Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ancestors


When my son married his lovely wife this past June they exchanged their vows under the tower of the Montauk Lighthouse. They chose that spot because my great-great-grandfather was the lighthouse keeper there 100 years ago and that connection has always made it a sort of "ancestral home" to the family. I knew it would be a special occasion, but what I was not prepared for was the ghosts that visited us that day.

I was told later that when the first guests arrived for the ceremony the view was magnificent - clear across the water to Connecticut. The bluff that the lighthouse sits on has one of the most beautiful views on the East End and on a clear day you truly can see forever. Anyway, guests said that in addition to Block Island and other land masses to the north, they could see fog rolling in from the ocean to the south. By the time I arrived with the bridal party the entire peninsula was totally socked in. It lent a rather mysterious air to the proceedings as we all sat there in our folding chairs listening to the wedding vows against the intermittant sound of the foghorn. I had a difficult time concentrating because the surroundings filled my mind with the many stories that had been passed down through the generations - stories of shipwrecks and storms and other adventures. The fog reminded me of one particular tale that my great-grandmother had written down. It involved a newly installed fog horn that greatly confused the life saving crew stationed at Napeague - they thought it was the mournful cry of someone in distress and launched a lifeboat into the fog to try to find the person in need.

My great-great-grandparents lost two children when they were living in the lighthouse - an infant to Scarlet Fever and a teenager who drowned. Yes, there are ghosts at that place. At that particular moment in time I felt connected to the land, the water, and the space around me in a very primal way. Here was my son, surrounded by the ghosts of his ancestors, making a new life for himself and assuring the future of the family.

I like to think old Capt. Scott was smiling down on us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Computers


I have been without my computer for two days now and I'm beginning to go through withdrawal - big time. We never know quite how dependent we are on anything until we are without it - like the way I crave someting as soon as I start a new diet. I would never have thought that being connected to the internet was such a big deal but here I am running around town with my laptop looking for wireless to connect Who would have thought that even a few years ago?

The mysteries of cyber-space and the computer age are legion for me, but I have to say the little details sometimes drive me crazy. (Not surprising since I still don't fully understand how the television works.) On this blog, for instance, the date at the top of each entry is very often wrong. I know I write every day, but some days it posts the correct date and others it posts it as the day before. I have had my computer geek (also known as my husband) work on this problem and he cannot figure it out either. If he can't fix it I am at a total loss. He says the date is correct on the computer but for some reason it posts it incorrectly.

I don't like to give in and take on an attitude so prevalent in the elderly, but sometimes it is tempting to just say "I am happy the way things are. I don't need (fill in the blank here - such as "a fancy ipod to listen to my music" or "a DVR instead of my VCR"), because most new technology is not necessary for a comfortable life. I have tried to stay abreast of computer technology, though, and be as contemporary as I can, shopping through ebay and using my computer for internet research But honestly, some things totally evade me and I just can't be bothered to figure it all out. In the interest of not becoming totally out-of-date I do my best to keep up...

In any case, I am here, blogging on someone else's wireless network and wondering when my own computer will be up and running again. Something about a new modem....

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The youngest

The youngest member of my family is a grandson who is being baptized this morning. He is not the first grandchild, and yet as we know from having children of our own, each one is special in their own ways and he is no exception. Always a smile - a cheeful, happy baby.

Everything that people say about grandparenting is true - it is a wonderful experience. The connection that you feel with your grandkids is second to none and I love them all so fiercely. I would never have guessed that it would be such a spiritual experience - like a connection with the future that you can physically see and touch. It is unlike anything I could have imagined years ago when I was a newlywed.

This is a family day and I look forward to the weaving of yet another thread into the tapestry of my life, while I watch from the sidelines - a participant but not on the front lines - while my children go about raising families of their own. My role is easy now - just providing support for my children and love in abundance to my grandchildren.

It is a role I embrace with joy.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Stormy Saturday

As promised, we had a very stormy Friday, and this morning looks equally dismal outside. It's not the rain I mind as much as the dark - having to turn on lights in the middle of the day is annoying. And my mood is usually affected by the lack of sunshine if it lasts more than a day.

For today, though, I will be contentedly staying at home because I have family visiting and there is nothing boring or depressing about having them in the house. I put a high value on family and when they are under my roof I am especially content. There are little ones to play games with, and entering into their fantasy world is like a fountain-of-youth. And the older members who are here are contact with my own youth, when I was busy running after one or more of them and enjoying every minute of it. (Well, almost every minute!)

