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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Mooney

Notes from a Clamshell Path | No. 30

Welcome to the month where everything has turned pre-brown (that sort of faded olive, purplish haze) -- the month also known as the season of Never Wearing the Right Clothes! I'm currently writing from the other side of a rare coastal storm that refused to leave the Cape, aptly named Melissa. Today, I am wearing shorts while painfully emptying the last of my summer deck flowerpots. (It feels like murder. I hate it.) But I have finally surrendered to the idea that this season requires its own dedicated wardrobe -- light layers and proper waterproofing -- and an accepting attitude. ********** In the last issue, I shared my big announcement that I am launching a bi-weekly newsletter on Tuesday, November 5, one year from the presidential election of 2020. So much gratitude to everyone who signed up early! Your encouragement is nourishing my commitment to this change. If you want to join us cool kids, sign up here! You might be wondering why I'm making the change. Just as I am launching my newsletter, Griefbacon is ending hers. And she wrote something that resonated with me: "it can't be leg day forever." I've been writing different iterations of my blog for almost 10 years and every change has expanded my world (and my skillset.) My purpose in switching to a newsletter format is to be more real in my writing. While my posts to date have been fairly personal, I have edited out some of the good stuff out of fear. My litmus test for whether to share something has been to consider what harms the Mitch McConnells of the world could inflict on me if they had this information -- and whether or not Harvard would sue me.  The newsletter will be a safe place where we can huddle together for a few minutes, catch our breath, and then head out into the world that is running at cheetah speed. There will be new components (like the more personal stuff and detailed stories about what it is like to live at the very edge of America in Provincetown.) Photos of my adorable dog, Stephen, will likely appear. Rest assured, all those recommendations you guys like will still be in every issue. So if this sounds like it's something for you, join us!

You might be wondering what happens to my blog.

Notes from a Clamshell Path will be published once a month through December of this year and then I'll be switching to an adhoc schedule while I shift my attention to the newsletter. You can expect the same format and contents, which will mostly be drawn from the best of the newsletter. **********


  • Reading list. Hollow Kingdom. Such a clever (and hilarious and heart-breaking) story about what happens to the domesticated animals when all the humans succumb to a zombie-ish apocalypse. The narrator is a salty-mouthed domesticated crow and his best friend is a hound dog named Dennis. // Ghost Wall. The first two pages cast an OMINOUS shadow on the rest of the book. I found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop the entire time. It was long-listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction this year. And it's on this great list of short novels you can read in one sitting. // Veronica Roth's short story, Ark. A really engaging tale that imagines the evacuation of Earth before an asteroid hits and the scientific lengths people go to to save 100 species and their biological data. (You know her. She wrote the Divergent series.) National Poetry Foundation's Poem of the Day email. It's a nice break from the diseased world stuff that usually streams through my inbox. This poem, "Flood: Years of Solitude", by Dionisio D. Martinez, especially caught my attention: "To the one who sets a second place at the table anyway ... " //  The Read Caribbean list on Goodreads. On my list of things I'd like to know more about (the List of the Month, see below) is Caribbean history. This resource is quite comprehensive.

  • Viewing list. Watership Down. "My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today." Waaahhhh!!! Also, I've named our yard bunny Hyzenthlay. // The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. I kept reading how amazing this series is -- "there will be nothing better this year!" -- and, despite the severe ICK factor that puppets give me, I got completely caught up in its magical world. Don't worry if you have to rewind a bunch, the story is complex (but rewarding). // Black Spot. I stumbled across this series from Belgium in a category on Netflix called "Slow Burn." It reminds me a lot of Fortitude, which you know I loved (although, still waiting for Season 3 to show up on Amazon Prime!) There are weird, mysterious deaths in the forest, lots of dark, horrifying moments, and the sense of place is really the main character. Blown Away. I spent most of the time worrying they were going to drop something or get burned. Plus, three things: 1) glassblowing is rather physical, 2) gosh, they are talented, and 3) every time they said "glory hole," I giggled. // Birds of North America. "There is something by definition uncool about birding. Which is to say the essence of cool is not really caring. And the fact you would walk about with your binoculars in the middle of the city, that's like telling the world I am passionately concerned about this. I love this thing. And that's not cool."  The series of <10-minute videos is hosted by passionate birder, Jason Ward, who grew up in homeless shelters in the South Bronx. // "How We Make Pencils" by Faber-Castell. A short video that is super mesmerizing! (Also, why aren't these people wearing facemasks to protect their lungs? Hello, OSHA!) American Factory. The Obamas continue to challenge us with this documentary from their production company. A Chinese company re-opens a factory in America and the cultural differences are both predictable and surprising. "While Americans expect eight-hour days with vacations and benefits, Fuyao management is used to Chinese employees who work 12-hour shifts, with one day off a month, often sharing dorm-like apartments. The bosses think Americans lazy for talking on the job. Meanwhile, the Americans grow dispirited by the relentless factory regimen." // Wanda Sykes: Not Normal. The Vicks VapoRub bit had me howling!! //The Bookshop on Amazon Prime. I watched this after a very emotional day, and I needed something to soothe my parasympathetic system. It's a quiet kind of story that you want to go a million different ways than it actually does, but then closes in a very satisfying way.

