Welcome!

Hi !

I’m Mary Bergman, a writer and historian living on Nantucket.

I am fascinated by the people, places, and landscapes that make up Cape Cod and the Islands. I have dedicated my work to helping to document unique ways of life here at the edge of the world.

I regularly contribute to A Cape Cod Notebook, a weekly nature/natural world radio essay program on WCAI, the Cape and Island’s NPR Station. My work has also appeared in Historic NantucketN Magazine, The Common online, McSweeney’s Internet TendencyProvincetown Arts, and other places where great stories are told!

If you just want to say hi or recommend a favorite place to walk, get in touch through the contact form on the “about” page.

 

A Summer of Essays

summer, babe

I can’t seem to get excited about fall. Back when it was March, I remember thinking how difficult it would be to be dealing with a pandemic as the winter light waned. At least in March, the days were getting longer. There was the inherent hope that comes each year with spring.

No such luck now.

It seems everyone will have to learn to live more of their lives outside until the end of 2021, at least. It isn’t so bad out here. You need a warm coat and lots of layers. A hat. Oh, and don’t forget your mask.

But in the hopes of holding tight to summer as it slips away, here are the essays that were published this summer you may have missed.

July: An essay for WCAI about swimming, about the ocean as the only being allowed to break pandemic rules and reach out and touch you.

Also July: An essay in Stonecoast Review called “Out Here” for issue 13–the superstition issue. It’s an essay about berry picking and sharks and the lingering fear of the end of the world.

August: I got this second hand rowboat and now some seven-and-a-half foot oars live inside the Ford focus…anyway, this essay on WCAI is about that, and finding strength in your mind and arms.

September: I went over to Martha’s Vineyard in September and was floored by the trees. Can I ever live in a place that isn’t a scrubby pile of sand? Seems unlikely. I wrote about it for WCAI.

That’s it for now! You can catch me on WCAI the third Tuesday of every month. Until then, I’m in the sea or along the shore.

A Different Sort of Spring

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The weather here has been so insane, windy as hell since October. I stopped paying attention to the cancellation of the boats in March, around the time my world began to get a lot smaller. There is nowhere to go.

In those early days, as the pandemic rippled across the country, moving left to right like words on a page, I listened to for the whistle of the 6:30 boat in the morning and the 10:00 boat at night. It was a comforting sound, a reminder that we were still connected to the world.

This place did a pretty good job of locking itself down, and now we wonder what the future will look like. It is foggy here one out of every three days, on average. Now all of us, nationwide, are enveloped by a fog, the future clouded.

Actually, in those early days, I could not shake thinking about the virus as though it was a fog. I knew otherwise, but I kept envisioning it moving across this place, and all places, as inescapable.

I was so anxious then. I felt like I had an electrical current running through me as I tried to figure out what the next move was going to be. Every night there was another update, a huge story.I wrote this essay for WCAI about this anxiety, and the looming feeling that something was on the horizon, beyond the waves.

Things have ebbed, even though the news gets worse. That is the wild thing about being human, isn’t it? How easily we adapt to the world. Things that seemed insane to us weeks ago, we have accepted.

I wrote this essay, also on WCAI,during the first couple of weeks of this new world. I was crying at every beautiful thing. Now every day feels different. I read somewhere we move through so many emotions in a day during this moment because we aren’t sure how we should be reacting. So we try on emotions and responses rapid-fire until we find one that suits us.

That can make it hard to write! Hell, it makes it hard to do anything. But I find myself dipping into fiction a little more now, editing short stories and trying to get them out there. I like to write about relationships, about weird people living in strange, sandy places. I was writing a scene in a bar and it felt so strange to remember what that was like–to sit close to people, to hold hands, to smell another person at close range.

We are all going to be different people on the other side of this. As someone who writes about memory, I wonder what it is going to feel like to remember this moment.

 

 

Beacons

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As promised, here is the link to February’s Cape Cod Notebook dispatch from yours truly.

I’ve been back and forth between Provincetown and Nantucket a fair bit the last two months as we said goodbye to a friend. I’ve been looking at a lot of old photos of my friends and family, and myself. Photos I hadn’t seen before, didn’t know were taken. It can be disorienting, to try to reconcile the self you once were with the self you are now. I feel like I have been this same person for quite a long while. But perhaps there will be another moment in time when I look back at myself now and feel she is just as far away as I do when I look at my childhood self. I guess only time will tell. Time is a luxury though, eh? To imagine that we will all still be here in this place twenty, thirty, fifty years from now seems…what? Overly hopeful?

Well, here’s hoping.

 

 

Out Here All Year

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Many of my winter dispatches from Nantucket/Cape Cod involve, in one way or another, the isolation of this place. Isolation and solitude are different things, as is loneliness, and each on its own can be alright, depending. All three compound one another!

 

So if you missed January’s Cape Cod Notebook from me, you can click over and listen to it here.

Next week, on 2/18, you can listen to a new essay about memory. Have you ever looked at a photo of yourself that you couldn’t believe was of yourself? It’s kind of about that. capeandislands.org if you are beyond the reach of our radio waves, or 90.1 fm if you are on cape cod, or 91.1 fm on Nantucket.

I will have an essay coming out in Canary Magazine about looking at your body and the natural world, and feeling like you have no control over either. Not sure when it’s coming out but I’ll post it here when it does!

The Year at High Tide

49BFE54A-6F28-4B1B-B842-15478A610CABHere are two Cape Cod Notebook essays from this year end I have yet to post over here:

trying to love November 

wind season

The essay I find myself thinking about the most this winter is this one,here and now, from August. Lately I have been thinking that the two things that worry me the most are ideas of birth and death. And I guess, everything in between.

It was a good year for reading. Some of the books I enjoyed the most this year were:

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

Casting Into the Light by Janet Messineo

Outpost by Dan Richards

The Great Beach by John Hay

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

 

some of the books I re-read every year are:

The Outermost House by Henry Beston

The House on Oyster Creek by Heidi Jon Schmidt

Thoreau’s Cape Cod

I seriously revised a manuscript and wrote two more this year. Every year I wonder what ideas will come to me and I continue to be surprised that they do. All the words add up.

Perhaps best of all, I took so many walks in the sand with wonderful people.

See you in 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Another Element

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It was a strange end of the summer, I got sick right at the beginning of October and my fall swims were put on hold. I keep thinking one of these days will be warm enough to dive in again, but it hasn’t happened yet. I wrote about it all, wearing my sandy heart on my sleeve, for the radio this week. You can listen here. 

June & July Radio Essays

DB54CCCA-5043-497F-B117-D69F138FBE13.jpegSummer on the Cape and Islands is our busiest time of the year. Now that we are past the solstice, I feel a little sad that each day is getting shorter. There are moments in the evening, around six or seven at night, when a wave hits me, a memory of winter darkness knocking me over. But for now it is still warm and brilliantly bright, and all my essays for WCAI the last month have been, too.

Here’s an essay I wrote and recorded about Nantucket’s landfill. 

I wrote and recorded this essay about reading on Islands in honor of the Nantucket Book Festival.

And most recently is this essay about watching the surfers on Cape Cod.

In other writing news, I’m working away on an essay collection about the disappearing places and ways of life on the Cape and Islands, and reading as much as I can.