It is the perfect antidote for a rainy weekend. Time to go bake cookies!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Civic pride

As I was driving down Main Street yesterday morning I noticed that the highway department crews were out in force, changing the flowers that are planted around the village in various places. One crew was at the flagpole at the Buell Lane intersection - another was near the Post Office where Gay Lane exits onto Egypt. It made me contemplate about how nice it is to live in a place where "pride of place" is so evident - not only in the way our homeowners take care of their properties, but in our public spaces as well. Each village or hamlet does something to set it apart from the others and the results are really special. In this case, the impatiens and begonias that we enjoyed all summer were being replaced by beautiful autumn-hued mums of gold, orange, yellow, and purple. East Hampton was putting its autumn coat-of-many-colors on.

In Hampton Bays they have beautiful street lamps with double arms where baskets of fresh flowers hang every summer. I'm sure it's not easy for the highway crews to water those hanging baskets but they always look well cared for. I don't think most of us mind some of our tax dollars going to make our communities look beautiful - at least I know I don't. The small amount it costs me is worth it for the smile it brings to my face when I drive down the street and see a symphony of color at every turn - Bannister Park, The Hook Mill, the flag pole...the list goes on. Add those places to others wonderfully landscaped private spaces, like the Hedges and Huntting Inns, and it makes for one beautiful place to live.

They are calling for rain this weekend. It's always a drag to be stuck inside for more than a day, but it will be so good for those newly planted mums...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The jetty


A friend who follows my blog wrote me an email suggesting that I write something about the jetty at Main Beach. She went on to talk about what a place of refuge that had been for her, all through the tumultuous teenaged years when she would walk down there for solitude and a place to cry. The truth is that I think everyone who grows up on the East End finds a special place to go when life closes in on them, but those special spots are as different as we are and everyone could tell their own story.

I often went to the beach too (I still do!), but didn't usually walk all the way to the jetty. I found my solitude along the way somewhere, on a dune overlooking the breakers, shielded from the wind. Or even sitting in my car gazing out at the surf. For others I'm sure there were special spots on the bay side, or perhaps they roamed the woods in northwest back when it really was woods as opposed to all those house lots. It was someplace in their neighborhood where they could be alone with their thoughts and contemplate the latest crisis in their young lives, which in my memory was a pretty common occurance.

I think there are those places everywhere in the world, where spurned lovers go to mourn, or confused teens go to contemplate the meaning of life. I seem to remember that it was the Brooklyn Bridge in the movie "Saturday Night Fever". But I doubt that anyplace else in the world has any more beautiful places to sit and puzzle over life's mysteries and difficulties than we do right here.

The jetty at Main Beach seems as good as any. I wonder how many people use it still?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Homefires

Stepping outside on a crisp autumn day and catching the unmistakable whiff of someone enjoying a fire in their fireplace - I really love that! It may be coming from three or four houses away but it is an unmistakable odor and it never fails to evoke memories of family times around a snapping fire. I always stop for a long moment to just enjoy it.

I would be bored to tears in a place where the months all ran into one another with very little change in the weather. I love the seasons and I look forward to every one of them in turn. I especially appreciate the "firsts" of each one, like today - the first smell of a fire in someone's fireplace. Soon it will be the first snowfall, then the first scent of newly mown grass, and then the first warm day when we can sit out on the patio for dinner. There are others as well and I greet them all with enthusiasm. I'm sure this says something about me as a person, but I get bored when I am at anything too long. The weather is no exception - I like change.

It is still fairly early in the morning as I write this, and there are long shadows across the empty field across from my house. It is this time of day when the sun has not yet had a chance to warm the air when we tend to build those fires in our living rooms or dens - perfect for warding off a morning chill. It signals the passage of another summer and the start of another winter. What a treat.

