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September 22, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Three weeks ago, for the third Labor Day in a row, Gail and I flew down to Nantucket from Boston on a Cape Air Cessna 402 to spend the week in the part of Nantucket known as Wauwinet. This is a thin strip of land toward the northeast corner of the island, separating Nantucket Harbor from the Atlantic. It is a wonderfully quiet place, and each time we go, we become further convinced that there’s no place else we would rather be.

We had been to Nantucket long ago, before these recent annual visits. In 1984, I spent a few days there with a friend from Boston. A year later, at the tail end of our summer-long honeymoon, Gail and I flew in from New York and met the same friend for a few days. Both times, we stayed in town at a bed and breakfast. I didn’t imagine it would take 21 years for us to return. Now I imagine moving there.

Of course, we don’t have a clue what the winters are like. We know it can be cold. And windy. And wet. And we know a lot of places that are open for the summer season are closed then. And I’m betting I don’t really want to be on one of those Cessnas in a winter storm. Or probably the ferry either. So maybe moving would be madness. For that matter, we don’t really know what life is like in summer. Arriving on Labor Day has the advantage that we come as the summer residents disappear. It’s quiet, but not too quiet. Restaurants are open, stores are open, but not over-crowded.

One of the pleasures of our recent visit was the discovery of Frank Conroy’s Time and Tide: A Walk Through Nantucket, a lovely short memoir published a year before his death. The author spent years as a full-time resident, initially because as part of his divorce, his ex-wife got the home in New York and he got the unheated house in Nantucket. Eventually, he went from full-time resident to summer resident, as he took on a variety of teaching positions, including in due course the directorship of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His description of winter life in Nantucket is one reason I’m thinking we shouldn’t move too hastily, or plan for our retirement years there.

Maybe summer residence is the appropriate compromise for us, putting aside for a moment the cost of owning and maintaining homes in Seattle and Nantucket. The problem is, we can’t imagine any reason to be anywhere but Seattle in the summer. This just isn’t going to work. I may have to content myself with re-reading Time and Tide whenever I get the urge to be in Nantucket.

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