Nowadays Clancy's is open, but if you passed by any other time of year, you'd think it had gone out of business. And it has, except for the turnips.
When I moved here to Eastham a dozen years ago, Clancy's was a thriving farm stand. It was always manned by a member of the family with whom I enjoyed chatting, usually about the Red Sox. It was there whenever I wanted a sandwich made with tomato fresh from the vine. Trips to Clancy's were a highlight of my summer.
As the years passed, the amount of produce dwindled and the charm of interacting with the growers was replaced by a weigh-it-yourself scale and a metal box to put your money in. Yet I continued to delight in stopping by there and I treasured the connection to the past it represented.
The last few summers, the rough hewn tables, dilapidated umbrella, and faded OPEN banner have been in a pile and there hasn't seemed to be anything growing in the fields.
But right now, Clancy's has customers, lots of them. From Columbus Day through Thanksgiving they come for the turnips. They pull their cars off the highway onto the deeply rutted turnout, select the white-gold orbs from a bin, and stick their money in the slot. Gourmet magazine and the "buy local" movement have made the Eastham Turnip, long known for its light color and sweetness, famous nationwide, and Clancy's has a cash crop.
Reading Robert Sullivan's, The Thoreau You Don't Know, recently inspired me to visit the Concord Museum in Concord, Massachusetts. The museum contains the furnishings from Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond along with a replica of Emerson's study, and it is easy to imagine the two of them there engaged in lively conversation.
Thanks to the book and my visit I have been able to shape a much clearer mental picture of Thoreau than the one I had before, that of the naturalist loner, and I have come to appreciate how much time this "classically trained handyman" (Sullivan) spent looking for work in a tough economy.
Thoreau knew how to work with both his hands and his head. In the course of his relatively brief life, he taught school, farmed, mastered the craft of pencil making, fixed and built machines, surveyed land, and shoveled manure. In between he wrote A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Walden, The Maine Woods, Cape Cod, poems, essays, and a journal that runs to 47 volumes.
Of necessity (and I believe choice as well), Thoreau also knew how to attend to the practical realties of life, while at the same time pursuing a greater purpose. He often earned his keep by taking care of the daily needs of others, e.g. serving as a secretary and au pair for Emerson.
It was Emerson, who in 1843 arranged for Thoreau to go to New York City to tutor his brother William's son. Thoreau saw this opportunity as a means to an end—breaking into the publishing industry. His heart wasn't in the task of tutoring, but it provided room and board and access to editors and publishers in the city who might hire him.
I usually look forward to business slowing down a bit in the summer, but this year, when my workload started to slacken, I caught myself starting to worry (probably because I wrote a column about it last month), thinking "What if—?" You know the rest! Right?
So I stepped into my husband's office and asked him for reassurance.
I didn't ask for a review of our financial status, or go into a soliloquy on all the reasons I thought the sky was falling as a way of circuitously trying to get him to convince me I was wrong (a technique I learned from my grandmother).
I simply asked him to tell me we were going to be OK. He did, and I went back into my office and had a productive afternoon.
This incident prompted me to think about how important it is to give and receive reassurance, especially right now when so many of us are under the stress of change and economic pressures.
Have you ever watched a movie you really liked for the third or fourth time and all of a sudden seen something there you never saw before? It happened to me the other night watching The Insider.
On previous viewings, I'd been so caught up in the drama I didn't realize that The Insider is really about a man in a career transition—abrupt and brutal, to be sure, but also transformational.
The Insider is based on true incidents in the life of a Ph.D. chemist named Jeffrey Wigand who worked as vice-president of R&D for Brown & Williamson tobacco company and was fired by them because he knew that the company was adding carcinogenic substances to the nicotine in their cigarettes. The action of the film is driven by Wigand's decision to go public with first-hand knowledge of how the tobacco industry uses chemical compounds to promote addiction.
How far will Big Tobacco go to shut him up? Will this bright, responsible, somewhat confused, man be able to hold up under intimidation by his former employer, on the one hand, and, on the other, pressure from a 60 Minutes producer to blow the whistle by doing an interview on national television?