  • Listening list. The Thing About Pam podcast. Keith Morrison from Dateline narrates this (and, really, why are there other podcast narrators? He should do ALL the podcasts.) Let's just say Pam is something else! // The "Lady Ghislaine" episode of the Broken: Jeffrey Epstein podcast. She is the most perplexing person in this whole horrible story. // The Mary Oliver episode of the Short Cuts podcast. Add this to your counter-programming list of Good Things in the World That Have Nothing to Do with That Man, Mr. Trump. Actually, add all of the Short Cuts episodes! // The Ukraine episode of the Trump, Inc. podcast. If you have been wondering why the Ukraine is such a place of interest for all these corrupt douchebags, this podcast has some stunning answers. // "Diagnosing Trump (with George Conway)" on Stay Tuned with Preet is a fascinating listen. Preet calls George out for getting him fired. Fun to listen to him dance around that one. But in the end, I wanted to clobber George over the head when he went on and on about wishing someone, anyone!, on the Republican side would step up and say Trump is unfit. Hmmm ... who might be able to do that? .... maybe ... THE PERSON WHO LIVES IN YOUR OWN HOUSE!  "The Great Pumpkin Waltz" from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Perfect for grey fall days. // Wednesday morning's Squid Jigger's Blend show on WOMR, our local radio station. You can listen online. You can also watch the wonderful documentary, Outermost Radio, on Vimeo On Demand. // "Fag" by Todrick Hall. My niece and I saw Todrick's fantastic show here in Ptown this summer. // The Chromatics new album, Closer to Grey. So gloomy in the best kind of way and the closest to ASMR that actual music gets. "L to the OG" from Succession. Can we just take a moment to watch "KenWA" sing this one more time? I've been quietly singing "L to the OG, Dude be the OG, A, N he playing" every day since the episode aired. Also, this article ranking the sweaters on the show. And THAT FINALE!! 


  • Eating and drinking list. Frozen garlic and ginger cubes. I bought these at Trader Joe's but I think you can get them anywhere. They both taste super fresh and are really easy to use. // Kamut Khorasan wheat. A nutritional grain from Egypt, kamut requires a great deal of soaking and simmering to soften. I like an al dente approach to my pastas and grains so it's perfect for me. I mix in a scoop of ricotta, a sprinkle of asiago, and some Garlic Gold toasted garlic nuggets for a crunchier version of mac and cheese. // PigOut pigless bacon chips. Friends, you MUST try these "chips" made from MUSHROOMS that taste just like bacon ... bits. (I mean nothing tastes like bacon except bacon.) // Baharat spice. My favorite wings in town are made with a dry rub using Baharat spice -- it has kind of a savory cinnamon-y flavor. We made some at home this week. And by "we," you know who I mean.

  • 52 Hiking Challenge update. My wings have been clipped on this project by the alarming number of EEE cases on the Cape! So we're sticking with coastal and dune hikes until the first frost (also don't stop wearing repellent now! The mosquitoes around in late fall are more likely to be carrying diseases!). My favorite hike so far has been to The Shack on Lighthouse Beach in Chatham.

  • Weighted blanket. Everything you've heard about weighted blankets is true! Add this silk eye mask, which wraps around my head and blocks out light better than the fifty-eleven other versions I've tried. I'm sleeping solidly-ish through the night.

  • Redken dry shampoo paste. Although I LOVE when the humidity leaves the Cape, my hair hates it. This stuff: 1) gives you super volume (don't use too much or you'll end up with a rats nest), 2) avoids TSA liquid restrictions so you can pop it in your carryon when you travel, and 3) it hides the greasies for another day or two.