Those who have them can keep their perfect climates - I'll take this one, thank you!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Riverhead


I have to make a trip to Riverhed today. When I was a child I thought that going to Riverhead was a trip to the "big" city - and it was to me! (It was the closest I ever got to a real city until I was about 12, I think.) In Riverhead there were numerous traffic lights (as opposed to the single one we had in East Hampton at the time), and they had parking meters and big box stores! I think it was Robert Halls where we headed in late summer every year to do our back-to-school shopping. I thought that was a wonderful place, with racks and racks of clothing and long aisles I could not see the ends of. For a small town girl who was used to shopping at Brill's Store (under the bridge) or the Carousel Shop (on Newtown Lane), it was a very exciting world. Riverhead was awesome! Then my mother would take the four of us to lunch at The Star Luncheonette, or at the wonderful little diner right there on Main Street. Yes, Riverhead was full of wonder for me.

Now it is more a necessity as there are few shops a local person can afford on the East End. I am grateful for the way our downtown area is beautifully maintained and I love to window shop at places like Tiffany's, but they are not stores I can shop in and not the kind of places I would go for everyday needs. With the exception of a few special places (Steph's Stuff, for instance) this is no longer a place to pick up a last minute birthday gift - or find the little neceessities of life. (Sag Harbor is still a haven of local shopping, but I'll talk about "the Harbor" in another entry!) But...there is Riverhead!

Office Maxx, Old Navy, Gap Outlet, Target - those are the places I have learned to shop for the essentials, and with a little planning I can do a month's worth of errands in one quick trip. After all, a tank of gas needs to be used carefully, so I've been making a list for some time now: Home Depot for light fixtures, Jockey for underwear, Williams Sonoma Outlet for new baking sheets - I have it all mapped out. With a stop at TJ Maxx (if I have time) and then BJ's on the way home to stock up on paper goods and big bags of chicken cutlets, I am ready. Riverhead may not be the "big" city, but it is still a place that I am happy to visit.

And I can still eat lunch at the luncheonette on Main Street and feel as though it's 1965 all over again...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Politics

Politics in a small town is an interesting thing. On the local level its tricky business because if you hold public office you are always aware of the fact that you may run into someone at any time who wants to complain about something that's effecting them personally - at the grocery store, the hardware store, the pharmacy - they know where you live and they know how to find you and they are never shy about voicing opinions! Most politicians who hold a state or federal office will tell you that they would not change places with a local official for anything in the world, because they love their safe, comfortable offices where they have aides and secretaries to sheild them from their constituants and screen all their phone calls.

But national politics is especially fascinating. I have no idea, for instance, how my neighbor is going to vote in the next election. Nor do I have a clue about the person sitting next to me in church or at the movie theater, chatting with me in line at the grocery store. Unless someone is very visibly involved in local politics, we really don't know - or care - how they vote. It is one of the most amazing and special things about our democracy that we can talk about politics at a dinner party, argue over platforms and issues, and worry over who will do the best for us at the end of the day. But when we enter that voting booth and pull the curtain closed behind us, the way we vote is between us and God. That's the way I like it.

And that's why in a small community we can all still be friends.

My brother

Today is my brother's birthday and dates like this always spark memories for me. My brother has always been a bit of an enigma - very, very quiet - and for the most part keeping his thoughts to himself. It's not easy to draw him into a conversation unless you know him pretty well. Yet in some ways I feel as though he is one of the people I know the most intimately. There is something about a shared history that is unique in the world of relationships and he and I share the longest one in terms of siblings. I have two sisters, but they are younger than we are and neither if them has the same memories that the two of us do.

I think perhaps I understand my brother more than most people because I was there from the beginning. He was only two when I was born so he certainly does not remember much of life without me either. I know the genesis of some of his personality traits and I appreciate the way he reacts to things in life because I remember the events that shaped him.

I have always been a very introspective person, especially fascinated by the inner workings of our minds and souls, so even as a child I was more than a casual observer when it came to people and relationships. I like to think about what makes people tick. Now that both my parents are gone he is my most studied subject - in years spent at least.

My brother is an honest, caring man who has more integrity in his little finger than most people have in their entire bodies. Some of that can be attributed to our mother, who was a woman of great character and raised her children to carry that attribute as well. But there is an inborn genetic factor to how we become adults, I have no doubt about that. And he certainly proves the point.

It's a shame he is such a quiet and unassuming man. More people could benefit by knowing him. Happy birthday brother!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A quiet house

I am alone in the house this weekend and it is eerily quiet. There are some things I really enjoy about having the place all to myself. Like total control over the remote control, or no TV on at all when I want to curl up with a good book in peace and quiet. And of course the opportunity to eat whenever and whatever I please - I stocked up on lots of junk food yesterday. These are the kids of small pleasures that we willingly give up when we choose to share our lives with someone else, but then when the occasional opportunity arises to experience those little joys, it is a welcome pleasure.

