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The Tides Ebb and Flow Changing the Patterns in the Sand


The Dramatic Transformation of Nantucket in the Summer

“Step back in perspective,

open your heart and welcome

transition into a new phase.” 
                       ― Linda Rawson


To every thing there is a season,

and a time for every purpose . . .

a time to get, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast

away; a time to rend, and a time

to sew; a time to keep silence,

and a time to speak.

                        -- Ecclesiastes 3

I live on the ocean.  Each morning and each evening I walk on the ever-changing beach. The beach at high tide is vastly different from the beach at low tide. As the earth spins on its axis, ocean water is kept at even levels; the moon’s gravitational forces, however, are strong enough to disrupt this balance, which results in high tides and low tides. The ebb and flow of the tides is evident in the configuration of the sand and in the shells the sea casts onto the shore. Each day, the sand shifts and the patterns transform smooth sand into elaborate designs.  Shells that were there at low tide have been replaced by new and often different shells.  Despite the daily rhythm of this transformation, I am always somewhat surprised by the striking contrast between the two states. 

The shift from fall/winter/spring to summer in Nantucket is just as dramatic and startling.  It is as though the world turns upside down in a matter of moments.  Everything changes.

This is my first experience with the sudden transition from a quiet spring on Nantucket to a full blown summer experience.  Only a year ago, I was one of the thousands of summer people arriving on the ferry with a car packed to the gills with everything I would need for my two months on the Island.  The only Nantucket I knew was the summer Nantucket—warm days, beautiful beaches, and time to do nothing but relax and play.  Everything centered around family.  In fact, I didn’t know anyone on Nantucket other than my family and a few of their friends.  I had never seen Main Street when it was not packed with cars, and I expected the Stop and Shop to be a madhouse so it was never a surprise when it was. 

This year is different.  After a full year of living on the Island, I was surprised by the sudden transition from a quiet fall, winter, and spring to summer.  It is as though—almost overnight—the tide came in and brought with in dramatic changes in Nantucket. 

A few weeks ago, parking places were plentiful on Main Street, there were empty seats at the drug store counter, and one could almost always find a seat at the Culinary Center.  The Stop and Shop parking lot had empty spaces, and the aisles were easy to navigate.  Today I circled Main Street three times to find a one-hour parking spot, and I spent fifteen minutes in the Stop and Shop parking lot waiting for someone to pull out so that I could park. In the store, the aisles were full, and shoppers jostled each other in the process of filling their carts.

Our home has undergone a similar transformation.  Prior to July 1, it was quiet and tranquil.  It took a few moments each morning to tidy, and once sheets were changed and beds were made in all the bedrooms except mine, nothing more needed to be done for weeks at a time.  Today the house is full of action with three adults and four active children. On Wednesday, we will add another adult and child to the roster, and that will be quickly followed by troops of house guests throughout the summer.  Breakfast has gone from a quick bowl of yogurt for one to a short order kitchen—vegetable omelets, fried eggs, miso soup, bacon, sausage, fruit, smoothies—you name it, and I will fix it for you.

It is both a welcome and a difficult transition.

I love having almost all my family together under one roof.  I love long days at the beach or at the pool.  Cookouts and eating out and lobster on the deck are welcome traditions that we revisit each year.  A mother-daughter lunch of oysters, shrimp, and crab accompanied by a crucumber at Cru is a beloved tradition.   Ice cream cones at the Juice Bar, despite the long lines, is another wonderful weekly event.  A picture of everyone lined up on the benches with their ice cream in hand shows how they have grown from summer-to-summer. The children are older now and instead of Children’s Beach, we pack up surf boards and go to the big wave beaches—to Cisco and Surfside and Ladies.  Picnics at Great Point with sandwiches and cookies from Something Natural is another traditional event.  This is where the family pictures are taken each summer. Fresh fish—the catch of the day—is the go-to dinner at our house most nights.  Trips to the candy store and to the Toy Boat are weekly, if not daily, events.

On the other hand, I largely lose touch with Island friends over the summer.  Their summer lives are as busy as mine.  In fact, with great regret, I just canceled my book club for July and August because it is too hard to manage with an overly full house.  Summer moves at a frenetic pace, and there are moments when I long for the slow tranquility of the other three seasons.   And every time I have to park down town, I definitely look forward to fall and beyond.

Finally, as you can see, I lose all track of time.  For almost a year I have had my article in promptly at 8:00 on Monday morning.  Last week I was late because I was waiting for test results.  This week I am late because it just didn’t get done in the wonderful confluence of beach days, the 4th of July festivities, and general family fun!

As Ecclesiastes 3 says:  “To every thing there is a season,” and tide in or tide out, Nantucket is a wonderful place to be.