The Intangible:

  • Release | Receive. I've been participating in this guided journey through fall, and its massive shift in energy, with a small group of people from around the world, Scotland to Montana. Each Monday, we get a very thoughtful email from our leader with the goal of encouraging us to celebrate what we've achieved this year, let go of what we’re ready to leave behind, take actions to live more seasonally, sustainably, and mindfully, and to prepare for the darkest point of the year as we move towards winter.  

  • We now have less than 90 days left in the DECADE! Whoa, right? While it's not an expansive amount of time, it is just the right amount of time to cross off one important thing on your to do list. Mine? I am in the middle of the insane process of changing my name legally (which I never did when we got married 15 years ago. Don't ask.) I am eternally grateful to Hitch Switch, which provided all the pre-populated paperwork, instructions, a roadmap, and customized support for my many questions. What are you going to tackle?

The Practical:

  • One Tab Google Chrome extension. I am one of those people who has a million tabs open all at once. This magical clean-up tool shrinks every open tab into a SINGLE tab. 

  • Cleaning up and/or backing up my digital debris. It feels like we have so little control over our online data and this month I took some steps to get some of it back. I followed "How to Set Your Google Data to Self Auto-Destruct" to configure all my Google stuff -- including all the search data in Google and in Google Maps -- to auto-delete after three months. I also set up TweetDelete to auto delete any tweet older than three months. The first pass eliminated over 3,000 tweets.  I also downloaded my Tumblr data, which was the original home for this blog. It took a couple days to compile, but I am happy that I won't be losing those early years should Tumblr disappear.

  • My Oh-My-God-I'm-Almost-50-List. I realized this summer that there were 20 months left before I turn 50. For years, I've been planning and replanning a big trip to celebrate that milestone, but I realized I wanted to be more purposeful with the last year of my first 50 years on the planet. There is nothing grand or YOLO-y about the list and it mostly includes things I've already been intending to do, ranging from learning to make jam to going to bird nerd camp at Hog Island in Maine. (I'll be writing about my progress in the newsletter.) The yet to be written 50 in My 50's List requires deeper thought and I'm looking forward to thinking about what I'd like to accomplish in the next decade.

Cape Cod:

  • "At the Edge of a Warming World." Even though this will make your heart hurt if you have any love at all for the Cape, you must read/watch/listen to this multi-media report on climate change here at the edge of America. "Be prepared. Cape Cod will never be the same again." "This is not a travelogue of the troubling future, or a preview of dire warnings that somehow go unheeded. It is about what we can already see happening, right now, on America’s playground. It is about what we will lose if we don’t look, harder than ever, at what global inaction will cost." 

  • The Seed Library at the Truro Public Library and the Crop Swap refrigerator at the Provincetown Public Library. There is something so Outer Cape about having places set aside in the public library to exchange seeds for planting or to get free produce that your neighbors have grown and donated. Check them both out if you are local!

  • Jules Besch Stationers. Housed in a former schoolhouse (and still uninsulated), this GEM of a store has more unique cards and paper goods than some of my favorite stores back in Boston. It's off of Rte 6, next to the Whitman Tavern, near Jobi Pottery. They are open weekends for another month or so.

  • Local book reader alert!: I've started donating some of my books at the Free Library at Cold Storage beach in Truro. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll get an advance warning when I drop off a new one.

Across the Bridge/The World:

  • This month's interesting bits from around the country. Seattle. I never heard of Larch Season. Imagine mountainsides covered in bright yellow pine-like trees! Gorgeous. // Eastern Oregon. The mystery of mutilated cows -- someone has been stealing cows and doing weird things to them. For DECADES. Freaky. // Maine. The schools in Presque Isle close down for three weeks so the students can help pick potatoes. // Northern New England. The Great Squirrel Apocalypse of 2018. There was roadkill everywhere apparently. Like THOUSANDS of them. // Alaska. Did you follow along and/or vote during Fat Bear Week? // Washington, DC. I was not surprised to see one of the students that used to work in my first office at Harvard on the list of Most Powerful Women in Washington. Congratulations, Niki!

  • Elizabeth Warren. I've been attending her Night School sessions to learn more about her policies and how to help get the word out. Have you seen her plan for expanding Social Security? She'll increase everyone's payment at least $200 more a month. And she will be giving CREDIT FOR CAREGIVING by valuing all the unpaid/out of the workforce efforts that go into raising children and caring for aging parents. I actually cried when I read this. She sees women like no other candidate has ever before (and I do mean no other candidate.) // "Anatomy of a Warren Rally" episode of The Daily. We've all heard about her epic selfie lines that go on for HOURS and this podcast really captures who is in that line and why. Restorative! // One of her strategists, Camonghe Felix, was nominated for a National Book Award for her poetry collection, Build Yourself a Boat, which starts with a quote from Solange. She attracts the best of us to her! // My thoughts about Wall Street rejecting her and then threatening to back Trump: Sorry, boys, she dumped you FIRST! Same goes for you, Zuckerberg. (Honestly, what is with that guy?)