The flip side, however, is the unfamiliar territory of an empty house: the little noises that I don't usually notice; the desire to suddenly tell someone something when no one is there; and the really shocking temperature drop in an unshared bed! I will need to get an extra blanket out for sure...

So this weekend I will work at keeping myself busy. Since it is autumn, it is a good time to be alone in the house. There are things to do outdoors and its easy to get round - no traffic and no ice to hinder my meanderings. Or I can read a book or doing nothing at all - with no one to make me feel guilty about it simply because he's so busy working around the house himself.

To start, I am off to the yard sales!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Summer for locals


Someone made the comment recently that the autumn is "summertime for locals" and I think that statement is so true! The beaches are beautiful, the weather is picture perfect, and we have the whole wonderful place largely to ourselves. It is the best of what August can be on the East End, only without the craziness that forces us to avoid certain times and places when we navigate from one venue to another. We all love being able to make left-hand turns, and better yet, not having to tolerate those people in the height of the summer who refuse not to make left-hand turns - despite the fact that they are going to disrupt traffic and make other people sit and wait for them for inordinate amounts of time because, obviously, no one is as important as they are!

Yes-this is our summertime right now and we relish it, don't we? We walk around smiling, greeting familiar faces that we haven't seen in months, and simply enjoying this place that we call home. Yesterday as I sat with my left-hand blinker on at an intersection, the person in front of the long line coming in the opposite direction motioned me to turn ahead of him! That would never have happened a few weeks ago! And when I ran into the IGA for a couple things earlier this week, the person with the big load of groceries in the line ahead quickly indicated that I should go ahead of her. Amazing! It is those small kindnesses that we miss the most I think.

I am so happy to have them back!

Farm Stands


One of the best things about the autumn is the way the local farm stands look with their fall produce gloriously and proudly on display. The oranges, reds, and yellows of the pumpkins and indian corn along with the still abundant greens of all kinds are a fabulous palette. Combine that with the way some of them are decorated so beautifully with dried cornstalks and colorful potted mums - well - it just shouts joy at you as you are driving by. The fact that they are usually sitting in front of huge green farm fields makes it an even more spectacular site and every year I enjoy it all over again.

It's interesting to me how colors that I would never claim as "favorites" (like orange, for instance) become simply irresistable in nature and I love every combination, no matter how "unfashionable". Blue sky against green trees? Perfect! Red peppers next to orange gourds? No probem! God puts them together all the time without a second thought about what the fashionistas think!

Today I am heading west and I will enjoy the trip as I pass farm stand after farm stand overflowing with the autumn harvest. One of my favorite things about the East End.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cedar Point

I had reason to be at Cedar Point Park early this morning as the sun was coming up over the horizon, and what a sight it was. I stood on the calm water's edge gazing out over the glass-like surface across to the lighthouse, the light filtering through the low lying clouds and lending a pink hue to the lower sky. Breathtaking.

The early light is always especially beautiful - it is almost etherial in the way it bathes everything in it's special glow. And when it is filtered through trees or clouds, sending great shafts of morning brightness to the ground - well - it is really something to savor. Moments in time.

There are so many places around town that I rarely see and this morning made me realize how hidden some of the most spectacular views are. Not that they are necessarily private (although some of them are) but just that they are not part of our everyday point of view and therefore we don't get to expience them the way we should. Everyone who lives in East Hampton should see some things at least once in their lives.

This brings to mind a new book that's out now titled "1000 Places to See Before You Die". I am going to begin compiling my own list called "100 Sites to See on the East End Before You Die" and one is going to be the Cedar Point Lighthouse at sunrise. Another will be sunset at the Montauk Lighthouse. I think the full moon rising over the ocean in September will make the list along with the view from the top of the Montauk Lighthouse on any beautiful clear day. So far that's four.

So, readers, do you have any suggestions? I will gladly add them to the list. Send me your thoughts please! I sense a future book in the making...and I would love to discover some other places I have not yet thought of!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Southampton

Today I am meeting a friend for lunch in Southampton. When I was a young girl I thought that Southamtpon was incredibly upscale and quite sophisticated compared to East Hampton, just oozing "old money" and Lily Pullitzer prints. It is interesting the way the two towns have become more alike as the years have marched on, and yet there is still a distinction between them.

