Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene

Since hurricanes have been given names there have been a number that have become synonymous with devastation and destruction. Memories are connected to the names of these storms and even those that occurred many years ago still resonate when we hear about them.

When I was young we had hurricanes almost as a matter of course every autumn. There are so many that I remember either living through or hearing about that they have become confused in my mind somewhat, but I know they were all storms that struck the East End and made an impact here: Carol, Donna, Belle, Gloria - there are many that come to mind. Like all major events in our lives they become touchstones, full of memories and anecdotes, as in "Remember when we were driving home from upstate and Hurricane Bob hit Long Island the same time as we crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge?" or "We lost that apple tree during Gloria" - each name brings back the memories.

Hurricane Irene will do the same but more for what she did in other places than how we were affected here. We were among the lucky ones and the track left us with far less damage than in areas west of us. Nevertheless, there will be memories attached to this storm, just as there have been with each of the others.

We were well prepared at our house. I always have plenty of candles and flashlights and I'm not one who runs out and stocks up on food before a storm. First of all, with the possibility of losing the electricity I don't want things in my 'fridge and freezer. Second we probably have enough canned and boxed goods to last a month if we needed them! So there was no need to go shopping. My preparation consisted of dealing with municipal preparations, attending meetings, talking to department heads, and making sure everyone was doing their jobs, which they were. I am blessed to work in a village with a great staff and things run pretty smoothly even in the worst circumstances.

Our major decision involved where to spend the night last Saturday. Early prediction's were that Irene would strike during the night and up to 10 inches of rain were expected. Being in a low-lying area and having water in our basement more than once in this house meant that was a frightening prospect. I wanted to spend time at the Emergency Operations Center to keep my eye on things and be a presence with the staff, and also worried about water. So we considered spending the night there. This is not  great prospect since it means sleeping (or not) on army cots in big rooms with lots of other people sleeping on cots. Earlier in my life I might have found that idea exciting but at my age, not so much. But we didn't want to try to make the trip at the height of the storm either.

Fortunately the track and speed changed and the storm was finally expected to reach Long Island on Sunday morning so we made the decision to get a good night sleep at home and then get up early to make the short drive over to the EOC. As it turned out we made the best decision and were up at 5am to make the move. We were there throughout the day Sunday, watching as the storm moved west of us and then north and away. We were lucky this time - little rain fell and wind damage was not as bad as expected. A few days of clean-up and we are almost back to our pre-storm status now. With the exception of some beach erosion, we fared pretty well.

And Hurricane Irene will always bring back memories of a week before Labor Day when a few short days reminded us that we aren't as much in control as we think we are. It's God's way of humbling us, I think!  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

College

For many years this past weekend was college weekend for us. It seemed as though every year for a long time we spent the last weekend in August driving one or more of our children to college  for the school year and it was always bittersweet. We loved seeing them grow and become adults - we hated that they were leaving us behind. But it was all part of the rhythm of life and we were happy to be part of it. It's a wonderful feeling to see the children that you've dedicated your life to actually moving on and becoming an independent, content adult. College is part of the process for many of them.

So right now I'm thinking about all those parents out there who have just dropped their children off at school, many for the first time. That feeling of stillness in the house is so surreal the first time. Where once there was activity and excitement, now there is quiet and anxiety as they adjust to a new life without their precious children in the house. It's a huge adjustment.

Now that we're quite a few years beyond it all I can look back on it and remember without the feelings of sadness. Our youngest is all of 26-years-old now so we're used to having the house to ourselves. But I remember those feelings very well.

Life goes on. But my heart goes out to them!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Last gasp

Today starts the last week of the summer. Whew!

This has been a long, short, crazy, invigorating, exhilarating, exhausting, wonderful summer. We've had one or more grandchildren in the house since the middle of June. It's been great. But I'm ready for fall.

This is what I love about the seasons. There is a start and an end to each one. We have the first snow and we're excited about it. Three months later we're tired of it. The first time we eat out in the summer its so much fun. Now I'm ready to start eating at my table inside again. For someone like me, who's basically a restless person liking change in my life, its the perfect antidote to boredom. Much better than moving every few years or having multiple partners. So much simpler.

Next week I'm going to enjoy September for all its worth. I'm going to turn over the page of my calendar and think about decorating my back deck with chrysanthemums. And I'm even going to wonder when the first snow will fall...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunset

The sun is dropping below the horizon earlier these days. It's a sure sign that summer is nearly over when the late sun comes in my front windows by 6:30. It's when the sun is low in the sky and we need to close the shades to keep the glare off the television set. In the winter it happens about 4:30 and in July not until 8, but now dusk is settling in as we finish dinner. Yes, autumn is not far away at all.

Some of my grandchildren started school last week. They're a bit earlier in Pennsylvania than here in New York. It's been a busy summer and I can't complain about its brevity because we've squeezed about as much activity and fun as we possibly could out of it. We grabbed hold of every day with gusto and did so many fun things, enjoying the grandchildren and all the joy they bring wherever they go. I'll miss them when school starts, but life goes on and seasons change. They're growing up and I'm growing old. Life is such an adventure if we just take the time to enjoy the trip. Too many people are caught up in the details of the travel and forget to look at the scenery along the way. Not me. I see everything and enjoy it all.

