An Opportunity For Reflection
My name is Jim Nelson and I have spent some time researching my ancestry. Fortunately, it appears than I have less genealogical connection to the now infamous Beverly Nelson than the infamous Elizabeth has to the Cherokee Nation. One thing I do have in common with Beverly is that my family and I have the privilege of owning a home in Chatham.
Our decision to move to Chatham was anchored in the wonderful memories of this town that I have from my childhood. My mother and father did not have the means to own a second home but like many others, we made the annual pilgrimage to Chatham for two weeks in the summer. The carefree days at the beach, fishing, crabbing, body surfing and a visit to the ice cream shop after dinner became the things we looked forward to all year. When I was fortunate enough to buy a second home, we immediately turned to the Cape and Chatham. After 15-plus years, my entire family now considers Chatham our “home,” our sanctuary. We make the three-hour drive to Chatham almost every weekend, year-round. While the length of our “weekends” vary based on the time of year, we are here.
One of the reasons we come is our daughter, who after graduating from college found herself falling in love and marrying a local, whose Cape roots are measured in generations not simply years. We now have two beautiful grandchildren who will be raised on the Cape. Like many of the families referred to in recent articles, their life is not simple and not always carefree, but it is their home and they love it. I’m fortunate to have the benefit of perspective as my “lens” on Chatham which allows me to see things from the view of a second home owner as well as someone who takes great pride in the land as the home of my grandchildren.
The point of this letter is not to “drool” all over Chatham but to thank Beverly for highlighting the divide that exists. There has always been an us vs. them, locals vs. everyone else that has bubbled beneath the surface. Beverly's letter opened up a fissure and caused an eruption. If this outpouring of emotion can serve as a way to bring the community together and help to address some of the things that have always been polarizing, that would be wonderful. If we chase Beverly off and erase her memory then we have missed an opportunity.
I hope that Beverly has the gift of self-reflection and finds a way to soften her stance, to work with this community and all who call it home. We are all invested in the success of this town and we all have a responsibility to help make Chatham a place in which people want to live and can live.
If my grandchildren grow up resenting second home owners, vacationers, and judging people based on the license plates on their cars (I still apologize for my blue license plate and 860 cell number) then I will, sadly, know that we did not take take advantage of this situation to find solutions for issues that have existed for years.
Beverley, I’m probably in the minority but thank you for bringing this to the surface. I hope that both you and Chatham use this opportunity for self reflection and healing.
Impressed By Firefighters Dog Skills
On Jan. 16 I had occasion to call the Chatham Fire Department. I explained to the dispatcher that I had a large dog who had climbed my friend's steep stairs and would not come down (he has always been fearful of stairs and this was an older home with very narrow stairs.)
Two very professional men showed up, and after being assured the dog was not aggressive, one went up the stairs to befriend Sammy. He got right down on the floor with Sammy, endearing himself to both Sammy and me, his person. In the blink of an eye, I saw this man headed down the stairs with four paws in the air as he carried 85-pound Sammy down those steep stairs! Almost more impressive than this firefighters' dog skills was the respectful, professional manner that he and his partner spoke to me both on the phone and in person. (I had expected to be viewed and treated as a crank who was wasting their time.) It was so refreshing and reassuring to have these men come to our rescue willingly and professionally!
Land Swap To Save Theater?
Chatham cannot lose the Monomoy Theatre. To me, it is the most significant cultural asset the town has.
Could the BOS possibly consider that the saving of this icon might be accomplished by swapping it for a parking lot that no one has any real idea of what to do with?
The value of the Eldredge Garage lot is probably nearly equal to that of the theater and I'm sure the community's real estate barons could engineer an exchange.
Tiburon, Calif. and Chatham
Refuse To Use Styrofoam
My friend Rebecca Arnold and I spent one and a half hour picking up garbage on Harding's Beach on Jan. 6. Between us we collected 775 pieces of styrofoam. That might seem OK had it had it been the only styrofoam pieces on the beach but the 775 pieces were picked up within an estimated 20-square-yard area. That is a very small portion of the dunes at Harding's Beach.
There are thousands more of these pieces left on the dunes of Harding's Beach. They wash up with other plastic garbage on our shores and blow into the dunes from careless beachgoers. I have gone back to Harding's Beach five times since Jan. 6 picking up hundreds of styrofoam pieces each time. I cannot see that I have made a difference. There is so much.