Southampton is blessed with a Main Street that is not on Rt 27, and the more quiet, calm traffic is the result of that. There is a more "civilized" feel to the slower pace that is palpable when you meander down Jobs Lane, window shopping in stores that you cannot afford to step into and fantasizing about a wealthier life. The fact that it is off the beaten path makes it more appealing for a shopping trip and much more conducive to a nice long lunch with a friend.

East Hampton, on the other hand, feels more frenzied, even in the off season. The crush of traffic - especially commercial traffic - and heavy trucks passing through make it noisier and more frantic. It's a shame that the proposed by-pass was defeated back in the 1970s, something that most locals were very much in favor of. It was the beginning of the "take over" in my mind - a time when those who were moving here or holding second homes here began to have more say about how the future would unfold, and although they like to take credit for all the preservation that has taken place here in the past 40 years, "saving" the East End, that single defeat of the proposed by-pass was, I think, the worst thing that ever happened to us.

So I will head off to Southampton for my leisurely lunch with a friend and I'll enjoy the slow traffic and quiet streets, devoid of heavy trucks and drivers simply passing through, and I will wish it were the same here in East Hampton.

Southampton has become a refuge. Who would have thought?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hamlets

Being in The Springs yesterday has gotten me to thinking about the wonderful little hamlets that make up East Hampton. It's like a microcosm of the entire East End, with the smaller communities, each with very distinct and wonderful personalities, making up the larger community, which takes on all the attributes contributed to it and becomes a larger unit: diversity, yet tremendous unity. I suppose you could follow that thought all the way up to the level where we are "united states", many pieces forming a whole quilt, made stronger by being pieced together with sturdy threads.

Growing up in the village has allowed me to know that area most intimately, of course, but I love meandering around the streets of Sag Harbor where my ancestors traveled to pick up their supplies and ship off their goods. It is easy to see the bustling seaport in those narrow winding streets and imagine the sea captains in their large homes and the merchants living over their shops. And standing on the steps of the Montauk Lighthouse looking west allows me to imagine a time when there were no trees along that isolated peninsula, only grassy plains where the cattle grazed and one could see for miles and miles. And then there is Wainscott, and Amagansett, each with its own personality and connections for me.

Although I have spent most of my life living on the same street, I feel connected to every little path in town, and the history of this place is my own. As much as the village is my heart and soul, the other hamlets are my arms and legs. When I travel, and people ask where I am from, my answer is always the same: The East End of Long Island.

It's not only where I'm from, it's who I am.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Community

I attended a memorial service in Springs today for the mother of an old and dear friend. Springs has always been one of my favorite areas of town because of the wonderful sense of community they still have, and the fact that so many "local" families are still there. In some ways it is the last remnant of what East Hampton used to be from one end to the other. And, at least in Springs, that uniqeness still survives.

Anyway, it was a warm and wonderful way to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon. It was hot and the pews were full, and nary a breeze could fit between anyone's shoulders. Yet I would not have wanted to be anywhere else. Because I was surrounded by my community. Friends I went to school with, friends of my parents, friends from various organizations that I belong to - there was a connection to everyone in the room.

It's not the place we live that makes a community special, it's the people who inhabit it. Its the folks who come to your aid when you're in trouble, who drive the school buses and take up the offering in church. Its the people that make up the threads of our lives, the connections that keep us grounded and the parts that make up the whole of it.

East Hampton has grown and changed in the past 50 years, there's no doubt about it. But it is still a wonderful place to live. From Sag Harbor to Montauk, from Springs to Amagansett, from the village to the northwest woods, we are united in our love of place and our concern for our neighbors.

A memorial service for an elder of the town - but a sure example of how the threads continue to weave in and out from one generation to the next. There are many places that are as beautiful as this one that I could choose to live in. But they wouldn't be the same.