The sunsets are beautiful right now and they happen at a good time for enjoying.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Planning ahead

Well we're preparing for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irene here on the East End so I'm preparing myself by setting up blogs for the next few days in anticipation of the possibility there won't be electricity (or computers) for me for awhile! I have written some blogs ahead and hope to have my power restored in time to pick up where I've stopped, but that remains to be seen.

These past few days have been busy ones as we public officials work on getting things in place for the storm. Meetings have taken place and staffing has been handled and for the most part I think we're as ready as we can be. Department heads have seen to such things as fuel for trucks and chainsaws and cots for emergency personnel to use for napping. There are many details to tend to and then when all is said and done, we sit and we wait. Today we're waiting. Everything has been done that needs doing and we stand at the ready to handle whatever comes.

No doubt, if history is any guide, we'll be without phones for a few days too. It's always interesting to be cut off from the world in terms of communication, especially when we are so used to be connected in many different ways. No internet, no telephones, no cell towers - it will be an adjustment. But as long as we are all OK we will be content to eat cereal and peanut butter and jelly for awhile. All things in perspective...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Little touches

One of the things I always notice as a village official is the little things that many people probably miss. I'm a detail person and I'm sure my concerns are so minor in the overall scheme of things that others think them silly, but to me they matter.

For instance: when I first took office some years ago I spent time working on the beach heads. I wanted the rusty metal posts where signs were attached to be changed out with wooden ones. I wanted the metal trash containers to be changed to something more organic, and I found ones made with wooden slats which I thought looked much nicer against the sand. These were small changes but to me they made a huge difference.

When we worked on the beautification of the North Main Street district I worried over similar things" trash receptacles, bike racks, and tree enclosures. I wanted them to match and make a nice statement about our concern for our neighborhoods. Because of my concern over these kinds of details it was only natural that they would ask me to help choose playground equipment for Herrick Park a while back. We went through pages and pages of bright blue, red, yellow and purple play sets until I spotted one I thought would be better - brown and green. I didn't want the equipment to stand out against the beautiful park setting. I wanted it to be part of the scenery. I'm pleased with the results.

This concern for detail sometimes is not a good thing. I can get so involved in the small things that I lose sight of the big picture. I need to be brought back to reality sometimes and reminded that the bottom line is also about finances. But for me, the first thing that I notice is the small details wherever I am. It's something that haunts me in life and makes living with a not-so-detail oriented person a challenge. But hey - this is what makes life interesting, right?

Someone else handle the big picture - I'll keep track of the details!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Preparations

Yesterday afternoon I attended a meeting about preparations in the village for the approaching hurricane. And now here I am at 2 in the morning, wide awake, thinking about all the details of that meeting.

There's so much that goes into the running of a municipality and the heads of all our departments are very competent at their jobs. The highway superintendent talked about getting in an extra fuel delivery and the police spokesman about additional personnel, for instance. But once I was assured that everything was being well taken care of and plans were in place for all possible contingencies, my mind began to wander to my own house and belongings. And those are the things that keep me awake at this hour.

I'm thinking about the furniture that has to be put away, the flower pots on the deck, the awning that's out, and the trees in the yard. I'm thinking of the rain we're going to get and worrying about flooding in our basement. And of course I'm thinking about my children and worrying about the things they're already worrying about. Being a mother means never being able to let them worry on their own! I wonder if my son has figured out what to do with his sailboat, for instance. I know he's grown up now but do we ever really think they can manage everything in their lives without us? I suppose we don't want to! And of course being in the insurance business I'm thinking about my husband and the work he'll be doing next week to take care of his customers.

It looks as though we're going to get this storm one way or another. The most we can hope for is that it moves a bit to the east of us and we only deal with the outer bands, which will be damaging enough. The worst will mean a direct hit and its been awhile since that's happened here. I know we'll survive it but I hate to think of all the clean-up and mess it will leave behind, and in a way it will signal the end of the summer. Once you've put all the outdoor furniture away and the flowers pots have been stripped clean it's hard to get back into summer mode, even though the weather may be beautiful for another month.

This may be the last few days of our summer mentally here on the east end. If Hurricane Irene pays us a visit the skies will clear and the winds die down but our heads will already be into the fall.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Real Estate

When I was young my father dabbled in real estate. My grandfather had an agency and had been a real estate man for many years, often selling homes more than once. He know the history of every house in the village, who built it and who had lived in it since it was built. Anyway, because my father's insurance office was connected by a doorway to the real estate office it was inevitable that he would sometimes get into the real estate end of things as well. Over the years he bought and then subdivided a number of large pieces, including Hansom Hills and Hands Creek Harbor.

