Last week I pulled over by the monument along the beach road to watch the long rollers, the unspent energy of a named storm passing far from our shores. Earlier in the day a visitor had asked me about the water breaking out in the ocean, off Clay Head I finally realized, that line of white I see from town and the south end of Corn Neck Road, marvel at its length, but notice from the boat I’ve been on all of four times since, well, suffice it to say so few times I know of every one since May 2019.
It is mesmerizing, even traveling this same road and seeing this same beach and ocean in all their seasons, most of my life. My neighborhood is the Neck
Road from the first turn to just north of Mansion and the monument is just the first stop.
The ocean was amazing, even on Friday, when the surfers were dwindling, and the tops of the modest lines of foam were being thrown back by the wind. At quarter of seven the light had the golden hue of a fast approaching sunset, it bathed the grasses and sandy berm as well as illuminating the surf and cast on the water the particular hue that makes me say the most under-appreciated spot at days end is the east beach.
Today, I found myself again drawn to that magnet of widened shoulder, earlier, and not so filled with cars. The water was blue and rippled, not striped with white, and the sound of the rocks so close to the shore rolling about was gentle.
There was more land there, once, across from what is now the Beachead. I do not remember it but it is on a survey of the state road done in the early fifties and it is clearly shown in photographs taken not so long before I was born. The old one-room jail sat on that land and is in old photos, which clearly show it, generally closed, with people posing on its tiny stoop.
Nature takes the bluffs, a combination of groundwater and rain, wind and surf, but this strip of remaining land, held in place by truckloads of stone brought
from the mainland, appears to have been diminished by a great sweep of a current we rarely see, one visible on aerial photographs. The east wall of the breakwater that opened our island to the world also set that slow erosion in motion. But our little island is resilient, it fights back, rebuilding that east beach every year.
Perhaps we have survived in spite of ourselves, mining the black sand for iron ore — it’s in the town records, one of the dormant leases extinguished before the state built the first pavilion in 1954. I have missed the Town Hall vault, that treasure trove of ideas floated, projects that never came to be, proposals for a front street seventy-five feet wide to accommodate every vehicle from horse-drawn wagons or new-fangled automobiles, never mind that there was not that amount of land, a technicality, it seems, as late as the 1960s when the east end of the landing strip was built.
I have missed the Roads to Everywhere nature of the old records, like my thought process that has to be brought back to where I left it, the surf.
It is the same summer sound that rolls up across the fields and through open south facing windows, the one that early in the season startles me after dark, then makes we laugh aloud at my wonder.
Time ago, the first gasp of summer’s end was the Friday night boat arriving in the gathering dark, more than we could ignore, and the colors of our sleeves, all our clothes I suppose, but it is the sleeves we remember, tinged with an odd purplish cast thrown from the big, new streetlights down around the landing.
Tonight the sun set, not for the first time, before seven. The grocery closes at six, a strange thing to have to remember after the luxury of long summer hours. I think the gas station reduced its hours but like the dump/landfill/transfer station I try to stick to the winter schedule lest I run out of gas for not remembering.
There is still traffic on the Mansion Road and lights in the summer houses and there are still people around, taking advantage of these last days of summer, before the equinox, when they may find a rental for slightly less, or return to their own house after having let it out for the season.
The nights have been cool, a sleeping tonic, the days surprisingly warm, with a forecast of “humid “ quickly devolving to “muggy” topped with more talk of storms brewing down south.
So many places have been short-handed this summer some have closed, already. Not too long ago I read of a few on the larger island to our east shutting their doors in mid-season for lack of help and of the Nantucket airport losing $150,000 in fuel sales one weekend. It wasn’t, the paper reported, a lack of supply, or that problem so familiar to us island dwellers, no matter the year, a shortage of ferry reservations, but a dearth of drivers.
It was an explanation I’d heard before this summer, coming upon nearly empty shelves in the BIG and wondering what the heck had happened, recalling the widespread scarcities of goods created by panic in the spring of 2020. It was the same as the airplane fuel, good supply, solid boat reservations, no drivers.
It has probably been a stressful summer in the BIG, and I certainly do not begrudge anyone having worked hard the whole season better schedules, and it
is fully dark by seven-thirty, anyway, but the change is a tiny piece that builds into a sense of impending doom. It’s turning on a light before I leave the house for a six o’clock meeting and waking to the sunrise later every day.
Many of the days of September more than compensate for the shrinking daylight, fall does arrive this weekend and we are not exactly Autumn in New England but it’s still pretty nice.