That's why I love East Hampton.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

History


This morning I am going to take a tour of an historic house that is in the process of being restored in the village. One of my favorite things about East Hampton is the history that surrounds us here. Of course I know there are many old towns all over New England, and East Hampton is certainly not the oldest of them, but one of the things that sets it apart is the fact that we were so isolated out here for the first 200 years of our existance. Because of that our history survives in unique ways, as in the old items of everyday life still sitting in the attics of long-time families, where the homes have never left their possession from one generation to the next. And in the wonderful stories that were never lost because they were handed down from father to son and mother to daughter, Each generation sharing their "stories" with their children because they were living in the place they grew up. And those items that would likely have become trash in a rush to pack and move have become instead things that are treasured and sit in places of honor in our homes or in the local historical societies.

And because we are such a unique place sitting out here on the end of this island, with such incredible beauty surrounding us that we totally take for granted, our history has unfolded in a unique way as well. From the first settlers - so feisty and charismatic - to the artists and writers, and now the Holleywood elite, the people who have populated our shores have been interesting and compelling.

So I am fascitnated with our history and want to make sure it is handed down to my grandchildren as it was handed down to me. This morning's trip to see a beautiful old home with a unique story all its own will remind me once again of the rich and wonderful place I live.

What a blessing it is to have had ancestors who thought so too.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The war

It is the beginning of what looks to be an overcast and rainy weekend in East Hampton and yet I do not find myself slipping into the usual meloncholy of such a weather report. There is still joy in the quiet calm that has settled over us here on the East End and I am enjoying it enough not to mind bad weather. All week I have been making left turns onto the highway and parking in front of the places I want to shop, so a little rain is not going to throw me off my game!

The thing that may put a damper on things this weekend is that my family is sending a member off to Iraq with a farewell party. As I watch Sarah Palin speak with such pride in her son who was just deployed I find myself in awe of her smiles and enthusiasm. How can she not be weeping with fear? I know I would be. The loss of even one life in such a senseless way is a painful thing for me, whether I know the person or not. It has brought all the horror of the Viet Nam era home to me after all these years and I hate it.

Who could forget living through the 60s with the body count and war footage on the news every night? It was part of my "coming of age" and it was something that is deeply ingrained in my pysche.

Maybe the rain is appropriate for an occasion when we send one of our young men to war. Maybe it will remind us that God weeps too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11/01


Who could ever forget that morning? I was sitting in my office when the minster of the church (where I worked) came over from his house and said "A plane just hit the World Trade Center". Of course we both thought right away of the small plane that hit the Empire State Building years ago - and made assumptions. He walked back to his house to see what was happening and came back to say a second plane had hit and that they were large commercial planes, and then we both knew the truth.

The morning that followed was surreal. As events unfolded and we knew the magnitude of it all we opened the front doors of the sanctuary to let people know they were welcome to come in. Then we began to plan for a service that night at 5:00. He worked the phones, calling his clergy friends to plan what they would do, and I ran around doing detail work like finding candles. We thought "Maybe a few people will come on instinct - there is no way to get the word out on such short notice". I agreed to sing "Amazing Grace" and we both left work at lunchtime assuming there would be maybe 20 people in the congregation.

When I drove back to the church at 4:45 my jaw literally dropped. There were dozens of people streaming across the street, up the sidewalks, coming in all directions to the church. They came alone, or in groups right from their jobs, or as families with children in tow. It was an amazing sight. Byt 5:10 every seat was taken and they were standing in the back and around the perimters - in every available space.

Thus began a week of some of the most moving and meaningful services I have ever experienced. So many people coming together, with political leaders and clergy alike participating from the pulpit, and friends and neighbors of every faith and background gathering to seek divine guidance and the comfort of community. And every night it ended with the front steps of the church covered with small white burning candles, fixed to the steps and the bases of the columns. What a sight that was.

It was a time to be remembered. It was my generation's Pearl Harbor. It was a day none of us will ever forget.

Nor should we.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fall

It truly is fall today! Anyone without a sweater or jacket on is the type of person who wears short sleeves all winter, because it is chilly. But its a wonderful sunny day and will warm up nicely in a couple hours. What a great time of year this is!

Life really does blow my mind sometimes - how quickly the years go by. Even during the most difficult of periods, when the clock seems to stand still in some sense, you can always turn around later and in retrospect say "Where did the time go?" One day you are a newlywed and the next you have grandchildren. One day you can look in the mirror and see a fresh, young face and the next...well... I don't even want to go there. (The best thing about our deteriorating faces is our equally deteriorating eyesight!)

