Cape Cod Camino Way: Week 2 Falmouth to Woods Hole
I am beginning to realize that the Cape Cod Camino Way is like a mini-series of eight shows, each requiring preparation, content, background, routes, logistics, engaging company, good weather, and stamina. Thankfully, I had all of these for Week 2, with the focus on women and people of color in the science fields. Over the course of almost 5 hours, we walked the Shining Sea bike path, with a detour into Falmouth Center and along the beach, taking in the variety of signs along the way and statues of two famous women.
Each week I prepare an itinerary for the walk that includes quotes from relevant writings, songs, poems, prayers, etc. I want to make the walk inspirational for anyone who joins me and for those of you following via the blog or the Facebook page. I chose to focus this week on the contributions of women and people of color in science due to the myriad of research and science-based institutions in Woods Hole.
At the beginning of the Shining Sea Bike Path in N. Falmouth I discovered that I left my notes for the event, with all the quotes and songs on the kitchen table. Even though I planned and prepared for the day ahead, I needed to improvise with what I could remember, and pull up on my phone. I took at deep breath and stepped off with Lauren to start the day. We shared our intentions for the walk paying tribute to the Native lands we would travel.
Within 2 miles I rolled onto my right ankle, fell left onto my hip and sustained road rash on my leg. Shaken up a bit, I took a sip of water and relaxed into the moment. “Be more aware of your surroundings, let go of your disappointment about forgetting your notes and everything will be ok” I whispered to myself. I got up, dusted off, and stepped forward into the peaceful woods and bogs surrounding the path and the Sippewissett Marsh we passed through.
For the next few miles, Lauren and I talked about the challenges of being a woman in a non-traditional field such as science. I shared the story of my sister in law, Jillian McLeod, professor at the Coast Guard Academy, one of the only Black women in the country with a PhD in theoretical math. Her work on equity and inclusion at the CGA is making a difference in the education of thousands of students. For a diversion, we discussed one of our favorite places to travel: Ireland! I told her stories from my ten trips to Ireland, including one of a missing front tooth and golfing over 50 times in the Emerald Isle. We were transported to the west Coast of Ireland, similar views with bogs and
inlets we were walking. When will we be able to travel internationally again? We also talked about good books, and I shared a current favorite: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Trained traditionally as a botanist, Kimmerer brings the lenses of her Native Potawatomi background and ecological consciousness to understand the earth and her plants. She weaves together her science background with deep wisdom from indigenous knowledge. For both enlightening and engaging summer reading, treat yourself and others to a copy of Braiding Sweetgrass.
Prior to the walk, I spoke with Claudia Womble who is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the 5 other major institutions in Woods Hole to implement the recommendations from the 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Report by Robert Livingston. The Woods Hole Diversity Initiative seeks to implement a plan for recruitment, retention and accountability around all aspects of diversity and inclusion. In front of the Falmouth Library at 11 am, a group of us met with Donna Mock-Munoz de Luna, from the Marine Biological Lab and the Diversity Initiative, for a conversation about women in science. Why is it important to have various backgrounds and perspectives represented in our research organizations? View the video to hear Donna, Patricia Pinto D’Sliva from NOAA, and Lilli Feronti, a 14 year old Falmouth activist speak with us about opportunities and challenges for women and people of color in the sciences.
In front of the Falmouth Library stands the statue of Katherine Lee Bates, the author of the song “America the Beautiful”. Not many statues of women exist on Cape Cod, and I wanted to find out more about her and another famous woman, Rachel Carson, whose statue would be at the end of our walk in Woods Hole. Hence the name of this blog.
Our group of six discussed the original song, originally written as a poem in 1893 after Bates, born in Falmouth and a professor at Wellesley College, traveled across the country and was taken by the scenery. Bates’ original poem extolls the pilgrim’s march for freedom across America, with the phrases:
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God shed His grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!
This struck me odd, and left me questioning what exactly did this mean? Given that George Floyd was just killed in a brutal fashion, pinned down under a police officer’s knee, this begged a question- what did she mean?
The final stanza of the original poem also said this:
God shed His grace on thee.
Til nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!”
What does this mean? Why was that removed from the next two versions of the song? Why had I never heard that before? I immediately thought of white supremacy, and restoring America to a “whiter” jubilee. I could be completely off base, and I wanted to explore this more and could not find further references to meaning of the original work.
I did discover however, a revised version of America the Beautiful by the cast of Hamilton. Here are a few stanzas from that song (found on Youtube):
Let America be the dream it could be.
Land of Liberty with no false patriotic grief.
Opportunity is real and Life is Free.
Equality is in the air we breathe.
But there has never been equality for me,
Nor freedom for me in the home of the free…
God shed His grace on thee.
Who lives, who dies, Who tells your story?
Walking along the shore from Falmouth to Woods Hole with Lilli, her sister and mom, and two others, was a change of scenery and spirit. The young people with us were full of hope, energy and inspiration for the future. We talked of opportunities for girls in college and careers in a variety of fields. To walk with powerful young people working for change, becoming more aware of social and racial justice issues was the highlight of my day.
As we arrived at Woods Hole a doe came onto the path to greet us. In this time of COVID, the natural world seems more alive and filled with surprises. We completed the walk in Woods Hole, with a photo in front of the Rachel Carson statue. Carson was an American marine biologist who advanced the global environmental movement and influenced the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, currently under assault by the Trump administration. We celebrated our time together with a nourishing lunch, and a sense of gratitude about our day together. Even without my map and notes, the day emerged exactly as it should have.