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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Mooney

Notes from a Clamshell Path | No. 31

Welcome to the month where all the color has drained out of the world. The month completely devoid of afternoons and the sun is so weary it can barely rise above the tree line before collapsing suddenly for another snooze. The month when sleep — deep, glorious, continuous sleep — finally blesses us with its presence.  It's also the month when the planners of this world (ME!) start thinking about the holidays and gift giving. Below are two lists: 1) a general gift-giving list of things I've squirrelled away on my secret Gifting Pinterest board and 2) gifts you can buy from local Cape Cod makers and sellers (online and in person!). And if you are looking for an alternative to Amazon, here's a list of ethical online shops.

Gifting (List of the Month):

Local Gifting:


  • Reading list. American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin. These poems were written during the first 200 days of the Trump presidency when things were so raw and the worst to come wasn't even imaginable. Terrance Hayes' word magic captures it all. // Spencer Tweedy's chapbook, Observations: Year One. Culled from his blog where he lists things he notices every day, it illuminates the extraordinary in our tiny experiences. // The Nan Shepherd Prize 2019 short list. A new literary prize for underrepresented voices in nature writing. // The Guardian's list of "100 Best Books of the 21st Century." I've only read 10 of these. 

  • Viewing list. Watchmen. This is definitely one of those shows where I am here for the ride. Like Game of Thrones, I'm not going deep on the fan research. I will barely know what is going on, but I will love many things, like: Damon Lindelof (I liked the ending of Lost, so there!), those pod ships, Don Johnson!, the female badass "hero." // The Politician. Ever since she wore that ill-fitting pink dress and said "An-TON-y," I have been rooting loudly against Gwyneth Paltrow. Her performance in this changes it all. Also, its deliciously dishy and bitchy like all Ryan Murphy shows. // Criminal UK. The entire three-part series takes place in the police examination room. I love the psychological tension and the GOTCHA! moments. Also, the first episode features David Tennant, who is always so darn good! (I've yet to watch the other Criminal anthologies set in France, Spain, and Germany.) American Son. Painful examination of what it's like to be a parent of a young mixed-race man. Based on the Broadway play, it is so riveting, you won't even notice they never leave the one room. // Late Night. Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson should just do all the movies together. We don't really need anyone else. // Tell Me Who I AmIf you lost your memory, would you want to know about the worst thing that ever happened to you? // Evelyn.  A family goes on a hike across the UK to remember the son/brother they lost to suicide. Clearly, I am on a depressing movie kick. #specialneedsdog on Instagram. I warn you, you will lose HOURS following these incredible dogs. // So many exceptional opening credits lately, like mini films in and of themselves. Wu Tang: An American Saga, The Politician, and His Dark Materials have the best ones!

  • Listening list. "Tips for Shucking Oysters from a Wellfleet Shucking Champion" episode of WCAI's The Local Food Report. While I've eaten my fair share of oysters, I've never actually shucked my own. Some good tips. // The Chanel Miller episode of Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations podcast. I hung on every one of her words. Such a gift for language and storytelling. // Preet Bahara's interview with Errol Morris. While I'm a little resentful of his bro-y no-YOU-are-a-genius method of interviewing, Preet seems to be able to get people to talk. Errol Morris' documentaries have always captured me and it was interesting to hear what he had to say about Steven Bannon, the subject of his latest film. Soltstis' As the Sun Hits (Vol. 1). Downtempo tunes for these sleepy November days. // Jacques Green. More sad-fun music for the dark afternoons. // Black Mountain MMV playlist. A surprising mix of chillout songs from Ray Charles to Cashmere Cat to Frank Ocean.


  • Eating and drinking list. Cape Cod Beer's Shucker's Reward Oyster Stout. Such a tasty chocolate-y stout! Its not oyster-y at all — they add WHOLE Cape oysters during the boiling process, which add minerals from the shells. // Tropical Salsa Kettle chips. Made in avocado oil with mango salsa. // Trader Joe's baked blood orange chocolate chip ricotta cheese. Like a dessert -- similar to cheesecake, but without the sugar.

  • Maybe don't get those steroid injections? I have had two in my spine after a misdiagnosis led to massive inflammation around a herniated disc and unrelenting pain that kept me from doing much of anything. It was the only thing I tried that enabled me to do the core strengthening exercises that were integral to getting my life back. Turns out those injections can cause rapid deterioration in joints. 

  • Wind therapy for stress. "In the Netherlands, people have been seeking out windy exercise for more than a hundred years. Today, the practice is so common that it’s known as 'uitwaaien.'" Wind is something we have full stocks of out here, should be easy to test.

The Intangible:

  • Moon Lists. I haven't started this "tool for noticing the mosaic of objects, thoughts, and feelings that make up everyday existence." I'm thinking about waiting until January, but I thought I'd share in case you want to get yourself a copy. Each week, you answer a set of questions, note things that you saw that week, or preserve scraps that came into your life that week. I've paged through and found the prompts to be so unusual — quite different from your usual self-reflection tool.

