An amazing storm appears on the horizon at Scusset Beach, MA, September 10, 2021.
I’ve been privileged enough to enjoy a week at a writer’s retreat with some friends in Cape Cod, and I head home today.
I wanted to just work my butt off, but I quickly realized that what I needed was just some peace, and some relaxation. I got a few things done—a fraction of what was on my worklist—but if you know me at all, you know that, if I’m going on a retreat, I bring three times as much work as one human can do in that amount of time.
Even my horoscope told me I needed to just relax!
It was a week full of surprises, too! Among them, The Write Start published an interview, Gen-Xed, an anthology which will feature my story “Nothing to See Here,” kicked off its Wayback promotion (more on this in a future post), parABnormal accepted my story “Mating Call” and will publish it in December, and “Dominion” was named one of thirteen winners in the HP Lovecraft Film Festival & Cthuluthon’s Microfiction Contest 2021, which means it will be published in Lovecraftian Microfiction Vol 7. In addition? I received other great news (to be announced). What. A. Week!
What I really learned on this trip is that I have been all work and no play for a very, very long time—and that sometimes play to recharge the batteries is just as critical to well being. The new goal in my world is to achieve better balance.
They say the sea heals the soul—and after this magical week, I believe it! I feel refreshed and recharged. Here’s a recap, and to get you started, here’s some soothing wave action.
TIME FOR A TRIP!
Car is packed and ready to go!
Finally ready to go–about an hour and a half later than I thought. I’m wearing my new “Whiny Witch” shirt I got in Salem.
I spend a lot of time in eastern New England. This sign always represents fun and adventure to me, and that I’m getting close!
The tide was either out or going out, so I was lucky that pieces of my favorite shipwreck graveyard were jutting from the water. This graveyard is in East Providence and is the inspiration for my story “Wrecking Malcolm.” If you look closely to the left of the photo, you can see some timbers.
That famous sign in the rain. I wish I had photos from when I used to come out to Ptown a decade ago.
The exit for the house.
I’m here! I want to say I got here around 4:30 or so.
I normally write on the coffee table in the living room, while I sit on the floor. It’s the hub of house activity, but I like to be near where the action is–my training in noisy newsrooms has taught me how to block things out.
This house has the COOLEST spiral staircase! Not a thing to use when you’re hammered. Just sayin’.
I got assigned the room at the bottom of the stairs. The last two times I stayed here, I was in the room next door. I just like this one because it has two windows; I love the window over the bed.
My friend Trisha Wooldridge (yes, writer who has many books out there!) arrived at 11 pm. We were up until about 4 am, drinking wine and reading cards and eating and talking. It was wonderful, even if I slept way later than I wanted to the next day!
Good news incoming! I was walking on the beach when parABnormal Magazine let me know they wanted to accept “Mating Call”!
Scusset Beach is a protected area, and harbors nesting grounds for shorebirds called piping plovers. The beach is a short walk across the street and over the dunes from the house, and I was there EVERY DAY, except for the day I pulled up stakes to come back.
Trisha and I enjoy a low tide beach walk in the early afternoon on Tuesday, September 14. It was a gorgeous day!
Many people are surprised when they find out that sand dollars are, when alive, brown fuzzy things. They are all over the beaches here.
I have seen and owned many sand dollar “shells”–which are actually the animals’ skeletons. These animals are echinoderms–meaning they’re related to sea stars (most people refer to them as “starfish,” but that’s not technically correct) and urchins.
Most sand dollar skeletons I’ve seen are just plain white. The pattern on this was so interesting–I’m sure other people have, but I’ve never seen anything like it–that this will be the true treasure of my trip. The hole you see in the middle, there? That would be the animal’s “mouth” if it were alive.
This is a dead green crab. Green crabs are invasive species from the UK. They came over in the hulls of ships.
Trisha and I spent a good twenty minutes watching this dead fish loll closer and closer to shore–we were trying to identify it. Once it got out of the murk enough that we could see it, we realized it was a sea bass.
Trisha and I watching the dead sea bass loll ashore.
This really cool washed-up seaweed is probably going to inspire a cosmic horror tale at some point!
The carapace of a lady crab.
I used to be able to identify many crab species on sight, but having not used that info since my aquarium days, I’m rusty. I THINK this is the carapace of a red crab, but I may be mistaken.
What species of jelly this is stumped me for a day or two, but an internet search turned up that thousands of these jellies had been washing up on Cape Cod beaches all week–particularly out at Wellfleet, more toward the Cape’s tip. It turns out that this is a Purple Lion’s Mane jelly. Most Lion’s Manes I’ve seen are reddish-brown or orangish-brown/goldenrod and clear, but that would make sense: Lion’s Manes “bloom” during August (a bloom is when the jelly population explodes because lots of little ones have “grown up” all at once).
This is a sand-lance. Very popular with humpback whale.
This is a moon snail.
