The Outermost House: Cape Cod

Our recent trip to Cape Cod made me interested in the area from a naturalists point of view.  An easy follow up because people have been writing about the environment of that small crook of land for decades.  Henry David Thoreau may be one of the most famous naturalists to record the land but he is only one of many writers to explore the relationship between land, sun, and sea on that narrow strip.

Recently I picked up Henry Beston’s book, The Outermost House:  A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod.  Beston published this little tale in 1928.  Beston was enamoured with the beach and spent 365 days getting to know it like the back of his hand.

Take for example Beston’s sense of the smell at the beach:

“One reason for my love of this great beach is that, living here, I dwell in a world that has a good natural smell, that is full of keen, vivid and interesting savours and fragrances.  I have them at their best, perhaps, when hot days are dulled with a warm rain.  So well do I know them, indeed, that were I blindfolded and led about the summer beach, I think I could tell on what part of it I was at any moment standing.”

I haven’t lived closely enough to nature in one place since I was a kid so I have no real sense of the smell of a place.  Where I live now, it’s a matter of smelling different kinds of pollution:  cars, industry, oil, natural gas.  Are these the smell of a place today or just the smell of human intervention on a landscape?

Can you still say this about the smell of the cape?  I didn’t notice anything special about the smells–one place to another.  Perhaps we humans have intervened in our atmosphere to such a great degree that these subtle differences in smell don’t exist anymore.

What do you think?

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