Unfortunately my father was not great at handling his fortunes and lots of money went through his hands - he left very little behind. He was like a gambler who continued to let everything ride and at the end of the day it didn't do well by him. But one of the things he used to say which I believe to still be true is this: you can't go wrong by investing in real estate in East Hampton. My own house, which we bought in 1979, is worth over twenty times what we paid for it. Had we been able to buy other real estate we would be rich now. We could, of course, cash in - but then we wouldn't be able to live here so we're essentially living in our bank, like so many other people here.

All this brings me to my present frustration. Right now is a great time to invest in real estate here. Prices are lower than they've been in a long time, there are foreclosures to be found, and people are settling for less than asking prices to get out from under debt. This was unheard of ten years ago. And that's my frustration. I still can't invest. Because I'm still living in my bank. Oh the dilemmas of living on the East End!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Late August

The thing I love about the end of August is how we can feel the seasonal change coming. We have moments of autumn in the midst of the heat, mornings that are cool and breezes that are sweet. We have an occasional rainy day where it feels every bit of September and in the midst of all the traffic and craziness of summer its a welcome relief. I can't wait for Labor Day.

The ambulances have been so busy I think we may just close up shop in September and tell people to fend for themselves. Enough already! The police departments are overburdened and the highway department personnel must be really tired of picking up people's trash. It's amazing to me how people will pile trash by the receptacles at the heads of the beaches, not bothering to take anything home with them at all. We always take our trash home with us and throw it away in our own receptacles, but it seems that people will have parties and then leave every bit of their trash for the municipality to take care of. It's shameful really. Bags and bags overflowing the cans on any given Sunday morning.
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September is only a few weeks away and at this time every year we're all looking forward to it. We love getting our space back. Its rather like when your kids come home from college in the summer and then leave again in the fall. You clean up, settle back in, and enjoy getting things back to normal again. Soon enough the "kids" will be leaving East Hampton and we'll have all our space back again. It sounds wonderful to me...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Name changes

One of the things I'm fascinated with around these parts is the way names change. Not people's names, but place names. For instance: growing up we went to "Wiborg's Beach". It was called that because its the beach where the Wiborg family had their estate and it was named after them by the locals who simply referred to it as "their" beach. It was "Wiborg's beach". No one calls it that anymore. Now it is simply referred to as Wiborg Beach, on signs, in literature, etc.

Another case in point is Ditch Plain Beach. It was always "Ditch Plain" because that's where it was, at the end of a plain. Somewhere along the line someone added an "s" and now everyone calls it "Ditch Plains", which really doesn't even make sense.

Then there's Northwest Woods. Now its' simply referred to as Northwest. I guess it makes sense since there are so few woods left there, but still....there are enough to warrant the name and I like the connotation. Other names have lost the apostrophes - like Stephen Hands Path.  And of course, the aforementioned Wiborg.

It's not just a name change, it's the lost history that I bemoan. We so easily forget where we came from and who got us here, the least we can do is honor their names and remember where they lived and worked and traveled. Why not?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ellen's Run III

Today is the third year of Ellen's Run for the Strong Connections team. And there is a certain measure of contentment that goes with the anniversary.

It was the summer of 2009 when I was just recovering from chemotherapy that one of my darling nieces said "We should do a team for Ellen's Run!" I wasn't sure it was possible - didn't know how many people would actually want to participate and didn't know if I could walk myself as my energy level was still pretty low, but with her encouragement I got to work organizing a team. First we needed to come up with a name so we brainstormed about that for a bit. I wanted to have the word "strong" in the name because that's my family name and since the idea started with family I thought it would be appropriate. When we hit on "Strong Connections" I knew it was perfect because I'd already heard from some friends who wanted to join the team, and after going through my treatments and seeing how a community can make such a difference in the tough times of life, I knew it was true. Connections are so important. And those connections truly have made the team a reality. Many friends, members of the ambulance association, Facebook acquaintances, people I work with at the hospital on Tuesdays...the list is significant. The first year we fielded a team of 35 - last year it was 85 - and this year's final tally isn't in yet.

I'm incredibly touched every year when I watch friends and family members leave the starting gate to walk with me along this route. It seems so symbolic as the same people who walked through my illness, surgery, and treatment are there for me still. Isn't there some saying about knowing who your true friends are when times are tough? I only need look around at Ellen's Run to know the answer. Those are the people who put their lives on hold for a few hours one morning a year just to let me know they care. And it means the world to me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

No harm

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was sitting in at an old job the past couple weeks and it was an interesting experience. All the processes had changed since I sat in that desk, including all the computer programs.

On one of my last days there I pushed a button and the entire icon menu of the main program I was using for word processing disappeared. I searched through all the menu options, and used the "help" option, trying to restore the screen to its previous form, all to no avail. Then on the very same morning I leaned over the computer to answer the phone and when next I looked the entire screen had taken on a yellow hue. Not just one program, but everything on the monitor was now yellow. It looked as though I had placed a yellow spotlight gel across the screen and everything was now a sunny shade. Oy vey. I started pushing buttons, trying to figure out what I had done, again with no luck. I didn't want to leave things in such a state so I put in a call to my favorite computer geek, my husband, who came in the next morning to try to put things back to the way they were supposed to be.

