I’ve never taken many summer vacations because there was always an Olympics or a World Cup that seemed more compelling. However, after choosing the buyout last December, I decided it was time to learn to relax.
Part of our family rented a complex in the woods on Cape Cod for last week.
Then I started getting ominous news about wild life on the Cape.
In June a black bear was spotted roaming the narrow spit of land where nobody had ever seen a black bear before.
When they knocked him out, they decided he had been able to swim over from the mainland, possibly in search of a mate. The authorities deported him to the woods in central Massachusetts, but my theory was if one lovelorn bear could make it across, there must be others.
The next frightening sign was a poster in the library saying an expert would be giving a talk about the expanding coyote population of Cape Cod. Who knew? A real-estate agent said a coyote and pups had been sighted in the woods outside a house he was showing. One of the hobbies of Cape Cod appears to be makng videos of foxes, frolicking. .
What was next? I found an item on line saying Cape Cod residents are being warned about ticks and Lyme Disease. So much for the woods. We would head for the beach.
Then I heard that sea lions off the New England coast have been showing signs of influenza not unlike the bird flu that has begun impacting humans in the last generation.
On that charming note, we arrived on Cape Cod. The first news to greet us was that a man had been bitten on both legs in the ocean right off Truro and a great white shark had apparently been sighted. The man was treated and eventually released, and swimmers were reassuring themselves that sharks do not single out humans but more likely are attracted by the numerous sea lions in the area.
I was starting to get flashbacks of Australia in 2000 during the Olympics, when visitors were warned of killer sharks and killer flora and killer fauna, including poisonous puffballs in the earth that could kill you if you happened to scuff one with your foot. Could the Cape be as lethal as Australia?
The first day of vacation, we decided to swim on the bay side. We decamped at a lovely beach with warm and gentle salt water and I inflated the kayak and my grown son and I paddled out a few hundred yards.
Then I noticed a head bobbing 50 feet away.
The head disappeared.
“I could have sworn I saw something in the water,” I said.
The head popped up again.
“It’s a sea lion,” my son said. “Look at the whiskers.”
We weren’t so much worried about the bird flu the sea lion might be carrying as the hypothetical white shark that might be looking for sea lions.
We started rowing fast until the water was only a few feet deep. Children and adults took turns in the kayak and nothing bad happened.
In fact, we had a lovely six days on Cape Cod, escaping with no damage from nature.
The only injury I sustained was self-inflicted. Early one morning, while waiting for a family Wiffle ball game, two grand-daughters charmingly tutored me on how to run. I forgot I had not yet performed my daily old-guy stretching. As I ran to catch up with them, I felt a quad muscle wrench loose. I came home from vacation using copious amounts of Advil and ice. I cannot blame the wilderness for my pain -- but I do have a new and fearful vision of summer vacations.
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Oops, this just in. Not to sound like Woody Allen, cowering in the presence of lobsters in Annie Hall, but Grandchild 2/5 reported seeing jellyfish ("that looked like prunes") in the bay, and Grandchild 3/5 reported a snapping turtle in a bucolic pond that we fell in love with. None of it was as fearsome as the traffic on and off Cape Cod. GV
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.