knew about the traffic getting to the Cape. Listen to this.

“The places which I have described may seem strange and remote to my townsmen, – indeed, from Boston to Provincetown is twice as far as from England to France; yet step into the cars, and in six hours you may…see the Cape.”

Even back then he knew it took six hours to get by car from Boston to the Cape.

“Amazing,” said Ben.

“Who knew?” Erica asked.

Yes, and listen to what he had to say about the crowded beaches.

“…they spent their summers by the sea, for the sake of the sea-breeze,…”

“We found that nearly all the passengers were bound for the beach…and many other persons were flocking in from the neighboring country. There were several hundreds of them streaming off over Cohasset common…”

“…there was hardly room to turn around…”

“But he still loved the place,” Ben said.

Oh, did he? He thought the Pilgrims got it all wrong when they stopped here.

“I cannot but think that we must make some allowance for the greenness of the Pilgrims in these matters, which caused them to see green. We do not believe that the trees were large or the soil was deep here. Their account may be true particularly, but it is generally false. They saw literally, as well as figuratively, but one side of the Cape. They naturally exaggerated the fairness and attractiveness of the land, for they were glad to get to any land at all after that anxious voyage.”

Thoreau actually tells us what he really thought.

“It is a wild, rank place, and there is no flattery in it. “

“So that’s what he thought about tourist season,” Ben said. “What about the other seasons?”

Well, he wrote extensively about the hurricanes and winter winds.

“A storm in the fall or winter is the time to visit.”

“All the while it was not so calm as the reader may suppose, but it was blow, blow, blow, — roar, roar, roar, — tramp, tramp, tramp, — without interruption.”

“Though we have indulged in some placid reflections of late, the reader must not forget that the dash and roar of the waves were incessant. Indeed, it would be well if he were to read with a large conch-shell at his ear.”

“…where in winter the winds howl and the snow blows right merrily in the face of the traveler.”

“Over this bare Highland the wind has full sweep. Even in July it blows the wings over the heads of the young turkeys, which do not know enough to head against it; and in gales the doors and windows are blown in, and you must hold on to the light-house to prevent being blown into the Atlantic…If you would feel the full force of a tempest, take up your residence on the top of Mount Washington, or at the Highland Light, in Truro.”

See, the thing is, Thoreau actually liked the cold, bitter wind.

“The clear and bracing air, and the storms of autumn and winter even, are necessary in order that we may get the impression which the sea is calculated to make. In October…especially if you have a storm during your stay, that I am convinced is the best time to visit this shore… Beside, an outward cold and dreariness, which make it necessary to seek shelter at night, lend a spirit of adventure to a walk.”

“Mild as it was on shore this morning, the wind was cold and piercing on the water. Though it be the hottest day in July on land … take your thickest clothes with you, for you are about to float over melted icebergs.”

“So, what, did he go there for? The fishing?” Ben said.

I don’t think so. Here is what he had to say about fishing.

“I confess I was surprised to find that so many men spent their whole day, ay, their whole lives almost, a-fishing. It is remarkable what a serious business men make of getting their dinners, and how universally shiftlessness and a grovelling taste take refuge in a merely ant-like industry. Better go without your dinner, I thought, than be thus everlastingly fishing for it like a cormorant.”

“…when I asked what the fishermen did in the winter, answered that they did nothing but go a-visiting, sit about and tell stories…”

“So he went to meet the people, then?”

Well, he might have gone for the lack of people. Here is a clue.

“Until quite recently there was no regular lawyer below Orleans.”

And he warned us about all the retirees living on Cape Cod.

“The old people appeared remarkably well preserved, as if by the saltness of the atmosphere, and after having once mistaken, we could never be certain whether we were talking to a coeval of our grandparents, or to one of our own age. “

“He went for introspection, then?” Erica asked.

Possibly. Here is some introspection for you.

“Creeping along the endless beach amid the sun-squawl and the foam, it occurs to us that we, too, are the product of sea-slime.”

Anyway, I don’t think Thoreau thought that any but the most hardy souls would ever set foot on Cape Cod.

“At present it is wholly unknown to the fashionable world, and probably it will never be agreeable to them. If it is merely a ten-pin alley, or a circular railway, or an ocean of mint-julep, that the visitor is in search of, if he thinks more of the wine than the brine, as I suspect some do at Newport, I trust that for a long time he will be disappointed here.”

The wine versus the brine. I think that says it all.

Finishing his smoothie and putting the glass on the garden table, Ben said, “So when are you going to visit your sister?”

(sigh) Next week, I guess.


Don’t believe all you read on the internet. While all of the above quotes are taken directly from H.D. Thoreau’s “Cape Cod,” (1865), some of them are slightly out of context. And, don’t write in – I know when the Sagamore Bridge was built. And, I know when Thoreau referred to cars he meant railroad cars. So there.

In truth, Thoreau did have some nice things to say about Autumn.

“Notwithstanding the universal barrenness, and the contiguity of the desert, I never saw an autumnal landscape so beautifully painted as this was.”

“Coming from the country as I did, and many autumnal woods as I had seen, this was perhaps the most novel and remarkable sight that I saw on the Cape. Probably the brightness of the tints was enhanced by contrast with the sand which surrounded this track.”

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