  • We're returning to magical Mexico!! I just booked our winter trip back to a resort that I love so much. It's an eco-resort in the jungle. There are monkeys at the pool, baby coatis running down the paths, brilliantly colored birds flying about the bird sanctuary, several crisp blue freshwater cenotes to swim in, actual Mayan ruins on the grounds, a Temazcal steam hut, and a divine hydrotherapy spa circuit that I plan to indulge in every single day. I eat salsa for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and sip guava daiquiris all day. There's a fire show in the jungle with fantastic Mayan costumes and you can snorkel in the Jade River with turtles. You can plant a tree and eat food that was cooked underground, the traditional Mayan way. AND! there is a dancing Darth Vader show. It's HEAVEN.

The Practical:

  • If you live in Massachusetts, you have until October 1, 2020 to get your REAL ID. I'm headed to the RMV to get mine next week.

  • Zero waste dishwashing bar soap. Part of our ongoing efforts to reduce our consumption impact on our fragile Mother, I'm trying out some zero waste items. So far, the rosemary mint solid dish soap from Coghlan Cottage Farm in Canada is my favorite. They also sent me a sample of their bar conditioner, which I'll be switching to as soon as I use up all the conditioner in the house. I'm also trying out the facial bar soap.

  • Have you seen any of these nature signs that predict a harsh winterFarmer's Almanac claims that if you notice these weird things (I haven't — except the fog in August) we'll have a horrible winter. 

Cape Cod:

  • The 200ish page shark study was released. "Only four of the alternatives attained the top ranking in terms of their effectiveness: rigid and flexible netting, a simulated kelp forest and a strategy of modifying human behavior through education. But the netting options and the kelp forest were not deemed plausible because of permits required, costs and potential environmental impacts."

  • 52 Week Challenge update. I should be at hike #11 this week. I'm behind! My favorite hike so far has been our trek out into the dunes to look for cranberries. We were a bit late in the season so our yield was low, but we got our lungs pumping and enjoyed the walk so it didn't matter much.

  • It's shell fishing season. I love that my neighbors showed up in drag on opening day!

  • It's also hunting season. Wear your orange and make sure your pets do, too! Here's the calendar (the Cape is in Zone 12.)

  • We also have several off-season film series in town, all on Wednesdays: the PAAM Film Art Series at Waters Edge and the One Man's Trash series and Another Man's Treasure series alternating at the Provincetown Brewing Company.

Across the Bridge/The World:

  • This month's interesting bits from around the continent. Alaska. The annual bowhead whale hunt has resulted in zero whales so far (20 last year). // Washington, DC. I used to live in McLean, VA and drove past the entrance to the CIA every day (holding my breath when we had to stop at the light.) Here's what they are doing back there. // Minnesota. Interesting look at four different cultures — Ojibwe, Somalian, Guatemalan, and Scandinavian Lutheran — in that state by discovering their funeral foods. // Chicago. A wonderful story about a woman whose grandmother started the Afrobirding group in South Side parks, bridging "the historical gap between communities that don't see themselves reflected in these outdoor spaces." // San Diego. While I was initially intrigued to find out more about the $44 grilled cheese in one of the city's restaurants, I ended up LOVING the writing: "I heard a small scream from the vicinity of my wallet" and "there were house-baked jalapeño muffins (still served to start every meal ... their shy spice level set somewhere between Anglo and Saxon)" and "it is the quietest restaurant in the world. Hard as we try, we can barely make out what the couple immediately next to us is talking about."

  • Elizabeth Warren. This poem by Langston Hughes feels like what is at the CORE of our divide right now. "I live here, too. I want my freedom. Just as you." // I was RAGE-Y listening to The Daily episode, "Who's Actually Electable in 2020?," where they discuss the polling that revealed a lot of Red State women don't think ANY woman should be president. // You know who else is on my list? Bill Gates. The Trump years are certainly getting rich white men to show their true colors.  

Extra Credit:

  • "Justice is Served: A Conversation Between RuPaul and Judge Judy." "RUPAUL: Am I saying it right? Geshikhte? I have an app that gives me a Yiddish word of the day. JUDGE JUDY: Incorporating Judaism into your personality is maybe something you don’t need.

  • "Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink." I felt rather nauseous after plugging in my zip code and seeing how many of my favorite feathered friends could be severely impacted — meaning entire habitats wiped out — by climate change out here. Take a look at your own area.

  • "The Education of Natalie Jean." I remember when I first learned of Natalie. Everyone was raving about her outfit at Alt Summit (the mecca of blogger conferences.) Just Google "alt summit Natalie" and it's the first image to pop up. (Or just click here.) I've followed her through the whole dramatic journey detailed in this article (even the chicken years.) Glad to hear the drama is settling down a bit.

  • "The Weird Magic of Eiderdown." For centuries, eider ducks have been nesting near humans who, in turn for their valuable eider down, keep them safe from predators until they leave their nests. And then they collect the expensive fluff from their empty nests. Amazing! (We have eider ducks here in the winter. I'll have to pay closer attention to them this year!)

  • "Life in Alaska During the Round-the-clock Darkness of Polar Night." Unforgettable images from a town that experiences 60 days of DARKNESS! My house would be filled with sunlamps.

Action Plan for the Month Ahead:

A REMINDER: I launched my newsletter last week. If you missed it, you can read it here. And then come join us by signing up! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone! I'll see you back here in a month for the LAST monthly Notes from a Clamshell Path

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