Styrofoam is plastic. It is not biodegradable and it affects animals in a profoundly negative way. Styrofoam takes on the smell of algae, it floats on the water where animals eat, and washes on to the shoreline where seabirds birds feed. It is estimated that 100,000 wild animals die each year from either eating plastic or becoming entangled in it.
We need to radically reduce all plastic use in order to sustain this beautiful ecosystem we have here in Chatham. How can you help? Refuse styrofoam and plastic take-out containers. Ask to have your coffee or food in a paper container. Bring a container with you when you go for dinner. Ask your florist to arrange your flowers without using florist foam. Ask your butcher to wrap your meat in paper. When you are shipping or having something shipped to you, use or request paper packaging, not styrofoam or bubble wrap. Buy locally when you can.
My poster of 775 pieces of styrofoam will be displayed at the permit office at the town annex.
The Downward Spiral Continues
No need for President Trump to give a State of the Union address this year, because we all know what it is: A hot mess – headed toward rock bottom.
Reflection On Loss Of Tree
What do you say to any man who cuts down a magnificent beech tree on the front of his newly purchased lot, and then goes on to amputate major limbs of the second beech tree on the property, this act only constrained by the inconvenience of a share lot line?
I’m pondering the question all afternoon, angered about the void in the man’s thinking. And feeling like I’ve run out of gas. What is in the heart of any man who would eradicate a massive and beautifully formed beech, the obvious centerpiece of his recent purchase. How incredibly unformed this new owner must be. Perhaps cutting the beech down means a larger garage glued to his forthcoming mini-mansion. Perhaps a pool.
Why is it that we are presented with such an extraordinary example of an unconscious mind? I do not understand the emptiness in his heart. And I sure can’t do much about it at this point!
My childhood was spent driving by that beech tree. It was truly the anchor on Davis Lane. We thought of it as we thought of family. Gazing at its extraordinary stature, gazing at is representation of things right and sure in this world. How could we really believe anyone would be of a mind to destroy that majesty.
I am left powerless with my own shame… for I, too, once cut a special tree.
Moved By Nauset High Exhibit
Kudos to the students at Nauset Regional High School for their reminder that all people are to be treated with kindness and respect. The Nauset Human Rights Academy's display presently at the high school is, without a doubt, the most moving and introspective effort to promote a society based on empathy and social justice. Often times we need a reminder to treat others as we would want to be treated. If you have a chance to see this exhibit, I highly recommend it. Thanks to these forward thinking students for a time- sensitive reminder.
Mother Nature Always Wins
Four years ago I met Gerry Milden. We had a discussion about how close his home is to the North Break. We agreed that Mother Nature was quite a formidable adversary. Gerry told me the rock wall would not fail, in his lifetime. Mother Nature had other plans. It’s time, Gerry, for you to take full responsibility for your decision to purchase a home so close to the water’s edge. It is time for you to stop blaming the town of Chatham. Mother Nature always wins.
Remembering Ben T. Nickerson
Benjamin T. Nickerson died today. He was a great man, one who my wife and I were privileged to know for over 50 years. I first met Ben when his dark green International truck backed in effortlessly into Burton Ryder’s Old Harbor Road driveway in 1969. I was a green second lieutenant in the Army, having orders to be a platoon leader in Vietnam, spending a long weekend on leave in Chatham. Ben jumped off the truck, a deeply tanned man of incredible strength and stature. It was if we’d known each other for decades, not minutes.
One summer he arrived wearing a T-shirt that read “we take crap from everyone,” a not-so-gentle reminder of his profession in the refuse business. Over the years we had dinner with Ben, his wife Marilyn and mutual friends. Ben was always willing to listen to us, never really wanting to be the center of things.
He and Marilyn drove cross-country in their RV several years ago, then stopped to see us here in Monterey. I escorted Ben to our dump, the landfill, which is a huge trash, recycling and commercial flower growing area. It was a fun trip for him and for me. We chatted about the changing nature of his business.
When I was researching all things Chatham during World War II for a novel (“The Gathering”) I was writing, Ben gave me a map of all the businesses along Main Street that he remembered when he was a kid. Last July we had Ben for dinner. As always, he arrived early, an hour early, but we had a great dinner nonetheless. It was just like that day in 1969 when we first met.
Ben was one of those people who made life better for everyone he touched. He was a true Chathamite, a man of few words and great strength. He always had time for us washashores. Never judgmental, always available for a chat or a meal.
Rest in peace, good friend.