This is a mass of red, brown, and green seaweeds. The locals call it “mung.”
Trish and I saw at least two dozen hermit crabs when the tide was out.
I THINK this is some type of washed-up sea anemone (a relative of jellies, with stinging cells on their tentacles). If I’m right or what kind? No clue.
Crab legs–the leftovers of a gull’s dinner, more than likely–litter the beach.
This moon snail is possibly alive, but there’s no way to tell–its operculum (a hard thing that acts as a layer of protection) is sealed shut.
This ctenophor is often referred to as a comb jelly. They don’t sting and are bioluminescent.
This is the underside of a dead male leopard-spotted crab. I know it’s male from the very obvious penis symbol on the underside of the carapace, shown here. If it’s got this type of a symbol, it’s a male. Females just have a circle.
This dead crab is covered in seaweed, but I think it’s the leopard-spotted crab (underside of which in last photo).
I’m a lake girl, and the ocean, although I love being in and around it, is a place in which I’m cautious. Normally I wouldn’t go in above my waist, so this is me “taking a dip.” The nice thing about Scusset Beach is that, when the tide is out, you can go pretty far from the shoreline.
This is a tiny spider crab. He was dead.
I have no idea what kind of crab this is. It could be a young version of a species, or it could be an albino, or it could be an actual white species. I’ve never seen this before, so I don’t know.
This juvenile herring gull befriended us. We didn’t know if it was male or female, but we named him “Freckles” and he was quite comfortable with us — part of the signal to me that this is probably his first year on earth.
I got up at four in the morning to go use the ladies’–and found this on my phone: “Dominion” was named one of 13 winners of the Lovecraftian Microfiction Contest for 2021!
The house has an outdoor shower — full-on, not just a place to hose yourself off after the beach. I love showering outside. It’s a lot like skinny-dipping–it’s very freeing.
I drink coffee in the shower at home, so this was no different!
A shot of the sky from the shower!
YEAH THIS WAS FUN!!! And nice hot water, too!
A shot of one of the two porches.
Heather (I picked her up in RI and brought her here for a quick change of scenery!) and I put out a quick lunch on the roof deck!
The view from the roof deck!
Me and Heather enjoy an afternoon glass of wine.
A day at the beach!
Heather makes dinner.
At writing retreats, communal dinners are common; it’s a chance to take a break from working (or galavanting) all day, regroup, talk about what you’re working on, and prep for the evening’s activities–whether or not it’s working or just hanging out. Heather and I made everyone ravioli.
The gas firepit on the back deck!
Heather joins in the conversation around the fire pit under a gorgeous moon.
Good morning! I’d often take my coffee up to the roof deck to enjoy the view in the morning.
This outdoor living room set up is a great place to read.
My new Bath & Body Works Apple Weather Luminary candle! It was the perfect writing companion this week!
This was one of my usual lunches. The cheese is Allouette Garlic & Herb, but I also found a couple of new flavors–Cucumber & Dill as well as Toasted Everything!
…because no trip to Cape Cod is complete without a $5 gas station bracelet made of cheap plastic and elastic that’s going to break in a week (if it lasts THAT long).
Sarah and Trisha went out to a fresh fish market. Sarah made the scallops (left), and I made the lobster (right).
Our spread for a seafood feast!
Gathering for the seafood meal!
Talk about beach hair….
Beach hair. If you don’t have it on Cape Cod, you did something wrong.
My husband sends me a kiss!
OUT AND ABOUT
My friend Heather was only an hour away in Portsmouth, RI, so I went to join her on Friday night.
We got my favorite–pepperoni and garlic pizza from North End!
We stopped at Clement’s Supermarket in Portsmouth to buy groceries for the beach house (grocs in CT are a RIP–I bought the SAME ITEMS in CT for $80–here, it cost $40!) — and these cute bags were on sale for 75% off! So I bought one for me and a couple for gifts.
Trisha took me to her favorite restaurant — it’s in an old church! This is also in Sandwich, MA.
I LOVED this stained glass window of the sacred heart–always reminds of the three of swords in Tarot.
The Belfry clearly keeps its original interior. It’s gorgeous. A very magical place to eat.
Trish and Michael’s Blood Orange Martinis. I stuck with a nice, dry New Zealand white.
Me, Michael, and Trish at the Belfry.
Trisha and Michael eat OYSTERS! (I’m not really a fan unless they’re oysters Rockefeller).
This was, seriously, the best salmon I’ve ever had — it was called Pepita Seed Crusted Norwegian Salmon.
Me and Angi — on our way to a night walk on the beach! (Where a terrifying experience happened to me and Trisha, but that’s a story for another time).
I MUST get this Stargazer App on my phone. It even plays soothing celestial-inspired music, so it kinda makes the night a little less creepy.
My final sunset, viewed from the roof deck.
I woke up to a massive storm — I thought, “even the sky doesn’t want me to leave.”
A SPECTACULAR STORM