My main promise to the person I was filling in for was that I would "do no harm" and here I was screwing everything up for her. This was not a good thing. Fortunately my tenure there ended before I was able to crash her computer and destroy all her records and I must say I was relieved that I didn't do any irrepairable damage. But honestly it made me wonder - what would I do if left to my own devices? It's a scary thought....

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bar-b-que

It rained on the annual Calvary Baptist bar-b-que this year. All day the rain came down and we kept thinking about the people out there slaving over the fire pits.  This is one of my favorites in the local annuals because they offer, not only the pre-requisite chicken, but also the most delicious ribs known to man. I've been going since I was so young I don't remember before it existed.

So about 3:30 in the afternoon my son and husband went to pick up the food. Since the family was coming to share in the feast, it made more sense to bring it home, especially with the weather so foul. We knew the church basement would be crowded so I set the table here and prepared for the meal.

Once here we piled all the chicken and ribs into a container, put the potato salad in a bowl, and set the table. We gathered around to share it all and spent the next hour around the kitchen table, gnawing at ribs and licking our fingers. As always, it was delicious. We finished it all off with a freshly baked chocolate cake, saving the water melon for the next night.

Once the clean-up was done and the leftovers put away, I sat back and thought about the annual event. It has rarely rained for this one and I can't remember the last time we had to eat it indoors. But it's always memorable and never disappointing.  I hope next year the church members don't have to deal with bad weather, but either way we'll enjoy it just the same. There are some things that just make life seem consistent and predictable and the annual Calvary Baptist Bar-b-que is one of them. And "normalcy" is such a wonderful thing...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sacrifice

I belong to a group on Facebook made up of natives of the East End who share thoughts, memories, photos and what not. It's interesting and fun to hear from people far flung and from our past, but also a bit disconcerting sometimes. For instance, over and over again I hear people talk about how they "had to leave" East Hampton because they could no longer afford to live here. And while I realize that sometimes is the case and people must leave for economic reasons or to seek opportunity elsewhere,  I also know that we who stay make great sacrifices to do so and that's somehow lost in that sentiment. It implies that we who stayed were better able to do so financially, and that's a real injustice. Because all of us who live here could choose to have more money, bigger houses, and a higher standard of living if we were to go elsewhere too. Not that there's anything wrong with that choice - but it is a choice!

Here are some of the things we have given up to stay here: vacations (we rarely take one and when we do it's often been financed by someone else - our parents when we were younger and our children now!); better colleges for our children; an easier lifestyle with people to do our lawn care and housework for instance; quiet summer nights with little traffic and noise; renovated bathrooms and other spaces we just don't have time to do ourselves and can't afford to have done by someone else. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes I long for the money to take a nice vacation somewhere. I want to get away and see the good old USA. I'd love to spend a week in Bermuda. I'd like to go anywhere! We can't do that because living here is expensive, so there's a trade-off. We have to do without things to keep our lives here because it does cost more. For all of us. Many natives work two or three jobs to be able to stay here. I certainly don't begrudge anyone not wanting to live that lifestyle - I don't blame them - but at least acknowledge that it's a choice! I feel blessed that we were able to get housing here. It's not easy. And some people simply cannot do it. But even those of us who can pay a high price to stay.

Last weekend we went to Wyborg's beach for dinner. There was a full moon rising - barely visible at first against the almost beige sky, but more and more evident as the night fell. It was strikingly beautiful in the clear night sky and sent a stream of bright light beneath it which lay a path of twinkling white across the black of the sea. I've seen my share of gorgeous moonrises in my lifetime but none more amazing than that one was. And as I sat watching it I knew in my heart that all the sacrifices in the world were worth it to me because I was here, in Bonac, seeing things just as my ancestors had before me and appreciating the sacrifices they made to create a home here as well.

Sometimes life is more about the gift than the sacrifice.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tiger

Well...as they say....oh how the mighty fall! It's been a couple years no since Tiger Woods was on top of the world, at the pinnacle of his career and young and good looking - he had the world on a string. He's still in the news all the time but the headlines are more likely to read "TIGER DOESN'T MAKE CUT" as they are "TIGER IN FINALS". It's a sad commentary on human behavior and a sorry peek inside someone's private life.

What's interesting to me is the fascination with his life and the mess he's made of it. Here is someone who looked as though he "had it all" in life, and yet he was willing to risk it all for more. How many times have we seen such scenes played out in movies or television, usually involving someone who wins a big jackpot in Las Vegas and can't simply walk away with their good fortune but instead risk it all looking for more and end up losing everything.

What is it about humans that we are never content with what we've got? Well, I guess I shouldn't say "never", because I'm pretty happy with my life and I know many people feel the same. But I also know that even those of us who are pleased with our stations still have the occasional longing. Like "wouldn't it be nice to have someone come clean my house every week for me" or "I really would love to have a bigger bedroom". We all tend to fall into moments of want, although they are brief and at least in my case they are usually followed with self-chastisement for not being appreciative enough for what I have.

