Writing Retreat and Shell Collecting Adventure 2014

This travelogue chronicles my Sept., 2014 trip to Martha’s Vineyard. I have come away to continue work on Book II of the Adventures of Isabelle. I’ve also come in search of Mercenaria mercenaria (well really just their shells to increase my supply of quahog shells for wampum). Back home I’ve been working on jewelry inspired by Mami Wata and Imenja. You can see pics of the work HERE.  This travelogue will not be wordy. Pictures are the thing (and maybe even a video)

chillin at Lamberts Cove sundaySaturday Sept. 6: Arrived Vineyard Haven around 3:45. Spent rest of the day getting settled and sleeping as I’d driven about 9 hrs. Dinner, clam chowder and fried shrimp from the Net Result.

Sunday Sept. 7: Slept in, set up my writing area, set up hammock and chilled in it! Drove to Lambert’s Cove in the afternoon for beach chill and refreshing swim. Showered in outdoor shower as a treat to myself. Found Maya Angelou’s “Heart of a Woman” on the book shelf that night and started reading it.

Lamberts sunday

Lambert’s Cove

Monday Sept. 8: Awoke early to get to writing. Slow going this first day but labored on (oh the creative angst…ha!). Also did a few other work emails. Set off in afternoon in search of quahog shells. Had a hot tip about some giant clam shells so I followed that to Lobsterville Rd. no luck! Asked around at the shops on Gay Head cliffs. The lady at the shop was kinda cagey. Acted like she didn’t know where to find them even though she makes and sells wampum jewelry in her store. Suggested I go clamming but “I think you need a license for this.” She literally said “they are hard to find”. Really lady?! No they aren’t…bye!

jelly at manemsha mondayNext stop Dutcher Dock at Menemsha. I saw a bunch of broken quahog shells all over the ground around the fish shops. Went down on the dock. Saw a cool but deadly looking jelly fish and asked a fisherman where I could find some shells. He pointed my to the trash heap next to the bathrooms.


Eureka! I hit the mother lode!!

da mother loadIt was a stinky pile of shucked clam shells covered in flies and bees but to me it was purple gold! I squated over the pile picking out the shells with the deepest purple color and interesting patterns. Most of the shells had dried clam membrane still in them. Yucky but this means they are fresher than those I usually find on the beach.

Once home I spent the next several hours processing my shells. Soaking them first in clean water then laboriously scraping out the remaining membranes, and scrubbing off loose dirt with a toothbrush and my fingers. Next I boiled them and scrubbed them all down again. After a final rinse, laid them out on a towel to dry. (see pics of processing below)

Boiling time
Ready for boiling






I have a great supply now but will probably get more. Still in search of those giant sea clam shells over in Aquinnah.

Tuesday Sept 9: Awoke early again. Made a lot more progress on writing today but it still feels a bit plodding! I find it hard to write. Wish it was like painting or other visiual arts which are just hours of pure pleasure. Broke for lunch then did a bit more.

writing area

My writing area

I took the afternoon to go for a walk. Drove over to Oak Bluffs, parked by the harbor and just walked along water edge to end of town then back through “Cottage City.” I did take brief walk on beach to look for pieces of quahog shell that have already been worn smooth by the waves and sand. Was rewarded with one piece. Really enjoyed my brisk walk in the cool sea breeze and the luxury of time to wander among the quaint little brightly colored houses.

Oak Bluffs cottages

Cottages in Oak Bluff

Once home a bit more shell processing then watched 12 Years a Slave (finally had courage). Great movie. Hoping to read a bit more of “A Heart of a Woman” tonight then off to early bed.  I will leave you with this peaceful video of Rock Music. Listen for the pretty sound the rocks make as the bigger waves recede. Ahhh music…

Wednesday Sept 10: Started writing earlier this morning and the morning writing session went really well! I completed an important scene. It was kind of tough because it was a very emotional scene so I had to struggle but after I got past that the writing flowed pretty easily.

smaller rocks in handWrote a bit more after lunch then headed to Lambert’s Cove to collect rocks, stopping at Native Cuts, for a haircut on the way. It was another gorgeous day at the beach. I explored the other end of the cove from where I normally go. (no pics b/c left phone in car. sorry). Went back to my prefered side of the cove to fill my bucket with rocks. After lugging my haul partway back down the shore I set up my towel, disrobed and soaked in some lovely sun. I was here about a month ago and today I noted that the sun’s power has already gentled quite a bit. It still felt divine. When my tummy started to growl and the clouds shrouded the sun I decided to head home. Time to lug my rocks. I quickly came up with a solution for the 10-15 minute walk back to the car. I put the towel then the bucket on my head. I did get a few looks but what’s a girl gonna do?

Net Result bagStopped by the Net Result on way home for more clam chowder and got some calamari from the shop to cook tomorrow. (I’m wondering if I should just get a trough for my clam chowder since I consume such huge amounts while here.) Once back at the house I showered, ate some chowder, chilled then got back to writing. It’s been a great day!

P.S. I LOVE Rocks!

Thursday. Sept. 11:

morning glory blue morning glory purple wild grapes

Today was a very good day! Got quite a bit of writing done in morning session. Broke early to go check out a property for a close friend. This errand took me to Edgartown so after viewing the house, a lovely little cottage with a charming yard, I decided to take lunch in Edgartown. Had a salad with tuna at Among the Flowers (salad nothing to write home about), then walked around the little harbor before heading back to my car. Took a short drive around town to look at the pretty homes before heading back to Vineyard Haven and to “work.”

lunch break
Lunchbreak in Edgartown

Afternoon writing progressed but was a bit haltingly. Broke at 4:00 for a phone session with a coaching client. It was an energizing and productive session and it didn’t hurt that I was able to walk around the yard and lay in the hammock while on the call. I also came across the grapes growing in my cousin’s yard. When she had told me of them a couple weeks ago they had still been sour, but to my delight when I plucked one off the vine and popped it in my mouth it was ripe and deliciously sweet! This was a great discovery beacause I was very hungy (salad does NOT keep me full) so I was able to have a snack while on the call. Yes…life is good!

After this I broke for dinner. I sauted the squid I had gotten from the Net Result then added it to some marinara sauce and had it over whole grain sphaghetti (good but not off the chain). More grapes for dessert.

I was pretty tired so after reading (and a tiny bit of Candy Crush…shhhh) I went to bed.

About admin

For over 12 years Nicole Cutts, Ph.D., licensed Clinical Psychologist, Success Coach, Author and Organizational Consultant has been inspiring and empowering people to achieve a more balanced and successful lifestyle. Dr. Cutts has consulted with and trained executives, managers, and teams at Fortune 500 Companies, Federal Government Agencies, and Non-Profit Organizations. As a master facilitator and Success Coach, she helps people create an exceptional life by honoring their mind, body, and spirit so they can experience joy, passion, meaning, and ultimate success in their work.
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