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Nantucket in the Winter


What to Do When You are Not Reading Before the Fire!

We had a snowstorm on Nantucket this weekend.  Winds blew at 74 miles per hour—just one hour below hurricane status.  Snow fell, the tides were high, and I lost power for almost six hours.  It was exciting.  I loved every minute of it—even the part when there was no power.  Fully equipped with a battery-operated radio, LED lights, and lots of firewood, I was warm and cozy.  I was surprised to discover that I could ask about the power outage on Facebook and get a personal answer.  I was even more surprised the next morning to find the roads plowed and people out and about.

I spent that snowy evening before the fire with a good book.  When I first imagined Nantucket in the winter, I envisioned many long, lonely days and nights, and I expected a certain amount of isolation.  With so many restaurants and businesses closed, I thought that there would be little to do and a very quiet social scene.  After all, when I first moved here, I really only knew one or two year round residents.

Wow—was I ever wrong!

The truth is that one could fill every day and every night—regardless of weather-- with wonderful things to do.  There is a lively artistic and intellectual community on Nantucket in the winter.  Now--for those of you who live in Nantucket full time or winter here--this is old news, but I though it might be worth writing about for off-Island people who might be considering wintering or retiring in Nantucket.  My list will only touch on the things available, and I am still learning about all the amazing offerings, so I am sure there are many wonderful opportunities that I don’t even know about. If I have omitted something, please comment and let me (and others) know.

  1. Bartlett Farm offers a variety of programs.  The weekly Farm Talks are always popular.  This week, local cheese-maker, Elizabeth Hitchcock, talked about making fresh mozzarella and burrata, and the audience was invited to taste these cheeses and eat stracciatella.  Earlier in the year, I learned all about Nantucket scollops and how to cook them.

  2. On the 18th of January, Nantucket celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Summer Street Church.   The event was hosted by the Museum of African American History and the Nantucket Interfaith Council, and this program featured representatives of the island's diverse communities reading the words of Dr. King,. There were special performances, interactive presentations of African American hymns, audience sing-a-long and more.  It was truly moving.

  3. The Athenaeum offers both day and evening activities.  Maker Mondays focus on an hour and a half of arts and crafts.  There are book club, concerts lectures, classes, films, travelogues, and knitting and crocheting classes. In addition, there is a weekly writers’ group, cooking classes, discussion groups, and lessons.  The Athenaeum alone could keep one busy day and night.

  4. And then there are book clubs. If one were enough of a reader, there is a book club for every night of the week and every genre.  The local bookstore, Bookworks, hosts two book clubs, the Athenaeum hosts a book club, the Westmoor hosts a book club, and lots of people have book clubs that were established many years ago. 

  5. The Nantucket Art Association offers a year-round Arts Program for adults. Their workshops host a wide variety of classes and workshops in many media including oil painting, watercolor, pastel, life drawing, ceramics, woodcarving, printmaking, textile art, and mixed media.

  6. I love to visit Great Point and see all the seals.  It is generally deserted.  To take a walk on the beach is to go back in time to an earlier and more primitive Nantucket.

  7. Bundling up and taking a walk on one of the many wonderful nature trails is a great experience.  If you are a naturalist or a birder, you will especially love doing this.  I went for a hike with my friend and former student Tara whose husband works for the Nantucket Land Bank, so she really knows the trails.  We explored territory that I didn’t even know existed.  It was an amazing morning.

  8. Only at the Starlight Theater in Nantucket can I have a glass of wine while watching a movie.  I could easily find a movie worth seeing every night in the week.

  9. Restaurants that are only open for dinner in the summer serve lunch in the winter.  At Lola’s one can get a bento box, order soup and a sandwich, or order from the menu.  In the summer, Lola is filled with the “beautiful people,” but in the winter an interesting and diverse group of people gather there for lunch. Nautilus is also open for lunch—a luxury that is not available in the summer!  In the summer, I sit on the bench outside Nautilus desperately hoping for a reservation.  In the winter, I waltz in with hugs for those I know, and always find a table waiting for me.

  10. Armchair Theater—a magical evening.  Once a month, Nantucket thespians and drama enthusiasts meet at Sherburne Commons for a potluck dinner and a play reading.  At the first meeting this year, the hilarious play Breaking Legs, the story of three Providence, RI Mafiosi who are considering producing a play for a daughter’s professor, was read to much laughter. 

  11. The Dreamland Theater has an amazing program of movies and live broadcasts from popular films to one-time events.  This week they are showing the Bolshoi Ballet production of The Taming of the Shrew.  In addition there are a plethora of live events—performances, comedy acts, and concerts.

  12. Last night I read a poem at the Robert Burns Night at the Nantucket Community Music Center.  Guests sipped hot toddies and ate shortbread as they listened to the music, poetry, and songs of Robert Burns.  Both performers and guest wore Scottish dress and the evening ended with a group singing of Burn’s “Red Red Rose” and “Auld Lang Syne.”

  13. The Nantucket Community School offers courses for adults in everything from literature and poetry to exercise, music, and computer skills.  These courses are very reasonable and a great way to keep intellectually alive and to meet new and interesting people. In fact, I will be teaching two courses there for the Spring session--one on The Odyssey and one on Reading and Writing Poetry for Adults.

  14. For those of you who enjoy the Cisco Brewery during the summer, you might be surprised to know that we enjoy it all winter as well.  Warm and cozy, the Brewery offers afternoon and evening entertainment.  Similarly, the Chicken Box is open and rocking every night.

  15. Both the Westmoor Club and the Nantucket Hotel offer winter memberships that provide fitness, massages, yoga, and a host of other wonderful activities.

  16. The new and fabulous Nantucket Culinary Institute offers cooking lessons as well as a wonderful café.

  17. Churches offer a rich community of like-minded people and a great many activities from old-fashioned church dinners to opportunities to work for the greater good of the Nantucket community.

  18. Volunteer opportunities are readily available.  Volunteering is not only a great way to give back to Nantucket, but also a wonderful way to meet interesting people.  I love working at the Food Bank each week, and it is always rewarding work.

  19. If you are a sports fan, the high school has football, basketball, and hockey grams to attend. 

This has turned into a long list, and still it only touches on all the wonderful opportunities that are available on Nantucket in the winter.   I am sure there are many things I have either forgotten to mention or don’t yet know about.

The biggest challenge for me is remembering that, while I want to stay busy, do good in the world, and meet new people, I also want enjoy time walking on the beach and curling up by the fire with a good book.