I supposed its only human nature. But what I really suspect is that, at least in the case of Tiger Woods, there may be a gender discrepancy. I rather think most men look at him now and think "Wow-he should have been more careful" or "Too bad he got caught" whereas most women are thinking "What a cad - he deserves to be right where he is!". Some may feel pity and others gratification.

I rather think he's a sympathetic figure...someone to be pitied, But I'm also sort of happy to see that there are sometimes consequences to our actions.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stefanie

Over thirty years ago now our dear friends lost their three-year-old daughter to a rare congenital disorder that struck without warning and took what they believed to be a perfectly healthy little girl within a three day period. If was three days of agony and those of us who were their friends suffered each step of the way with them. All these years later I remember every one of those days and can still feel the angst and grief that accompanied the shock of her death. It was a horrible time - one I hope I never have to experience again.

What's interesting to me is how her life has continued to touch people throughout these years. It may have been a short life and it may have touched very few people in its brevity, but those of us who knew her will never forget it. Nor will we forget the feelings of helplessness and uncertainty. And the way it forever put our own lives in perspective and made us appreciate each blessing as it came, never taking things for granted and always acknowledging the blessing. Over thirty years have passed and although our friends have moved to another state and we rarely ever see them anymore, I still remember the day she died (today) and the day of her birth in November. I'll stop at the cemetery and leave some flowers to mark the anniversary. Our friends had four other children and I don't remember any of their birthdays. But I remember hers.

Sometimes life is just as described in one Biblical passage - like a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. But even the briefest of lives can touch us in profound ways and change us forever. Today will always be a memory of a sad time in our lives. But also a celebration for a short life that will always be remembered.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Knees

Why is it we really don't appreciate our various body parts until they betray us? Feet, hands, backs, necks - we rarely give them any thought unless they suddenly go awry. Thus it is with knees as well.

About 18 years ago I did something to one of my knees when I jumped out of the back of the ambulance. I knew it hurt but I brushed it off as a sprain, but its never been the same. I can go for months without giving it a thought but then a twist in the wrong direction or a step the wrong way and the twinge reminds me things are not as they once were. And for the following week or so it continues to remind me that I have a weakness there.

Recently I've been more aware of that weakness as my knee has actually started buckling at inopportune times. I'll be walking along, minding my own business, and BAM! - I nearly fall down. It's a strange feeling and I worry that some day I actually will fall, although so far I've only been given the warning and not experienced the consequences. I'm crossing my fingers.

These are the things that remind us we're aging. The body starts letting us know its just not what it used to be, and all those years of wear and tear are taking a toll. So often I think about one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, "It's a Wonderful Life". It came when Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed were walking home together, obviously falling in love and chatting up a storm when an older man watching from his porch encourages them to kiss each other. When they demur he waves his arm in disgust and utters "Aw, youth is wasted on the young!".

I appreciate that sentiment more now than I used to. I know exactly what he meant.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Backroads

Sometimes I'm actually grateful for the traffic we deal with in the summer out here on the East End. Earlier this week I had to drive to Southampton for a doctor's appointment at 2 in the afternoon. Anyone who lives here knows that's a horrible time to be traveling west and I dreaded the trip, leaving plenty of time and heading toward Sag Harbor to wind my way across Scuttlehole and up to David White's Lane. I knew it would take me longer than a normal trip on 27 with no traffic, but would no doubt be less frustrating - and faster - than traveling Montauk Highway.

From here to Sag Harbor the traffic was heavier than usual but it was moving fine. Once through Sag and onto Scuttlehole traffic was lighter, enough so that as I worked my way up into Water Mill I was able to look around and appreciate the scenery. Surrounded by lush farmland and the occasional stand selling corn and melons, and watching the beautiful blue sky that met the green of the landscape where the horizon undulated in the distance, I found myself smiling and appreciating the place I live. I studied the furrows in the fields, wondering what kind of potatoes were growing in that rich soil and enjoyed the occasional tractor at work. It was a trip to savor rather than dread and I regretted my earlier reluctance.

Sometimes the things closest to us are the most difficult to appreciate because we're so distracted by our lives. It's a sad truth, but one that we can overcome. Taking in and appreciating what's around us is so important. I try to remember that when the traffic is making me crazy. That trip to Southampton helped.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Passings

I received word the other day of the passing of another elder in the East End community. It wasn't someone I really knew personally - perhaps by sight and to say "hello" to, but really not known to me well - and yet I felt the sense of loss I always do when one of the older generation leaves us.

It seems that we are becoming a rare breed, we natives of the area. Oh there are plenty of people here so the community is alive and well, but fewer and fewer of us actually were raised here and have ancestors who lived here. Most people now days came from away and settled in the area, choosing it as their home rather than being born into it. There is a difference.