  • Impeachment. Two things: 1) I am visualizing our world without those monsters in it and am looking forward to the day when they won't be sitting on our collective shoulders (like that girl ghost on Pacey in Shutter -- at 1:18.) Think of all the good we can do without them dominating our thoughts, conversations, airtime, nightmares ... it will be such a relief to surgically cut them out of our lives. 2) I've realized this whole process can be soundtracked using ELO songs, starting with Calling America ("Calling America, can't get a message through...") and ending when he leaves office with All Over the World ("Everybody all around the world, gotta tell you what I just heard, there's gonna be a party all over the world ...")

List of the Month: Curiosity List of T-Shaped Interests I keep a running list of things I'd like to know more about or learn how to do, beyond superficial Googling. This is the current version. (This may be a total nerd thing, but I encourage you to make your own list. You'll be surprised by how many learning opportunities start to show up in your life after you've named your interests.)

  • BirdsYou know this about me.

  • How to tie knots. It's an interest I've developed living near boats. 

  • Caribbean history. Beyond those gleaming resort gates is a totally different world with complex histories and influences. I know so little about it and feel compelled to learn more.  

  • How to knit. I love the idea of making my own sweater (and a matching one for Stephen.)

  • Mushrooms. I don't like to eat mushrooms, but I find them fascinating. They grow all over the woods and dunes out here and I want to learn how to identify them. Check this out: Fantastic Fungi

  • How to preserve foods/make jam. I feel like this is a skill that I should have.

  • Color theory. I've always been drawn to bright colors and there is a whole field of study out there about the science and art of color.

  • History and culture of indigenous people on Cape Cod. We live on Wampanoag, Nauset, and Massachusetts land. Curious about whose land you are living on? Check out this map.

  • Container gardening. I've grown peppers in containers and am looking to expand my range.

  • Coastal ecology. I'm mostly interested in the sensitive and disappearing salt marshes here on the Cape. 

  • Native plants vs. permaculture. I have been choosing native plants to support our local wildlife. Permaculture, which is essentially growing your own food, flies somewhat in the face of that. Marrying the two concepts is something I'm trying to learn more about.

  • How to track animals. Or really how to know if a wild animal that can hurt you is nearby. Seems helpful.

(When I finished writing this list, a new book on color theory popped up in my IG feed and a notice of an animal tracking class was in my email. Write your list, it has power!) Extra Credit:

  • "A Second Chance." I read every single profile of all 47 of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick's fighting ring. If you are a dog person, grab a box of tissues!

  • "Does Jamaica Still Rate Sean Paul?" "The universe is held together by gravity, electromagnetism, and a worldwide adoration for the music of Sean Paul ... His story gives insight into what exactly defines dancehall and shows the cracks in Jamaica’s class divide and social inequality." 

  • "An Open Letter to the Female Hat-Wearing Dog from 'Go Dog, Go.'" “I am a moderately well-drawn ketchup-colored poodle and my storyline is the closest thing this book has to a plot. I am the only thing pulling the narrative along. I’m well-groomed, enjoy skiing, and have enough disposable income to amass a comfortable hat wardrobe.”

  • "The Unsolved Case of the Most Mysterious Song on the Internet." I CANNOT STOP PLAYING THIS SONG! So the story is that it was recorded off the radio in the eary 80s in Germany. No one knows who sang it and the whole internet is on the case! It is exactly the kind of song I loved when I was listening to Millersville University's college radio station, WIXQ, waiting to press record. Studio 360 also did a segment on it -- start listening at 40:35ish.

  • "McDreamy, McSteamy, and McConnell." Congressional. Fan. Fiction. WARNING: You cannot UN-KNOW this after you read it!: "Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are nestled in one another’s arms, sweat glistening on their muscled chests. They kiss softly and tenderly. It’s the middle of the night in a hotel somewhere on the campaign trail, and they are in love. "So, if you were an animal, which would you be?” asks Ted. “Let me think,” says Marco. “A manatee."I AM SCREAMING!

Action Plan for the Month Ahead:

Alright folks, there are only TWO more monthly Notes from a Clamshell Path after this! I hope I'll see you all on November 5 for my newsletter launch!

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