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September Song


September is in the air.

Sometime at the end of August, a Canadian cold front slips over the Adirondacks and the Berkshires, fords the Connecticut River and then sweeps over the coast and the island. August’s beer has become September’s champagne.

That cold air has swept the fog and the haze out to sea and brought back in cold nights and clear stars. The stripers are back, fat with pogies from Maine, and the tuna are chasing them.  The corn is sweeter, the tomatoes still plump, and the apples redden on the branch.  Fed by the swirling ladies of the Caribbean, the surf is up, cresting on an on-shore wind.  Beach space becomes cheap again, as do parking lots, reservations, and court times. On a Wednesday morning, you can park next to the Bartlett’s truck and spend a half hour on the bench talking baseball to Jack without smelling a cigar, hearing a cell-phone, or seeing any Lilly.

August has its charms.  Business is great, the streets are filled, long lost friends come by, and everyone feels lucky.  On Nantucket, August is one long beer blast.  We are all here, jammed together with the rich and famous, dishing out the suds as fast as we can pump and cleaning it up in the morning.  Even in the fog, the neighbors’ houses are well lit, the cars are parked all over the yard, the towels hang sullenly off the lines, and the music goes into the wee hours.  Like houseguests, August is welcomed for the excitement and the change, then it is gone.  They pick up a calendar and some note cards on the way to the boat, leave a bottle of wine in the fridge, toss the penny overboard, and go back to Hartford.

On a beautiful Wednesday in September, they are thinking of us.  They catch up on their voice mail and the stack of memos, but their mind is back on the beach and their eyes are on the photo in the calendar.  They know that the golf course is nearly empty.  They know that they can get into the Company of the Cauldron now.  They know that Cisco has a six foot swell breaking on that long sandbar. They know that that little bit of irritation that the lines and the crowds caused is all gone.  It would be perfect on Nantucket.  And they are in Hartford. 

Islanders have a hard time with perfection.  We are always working.  The families and houseguests aren’t the only ones to leave at the end of August.  So do the college kids and the high school students who pulled many shifts.  Suddenly waitresses are working doubles without the benefit of the busboy.  The ice cream store and t-shirt shop are still open late, but the islanders have come out from the office and put an apron on.  School starts, tenants need to be found, fixes have to be made, on and on and on.

Work becomes its own excuse.  Of course, we need to work.  Someone needs to pay the bills and get the baby new shoes.  But, the world is full of places where we could live more economically and make very good money.  Almost everyone who lives on Nantucket year-round is here by choice.  We chose to live in a place with astronomical rents, milk prices, and summer traffic.  In our stupidity, we spent the previous months chasing Ben Franklin and the Dead Presidents so earnestly that we forgot why we stay out here. If we were really so worried about the bills, we would sell and move to Fitchburg.

We should wise up in September and be a tourist. No one comes to Nantucket for the ice cream, the freshly pressed sheets, or the fine cold beverages.  They all come for the beaches, the sailing, the history and the moors.  If we could take the black and green blinders off for a week or so, we might be able to see it.

It would be nice to see Cisco crowded with familiar faces.  The harbor is wide enough for the mega yachts and the day sailors.  Golf courses and tennis courts can hold all of us now, and the moors would profit from another set of friendly eyes.

If we were to take our vacation on island, perhaps we would start to view Nantucket with the affection that our friend in Hartford has.  I doubt if all of the islanders would get misty looking at calendar photos, but perhaps we would think twice about green-lighting more development in Sconset.  Perhaps an afternoon of clamming may make some landscapers more hesitant about dumping the fertilizers on the lawn.  A few trips to the sandwich shop could help the waitresses see how far a smile will take them.  Perhaps buying groceries for a family might help the managers at Stop and Shop.

Nantucket eyes are not that different from Hartford eyes.  Everyone is a native somewhere; be it on the mainland or out to sea.  We spend so much time mowing the lawn in front of million dollar views, we ignore the million dollar view in our own backyard. Our friend is in Hartford and he know that it is perfect on Nantucket right now.  Maybe we should learn a little something from him.

Bob Barsanti's novel, Milestone Road, was published this summer.  His previously published book of essays about Nantucket, Sand in My Shoes, is available here.