I mourn the loss of another who has spent an entire lifetime here, working, raising a family, and making it a real community. It's the sense of belonging that makes the natives so fiercely loyal to the East End and the feeling of being part of the landscape that comes only with the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.  It's remembering when you pass a certain stand of trees that your grandfather helped plant them, or seeing a wonderful old building and knowing your great-grandparents built it for their home in the 1800s. It's also feeling a sense of place when you travel familiar roads and a sense of pride when you walk a beach, picking up other people's litter because you can't stand to see it mar the beauty of the sand. These are the things we natives know and feel and treasure about East Hampton because its part of our souls and abides within us.

Losing any elder is sad, but when its a native-born member of the community its especially melancholy. As our kind becomes more and more rare, we feel the pressure to keep the stories and memories alive, by passing them on to our children and grandchildren. But each one takes with them things we can never get back when they leave and it diminishes each of us when they're gone.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rain

We've had very little rain this summer and when it has come its been overnight. Until this week. One morning I was reading the newspaper in front of my window when I realized I was having trouble seeing the words. I looked up from the paper and saw that the light had deteriorated considerably and then knew it was going to start raining.

When the rain started it was soft and gentle but within a few moments it was more urgent and noisy - not in a bad way because it was a nice sound and I enjoyed listening to it, but it was distinctly different. I could hear the cars passing and splashing through the quickly-forming puddles. The only problem was that the back of the couch was now getting wet from the spray in the two living room windows and I had to close them nearly all the way, cutting off my source of cool air.

I turned on the floor lamp to give me enough light to read and sat there with my paper, enjoying the sounds of a nice rain on a quiet morning in East Hampton. Traffic was minimal and life was simple. These are the days I most treasure, when life just seems so sweet.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ages

Isn't it interesting how we spend the first part of our lives surrounded by older people who are a wealth of information and wisdom, and the last part of our lives wishing we had paid more attention to those people?

I find myself fascinated with old photos now. I look into the eyes of my ancestors and wonder what they were thinking. I wonder about their younger selves and what their hopes and dreams were. I wish I could ask them what they were thinking when the photo was taken and why they wore the clothes they wore and what they were doing before and after the photographer snapped this little piece of history. I want so much to know who they were, those young, beautiful people filled with hope and plans. I want to know if their dreams came true or if they were disappointed with their lives. I want to really know them, those younger versions of the people I did know: grandparents, great aunts and uncles, cousins once and twice removed who were the contemporaries of my own great-grandparents. There is so much I could have learned from them. Did she think she was pretty? Did he know what he would do with his life? Did they know how special they were?

Well, its one of the sadnesses of life. At the end of our lives we stare into black & white pictures of people we only half-knew. We know who they became, but not who they started out as. Oh the things we could have learned if only we'd known to ask...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An old job

I agreed to step in to help with my old job for a few weeks while the person holding the position now is on an extended vacation. It sounded simple enough and I was happy to help out, but now that I'm in the midst of it I'm wondering if I got in over my head.

I held this job for nearly eight years but I left it that long ago now and things have changed to say the least. The office is much improved - a nice new desk and all new cabinets, which were badly needed, and many newer machines. Unfortunately so has the routine! All the "processes" have changed, from the computer programs to the filing system. Management has changed as well. So although it seems as though I should be able to step right into this job and do it easily, I'm fighting against a learning curve that was inevitable. I don't want to mention that I'm older now because I still think I can pick things up pretty quickly, but it is true that we slow down a bit in middle-age and aren't quite as sharp as we used to be! Hard to admit, but true enough.

As I said to my husband, if I were taking this job back I would probably be able to pick it all up and hit my stride within a couple weeks. The problem is, by that time the vacationing employee will be home again and I'll forget it all again. But honestly I do miss having a regular job with my own desk and responsibilities. As much as I enjoy my flexible lifestyle there are things I miss about this old job and it's fun to sit at the desk again and do it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August people

The August people are here in force!

I'm never sure exactly what it is. I sometimes think that the people who come in August are more annoying and rude than the ones who visit the area in June and July. But then I also think the locals who live here are less patient and more aggressive in August than at any other time because we're simply tired of the rat race here in the summer. I think we smile our way through June, grit our teeth through July, and start to snarl in August. In all probability its a combination of the two things. I imagine there's a certain franticism involved with the visiting tourists because the summer is quickly coming to an end.

It actually doesn't matter why it's the way it is, but the fact of the matter is August is not my favorite month around here. I want to go away for a few weeks and come home Labor Day weekend so I can watch them all drive away and dream about the beautiful weeks of September with great weather and nice quiet streets.

August is here but we're already one week down.....

Monday, August 8, 2011

Early morn

My husband and I are early risers. I wasn't always that way - I had no trouble sleeping late when I was younger - but years of parenthood have changed me into an early bird. Between over twenty years of getting out of bed in time to get my kids off to school and being married to someone who jumps out of bed early even after the latest night, there's no going back now. Sometimes I still get annoyed at the fact that I can't stay in the comfort of my warm bed on a cool morning when there's no good reason to get out, but when the other person in your room is up, showering, and then dressing, well it's just impossible to go back to sleep. It's one of those things you give up when you love someone because you really have no choice - its either that or live alone. I try not to resent it.

