My Life in Salvage

In 2008, I signed up as a volunteer at the new swap shop on the grounds of our town dump on Cape Cod. It is a salvage shack, basically. Everything is free there. This creates an unusual, almost wildly blissful environment — a browser’s utopia. It is also a town hang-out and listening post.

Yes, it is located at the dump. And there are bad smells that sometimes go with that. But mostly, the Orleans Gift House is a spectacular, transformative place to spend a few hours. On and off, I have been working on a book about this – and I started a blog that chronicled of some of the stuff that has come in, and gone, over the years. The blog has been suspended but the Gift House goes on . . .

SAILING CAPE COD — for Conde Nast Traveler

click on this photo to read the Conde Nast Traveler article

 . . .  If we’d tried to come by car, we wouldn’t have been allowed to park until after five without a beach sticker. But arriving by boat, the dreamlike Lambert’s Cove and its sandy beach are ours. Brad sets up a halyard on the bow, and we swing on the line like Tarzan, soaring into air so soft that it feels like fur. And then, one by one, we fall into the warm water and linger there. Back on the boat, we change our minds about dinner again: The Blue Whale is too good to leave, and everyone has arrived with food. Instead of a beach picnic, we have a loud and rather raucous feast of smoked mussels and sushi from Martha’s Vineyard, smoked bluefish and bread from Nantucket, cheese from Chatham, and ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil from my garden. Our towels and swimsuits, pinned to the railing of the boat, flap in the balmy night air.

    (Excerpt from Briny Flight to Summer, Conde Nast Traveler, August 2010)

Frog Highway — (from

I was recently asked by to write about a “backyard corridor” experience for its environmentalism campaign. If you don’t know what a backyard corridor is, read on . . .  
Frog Highway
By Martha Sherrill

He was so huge, the biggest green frog I’d ever seen. And he was sitting – utterly motionless — on a stone step leading down to our front door. He was a long way from the upper pond. Was he okay? Our spaniel was barking at him, barking and barking. But the frog was strangely calm. I wondered if he was sick.

Maybe he’s dying, I thought. He’s so huge. He must be a million years old.

I dragged the dog by the collar to get him into the house. I was afraid he’d pick up the frog and start tossing him in the air, the way he tosses around half-dead mice, chipmunks, the occasional baby skunk. By the time I returned to the stone step — to bend over the big frog, to swoon at him with my human pity, my ideas about his advanced age and imminent death — he began to hop away.

His hops were high and long. His sense of direction seemed flawless. A frog in his prime. He was aiming for the southeast corner of our house. He landed gently on the grass, where he blended in, and then he exploded into the air like a green missile.

He turned the corner, almost hugging the curve in midair. He continued on, down a slope of ground that let to another pond, below our house. I’d come across other frogs in our south garden and figured they were lost hikers. But now I realized there was a frog highway that connected the two ponds.

Later that summer, when ducklings were born in the lower pond, their mother would lead them through the woods on the north side of our house. They’d walk in a row, single-file, like obedient school children, heading toward the upper pond to swim.

So we had two corridors, as far as we could tell. The ducks, before they learned to fly over us, traveled on the north side. The frogs use the south. Had they worked out a traffic flow pattern between them? Our house began to feel like a toll booth, except there’s no toll to pay. They just have to get by our dog. And they always do.

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