So - this is a good day. Perfect fall weather and a reasonable list of things to get done. Life is good.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rain


Somehow rainy days always feel like "vacation" days to me. I sort of mope around without my usual energy and sense of purpose and try hard (but not too hard) to work up the enthusiasm for whatever my duties are, feeling more like I'd rather curl up on the couch with a good book than anything else. I tend to write that off as the result of low pressure systems and how they affect us physically, but it is an interesting result of something. Maybe I am one of those people who is sensitive to sunlight - of lack of it anyway. Or maybe it is a universal response to rainy days. How about it readers - do you have the similar urge to do nothing on those days when the sun doesn't shine?

If it is a universal response - and we all feel the same way - then how does work every get done in climates like Seattle where it rains more than the sun shines? Can a city be less productive or do people just adjust to the weather over time?

These are the kinds of questions which fill my head with mindless thoughts all the time. Perhaps if I were better able to channel my mind to solving the problems of the world I would be a decision maker in Washington or New York City. Instead, I curl up on the couch and read a thriller, transporting myself to another time and place and filling my mind with adventure instead.

A mispent life perhaps.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday

I love the beginning of a new week. Thre is something so nice about being at the beginning of something - a week, a month, a year - that just makes me feel optimistic. I have all these days ahead of me to get the things done that I need to do, and I am starting fresh, without the leftover frustrations from last week. I don't know why simply the name of a day does that for me - I mean what does Monday mean, really? - it's all very weird when I think about it too much. I know it's purely a mental thing. But I can't help myself - I just love Mondays.

So here is to Mondays, every one in life and this one in particular. May they continue to inspire me and allow me to start the week off right - with optimism and hope and the desire to do great things.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New day

The first bands of the storm reached our shores overnight and everything is wet from the gentle rain that resulted, but this morning the rain has stopped and we have a chance to get out to do whatever we need to do before the next precipitation arrives. There is little evidence of the weather headed our way right now and it is easy to see how such storms caught our ancestors by surprise in the days before sophisticated weather prediction and the age of communication. It truly is the calm before the storm.

My third child makes his final move away from home today and it is a day of celebration and sadness. As each one moves on to their independent lives we cannot help but be sad at how the time has flown, and yet we are thrilled to see the fruition of our years of nurturing and concern. It is everything we want for our children from the day they are born, and yet it comes with a price. Our hearts are so entwined with theirs that it is like saying goodbye to your arm or your leg - a vital piece of who you are is going to be missing.

Parenthood is one of life's great mysteries. It is a roller coaster ride of emotional ups and down from the minute they are conceived. We hold them close, we push them away - we want to give them everything, but we don't want to spoil them. Their entire lives cause this kind of conflict in ours and yet - it is a glorious thing.

So, today, my heart will hurt a little and it will sing a little. And so it goes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fog

This morning there is a layer of fog sitting on the feild across from my house. It's one of my favorite phenomenons, fog. There's something mysterious and strange about it, the way it comes creeping in from the sea, and I love the way it casts a haze across the landscape, bathing everything in translucent light.

I have a wonderful place to watch the fog - a nice green field across from my house - and my front windows are perfect for observing it in all its various forms. It was already totally encompassing everything when I came downstairs this morning, but what I most enjoy is watching it creep along the ground on a perfectly beautiful day, almost like its mounting a sneak attact. It hugs the grass and moves quietly along in stealth mode until it has totally covered everything. Then, it begins to work its way upward until a few feet or more just hang there, totally obscuring every bush and blade of grass, yet out of the top come trees and fences, seemingly hanging in space. That's my favorite kind of fog. It looks as though you could walk across it from a distance. And then, suddenly, its gone.

I love fog.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hurricanes

News this week of not one but four storms in the southern Atlantic have me thinking about the hurricanes of my youth. It seems as though in the late 50s and early 60s we had storms on a pretty regular basis around here - I can remember one year when we missed school two days in the same week for two hurricanes that roared up the coast in quick succession.

I remember all those storms with not fear but fascination as we sat by the light of the old oil lamps which were still in the family home from the late 1800s. I made sure I brought one of them home with me when we cleaned out Mom's house last year and it sits at the ready with another old one I found when we moved into this old house 30 years ago. I still remember doing my homework by the light of an oil lamp because we knew that school would be back in session as soon as the quickly moving storm passed.