In any case, by 6:30 in the morning I am always up and around. Recently as I was sitting in front of the open window in my living room, watching the morning news at about 6:45 and enjoying the cool morning air in the house, I thought about how nice it was to be up so early. The world is so quiet early in the morning - there is little traffic and the birds are active and noisy. I can hear people walk past the front of the house or biking to work. The colors in the morning are also beautiful as the early sun begins to illuminate everything, slowly eliminating the shadows and bringing daylight to the East End. Sometimes I hear the sprinklers sputter on across the street, watering the village green. And sometimes a small bird will land on the hedge under the window, not more than 3 feet from my head. If I turn slowly I can watch it as it moves its head in short, rapid bursts, looking or listening for who knows what.

Summer has many pleasures, not the least of which is quiet mornings before most of the tourists wake and get on with their days. I love the early morning in the summer. But in December its going to be a different story. Between the long dark nights and the bitter cold, I'm going to really hate getting up so early. So for now, I'm going to enjoy the pleasures of an early summer morning and the long hours of sun.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fireflies

The other night I was sitting on the back deck watching the fireflies in the back yard. They seemed to be clustered around the bases of the trees at first, but then they were everywhere. Blinking, winking, in constant motion - it was a fascinating sight. They are to me among the most fascinating creatures, like tiny flashlights popping in and out of my vision.

This summer has been one of the best in my memory. We had so many interesting events and family functions to see to, and I don't think the weather has ever been better. On this night it was warm but there was a lovely breeze sweeping though the trees and it was incredibly comfortable outside in the fresh air. We've eaten most of our meals outside on the deck this year and the kitchen table has barely been used. I eat my morning cereal in front of the television, reading the newspaper. Lunch is often eaten on my feet, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while driving my car or opening the mail. But dinner is outside on the deck, in the perfect night air. It's a little bit if heaven on earth right here in East Hampton. Ad the fireflies make it all the more enjoyable.

Sometimes there is just nothing to complain about in life.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Next door

About this time of the year I really miss my mother's garden. One of the great advantages to living right next door to her was that I got to enjoy her garden from a front row seat. Our yards abut each other and her garden was visible to us from our back deck. She had perennials galore, from phlox to snapdragons, bordering her entire back yard, and she surrounded the entire thing with impatiens every year, planting them for weeks (in different colors every year) and then spending the rest of the summer spraying them with deer repellent and bemoaning the fact that it didn't work as well as she would have liked. Since she's been gone the deer have practically taken over our back yards and I doubt she would have any luck at all with those annuals now, but she would probably still be trying. She loved her garden and so did I.

My grandfather - her father - loved to garden and I think that's where she got her love for weeding and planting, because she really did love it. I didn't inherit this same love, although I have many memories of walking around his yard with him as he pointed out the snapdragons and tuberous begonias. He had beautiful roses too. Me, well I enjoy the results but I don't like the process the way they did. Mom used to talk about how she learned spiritual lessons as she weeded her garden and how she loved getting her hands into the dirt. It was a foreign concept to me, but to her it was a little piece of heaven on earth, just as her father before her. Perhaps she felt closer to him when she was digging around out there, I don't know. But I know I feel a little closer to her everytime I glance over at the now overgrown area that she so lovingly tended. I can still see her out there bent over the hoe or shovel, or on her knees pulling weeds in her sneakers and shorts. And in the more recent years she was often there with one of my grandchildren, teaching them to love the garden too. Even today, when it no longer exists, I feel closer to her when I look at her "garden". And I'm so glad to have some of her plants right here in my own yard.

I'll never be a gardener. But I'll always enjoy seeing a well-loved garden. And I surely miss hers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My office

My daughter gave me a great gift when she was here in July - she helped me clean out my office/sunporch, which was on my list of major projects to do around the house. It was so badly in need of help that it was overwhelming and she spent days cleaning it out which gave me the push I needed to get it done and now that it is, I'm loving the space once again.

Of course, it's only half done because the clean-out is complete and now the next phase is in front of us. We need to buy new furniture and countertops and get it put together properly. The base cabinets we have out there now were from the kitchen project we did in a rental over 30 years ago. They are cheap fiberboard and meant to be top cabinets so they aren't properly raised off the carpet so the doors are nearly impossible to open and close. I need to buy new, proper cabinets, some nice filing cabinets, and some new countertops, creating the L-shape I'm wanting for the office. I need to study the IKEA catalog and figure out the measurements and then actually purchase the items - and get my sons to help their father install them. I'm anticipating that the thinking may take at least 6 months and perhaps this will be a great winter to accomplish the whole thing and have it done.

I like having projects but I love getting them completed!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dog days

August always reminds me of the year I was pregnant for my daughter who was born August 30th. I don't think I've ever known a more miserable August than that one, although the one when I was recovering from chemotherapy comes close.

We lived in a tiny little house on Abrahams Path in Amagansett where my husband's grandparents had lived. The house was small, but big enough for us with two bedrooms, and the property was very small as well. The house had no air conditioning, of course, but I was working full time so I truly appreciated the cool office I got to go to every morning. Weekends were difficult as the neighbor next door would start the lawn mower ever Saturday morning at about 6am and mow about 10 ft. from our open bedroom windows.There would be no sleeping in on the weekends!