I also remember leaving the house in the family car, to drive around and assess the damage, as soon as the wind had significantly died down. We would "ooh" and "aah" over every downed tree and were especially fascinated with any structural damage observed. And of course the lingering storm surf was always the best part of the drive as we headed to the beach to see how wild the water was. It never disappointed!

With so many storms churning right now down south I am fearful that this may be the year we see a real storm make landfall here - its been awhile and surely we are overdue. Now that I am an adult those hurricanes have lost some of their charm - clean-up is no fun! And yet, they are still awesome to watch from the safety of our home. I think I face the autumn storm season with a mixture of anticipation and dread. Like so many things in life, what will happen will happen.

It's all in the living.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

School

Today is the first day of school in East Hampton and I always enjoy it. There is a real vitality that you can feel on the streets when the kids go back to classes - life all around us, on the playgrounds and in the crosswalks. I know most of them have been here all summer, but somehow when they are all massed together in one place they are a stronger presence and they make me feel the joy of life in this town. I love being stopped by a crossing guard so they can cross the street, whole classrooms of them at a time, on Newtown Lane. And I enjoy hearing their voices leave the buildings at the end of the day. Pure joy and laughter - there is nothing quite like it.

For seven years I worked as the secretary at a local church and among my favorite memories of that time are the nursery school children that attended the small school housed in the same building I was in. Because on every nice day they had recess outside and I loved hearing their voices as they ran out to the playground, laughing and yelling to each other with such unbridled energy. To me it was a chance to hear the voice of the future right beneath my open windows. It was wonderful.

So today I will make a point of driving down Newtown Lane to catch a glimpse of school in session. If I'm lucky I'll catch sight of a gym class crossing over to Herrick Park in all their youthful glory.

I love the first day of school!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Setting sun

As today closes out I cannot help but reflect on what a glorious one it has been. We have managed to string together a few really stellar days here in East Hampton and this one was a special treat because it came to us when the crowds have gone and the streets are blessedly quiet. I was able to meader down many side streets today with nary a landscaping truck or construction vehicle in sight.

However, there was one sure sign of fall on the local streets today - a group of utility trucks were all lined up together at the head of Huntting Lane in late morning, causing traffic to move around them as the drivers stood together in a group, having a nice chat along the roadway. I have a feeling we will be seeing many of those scenes this month as LIPA, Verizon, and the Water Authority all rush out to make up for lost time.

I say bring them on! Because with so little traffic on the roads it is not so hard to just go around them, and in fact we may even be able to stop in the middle of most streets and have a quick chat with the friend who is coming in the opposite direction if we are really lucky. And, if the gods are with us, we may not even get beeped at!

Ah September. It is a wonderful thing.

Monday, September 1, 2008

My favorite season

Since this is Labor Day I guess summer is "officially" over, although I know the autumn solstice is still a few weeks away. In East Hampton it surely seems like the end of the season because all the traffic is heading west and it is blissfully peaceful outside my open windows.

For me, autumn is the best time of the year in East Hampton. I love all the seasons and I welcome the changes as they come, but if I had my druthers, autumn would be the longest of them all. The weather is exquisite from September through November and I am excited that today is the first day of these, the best three months. There will still be summer-like days in September and the beach may beckon us back, especially for a bon fire with friends, but by October the beach is best for long contemplative walks, our short-sleeved shirts and cotton pants safely tucked away for yet another year and a sweatshirt at the ready on the hook by the back door. The days are getting shorter and the mornings cooler, and the light is breathtakingly beautiful, bouncing off the beautiful foliage and making long drives in the car or leisurely walks around the village a special delight.

November will usher in days of anticipation as the holidays begin to loom and we look forward to time for family and friends. Most of all, for those of us who make East Hampton our home 365 days out of the year, it's all about community.

As I grow older I appreciate all the more how our lives sit in the center of so many concentric circles which make up that community: family in the center, with all the friends and aquaintences we have making up each successive one, encompassing all of what is still a very small town in spirit and in actuality. For it is the people we know from work, our places of worship, the clubs and organizations we chose to support, and even the friends we went to school with so many years ago - these are in fact the real East Hampton - not the celebrities who visit or the silly fluff pieces on TV that make up what the rest of the world thinks it's all about here.

In the autumn we see that community in stark reality again - because it is evident all around us, in the people who don't head west on Labor Day. It's the people who stay.

And that is East Hampton.