I still remember the wedding we attended in the middle of August that summer. The temperature was near 100 degrees - the heat wave of the season - and the reception was outdoors in the groom's parent's back yard. There was very little shade but I managed to make use of it. The wedding took place at noon and the church was cooking. I remember all the details! I wore a long black floral print cotton dress but nothing could be cool enough on a day like that. I remember people coming after me with chairs everytime I stood up and walked across the yard at the house. Every woman at the party looked at me with pity.

The best thing about those experiences is they make us so much more appreciative for the luxuries we have. Everytime I turn on the air conditioning in my bedroom I think about that summer and how miserable I was. And I thank God for the cool night ahead when I'll be able to sleep comfortably. I may not be pregnant, but I'm old and I get very cranky when I don't get my sleep.

The past few weekends have been pretty comfortable and this week especially nice. This morning its cool and comfortable here in my living room with the windows opened.

Life is good. And I'm grateful for the small gifts.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Silence

My daughter left Sunday with her three kids after a six week visit. They're safely back in Pennsylvania now, nicely browned from the beach days here and thankful for the beautiful weather we had, but the silence in my house is deafening.

I think one of the great things about the way our children leave us slowly over the years, one at a time, first going to college and then starting their own families, is the fact that its a slow transition for us into the dreaded empty nest years. We adjust to the changes over time, not really noticing so much how the house is evolving - at least this is true when you have lots of children like we did. But when the grandkids come for an extended visit and then leave, its shocking to say the least. We've become so accustomed to the energy and activity in the house, from the moment they get out of bed in the morning until they get back in at night, that the sudden silence and calm is disconcerting. It's as though we moved into a funeral parlor. Suddenly I can hear every little noise in the house, from the clothes dryer to the FAX machine - did they really make that much noise before? I know exactly what my husband is doing when he's home because I hear the familiar sounds of his footsteps upstairs or out on the deck. I can even hear cars pulling into the driveway. I haven't noticed those sounds in some time now!

When they pulled out of the driveway after a flurry of activity as they packed and loaded the car, did multiple bathroom trips and packed their snacks, I sat in the living room, surrounded by the silence, with tears running down my cheeks. It's so hard to have people you love living so far away. My granddaughter (who's 9) and I made one last trip to Main Beach at 6:30am with our bagels, and we sat enjoying the calm water and quiet pavilion and talking about what a great visit this has been. Then she said "I'm happy to be going home to see Daddy but I'm sad to be missing you" and I assured her that this was truly life in a nutshell: happy and sad, often at the same time. Some of our best conversations have occurred at the beach in the early hours of the day. I will miss those as well.

I totally understand the expression "The silence was deafening" because that's exactly the way I felt. I miss them so much and achingly wish they lived closer to us. I can barely stand the peace and quiet.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Piper

My youngest grandchild is seventeen months old now and I have to say the most charming thing about her is the absolute delight she takes in everything. Now - I honestly can't say I've never met a toddler I didn't like, but they're not all as happy-go-lucky and full-of-delight as this one is. She absolutely shines with excitement when she walks into our house and her eyes smile so much they glisten. It's contagious!

I love the way this little girl interacts. She squeals with delight at every little discovery and laughs spontaneously all the time. She loves being with other children and you can tell that she watches everything they say and do, taking it all in, learning and thinking things throuh. She's one of those children that studies everything and everyone so intently and you can see the wheels turning in her head as she watches the world arund her. She's so much fun to watch as she mimics words and communicates with both voice and body. She's one of the most fun kids I've ever known.

I adore all my grandchildren just as I did my children. I love the fact that they are all so different and unique. This little Piper fascinates me. She's more entertaining than anything else around and I'm thinking it must be because she was born on my birthday....

Monday, August 1, 2011

August

I can hardly believe today is the first day of August - where did July go? Oh I know the answer, really - because I was so busy in July the month flew by as though it were a day. But gosh - time seems to be picking up speed as I age and that's a frightening thing!

August is the one month I would gladly leave the East End for a month-long vacation someplace else. I've dreamed of a cabin on a lake in Maine, or upstate NY, or even New Hampshire or Vermont. I imagine a place with a dock and small boat, a screened in porch, and a long driveway taking me away from the crowds and traffic, to a peaceful, quiet retreat in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps another cabin across the lake where we could hear children laughing at night and see the lights in the distance. No traffic keeping me from getting out of my driveway, or rude people cutting me in line at the grocery store, or people pushing for the best spot at the movie theater. For that matter, the ability to GO to the movie theater would be nice! And a spot to grab a bite to eat without waiting for a table. The list goes on and on. By August I'm growing weary of it all and I'm ready for Labor Day and our quiet little village once again.

Well, August is here and I have no place else to go so I guess we'll grin and bear it here on the East End for a few more weeks. Here's hoping its a surprisingly calm, pleasant month and all of us will be pleased. Hope springs eternal!