Islander's Blog

Archive for September, 2008

Family Scalloping

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

It is a rite of autumn. A month before the opening of the commercial season for bay scallops, the amateur version of the season begins. The rakes and waders, wire baskets and inner tubes, and the push rakes all come out of storage. A few more adventurous folks will pull on wetsuits and flippers to snorkel for their scallops.

After the first few days of the season, the talk will be about the best places to find scallops. The people who really know won’t tell. Suppers will be planned around scallops sautéed in butter and garlic and tossed with some angel hair pasta, or wrapped in bacon and broiled, or some other favorite family recipe.

I considered heading down to the Marine Department to buy my own shellfish license and become part of this annual harvest. Instead I called Rob Benchley.

There are old-timers who have forgotten more about scalloping than I will ever know, which is not that high a bar to jump over. There are younger guys who pride themselves on their scalloping, but I can never tell whether it is genuine experience or genuine draft beer doing the talking.

Benchley’s opinions are just about what I was looking for. He is not one of the old-timers, except in the curious way that we seem to all be getting older. And he is not the sort of guy to pretend he knows more than he does.

Rob knew this much when I called him: He will be out there on opening day. He has been scalloping with his uncle, Bill Hubert, every opening day for the last 20 years. They always go to the same spot, never looking for new places to scallop regardless of the size of the catch. Tradition is nothing to be trifled with.

“For years it was a passion of mine to family scallop,” he said. That passion went beyond the hunter-gatherer urge. “It helps keep me connected to the things I love about being here.”

He often pulls on his wetsuit and mask to slip below the surface looking for scallops. “It is just great to get your head under water,” he said. “You see scallops in the eel grass, maybe a couple of littleneck clams, maybe some fish swim past. There’s no noise, no ‘you got mail,’ no telephone. It’s a good way to just be calm.”

There was a day when he filled his freezer with scallops every autumn. Like everyone else, however, he sometimes feels the slog of everyday life getting in the way of things. Inevitably, what keeps most of us from getting out there are things so small they leave us shaking our heads at ourselves.

“You have to be geared up so things don’t get in your way,” he said. “The inner tube I use is flat, it’s had a slow leak for six years. So I go fill it up and put some duct tape on it. But sometimes just that is enough to make me not go. Any little thing that can stop you from going, will stop you.”

As he was telling me this I was looking at my button for the Inshore Classic fishing tournament at the Anglers’ Club. I was certain it would get me out fishing. So far it has not. I have stopped even looking at the tote board. Real life has, once again, gotten in the way of my fun.

Benchley lives out in Sconset, which quickly takes on the feel of an isolated fishing village after the summer people go home. Drive down Baxter Road toward Sankaty lighthouse some day just as dusk is settling in if you want to get a small glimpse of what life must have been like in the 1800s.

That does not mean there is nothing to do out on the edge of the island. Benchley is a volunteer firefighter, and a water commissioner, on top of the photography and writing he does to pay the bills.

“I cannot believe how much time being on the water commission takes. And it is really interesting stuff. There is the natural resource itself, state law, federal law, and the actual mechanics of getting water to people.”

Not to mention a good deal of public relations and the politics that inevitably accompany any local board or committee.

A few years ago Benchley and Jim Patrick wrote a book called “Scallop Season: A Nantucket Chronicle.” It is the book to read if you want to know what it is like to make your living on the water, dredging for bay scallops. It is an opus that covered two seasons in the lives of men and women who make up the commercial scalloping fleet.

“It was just going to be the ’99 season, but it took us two years. We kept discovering this entire universe of scallop culture. It was filled with all these things that dictate life here, or used to. A lot of it is dying off and changing.”

Life on the water used to define this island. It did not matter whether you worked on the water or not. It is, after all, an island. Scalloping, even today, reminds us of that. But it also reminds us that things change. These days family scalloping is often defined by the Jeeps of summer people and weekend people, with brand-new rakes on the roof rack.

There is nothing wrong with that. Most of them seem like perfectly-nice people. But there is no doubt things are different.

“There seems to be an urgency to family scalloping that’s just not necessary,” Benchley said. Now the freezers get filled not because someone happened to get out on the water a few days a week, but because someone set out to fill the freezer. Scallops as distinctive Christmas gifts instead of something to throw into a skillet on some random Tuesday.

Maybe it is me, but more and more moments of life here seem to be a barometer that delineates the old Nantucket from the new Nantucket.

Getting a rake and scalloping because you want to bring home supper, or because you need it to turn your head to the natural beauty you miss in the struggle to make ends meet here, is the old Nantucket. Scalloping because it is one of those iconic island things you just do not want to miss, while not a sin, is the new Nantucket.

– John Stanton

High School Football and the Ghost of Norman Rockwell

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

The crisp autumn Saturday afternoons once had an iconic feel to them, the stands filled with neighbors and two high school football teams facing off on the field. Like any number of things on this island, those days feel like a memory of a different time.

It was not too long ago that the legendary Vito Capizzo had a monopoly on athletes. Kids grew up knowing their fathers and uncles had played for Vito, wanting nothing more than to take part in that tradition.

Maybe it was the power of that tradition, combined with the feeling that football was the only game in town, that allowed a tiny school like Nantucket to pile up all those wins. Vito was able to build himself a nice program. Then things began to change.

This is not a screed against what Capizzo used to call “Commie round ball,” back in the days when the argument was that the arrival of more varsity sports would dilute the talent pool. The more choices the better, so far as I’m concerned. This season’s big game with Martha’s Vineyard happened on the soccer field. The Whalers won.

This is just me wondering what it is about football on fall weekends that makes it different from other sports.

I went to a soccer game a few years ago to watch Caio Correa, before he left to chase a professional dream in Brazil. The stands were filled, flags of Brazil and Jamaica were being waved next to the Nantucket flag, in what seemed like a symbol of the new island. The game was exciting to watch. I never went to another one.

On autumn afternoons now I root for the field hockey team.

The team seems very well coached. I know the coach, so maybe that influences my opinion. Still, even without understanding the game, it is easy to see that the players are skilled and focused.
I have a very limited grasp of what is happening on the field. It doesn’t matter. I root for them. I chat with other parents. I read the newspaper. My daughter graduates the year after next. Odds are that I will probably never watch another game, unless my granddaughter plays.

That’s what happens in high school sports. Parents go to cheer on their kids. It is great when a team puts together a good season and makes a run for the state tournament. Other than that, the final score only really matters to the players and coaches.

What used to be called schoolboy sports are simply a way to teach kids some lessons they cannot get in the classroom. How to be part of a team, and sacrifice for that team. How to win with class and lose with grace. How to show up every day. Some of those lessons are more important than the classroom lessons in the long run.

Somehow football was always different. Maybe it’s because there is only one game a week. Maybe the game is simply a part of the season, more so than other sports. Maybe it’s some kind of Norman Rockwell madness.

The crowds have been getting smaller for a few years now. I don’t think it has anything to do with wins and losses in any given year. I just think that things change.

So this Friday I will catch the Whalers first home game. I will eat a couple of linguica dogs, maybe a chowder, and see if it makes me feel like it is really autumn once again.

– John Stanton

Changing Times

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

My early married years were marked by me getting out of bed and checking the doors and windows to make sure they were locked. Growing up we were taught the importance of a locked door, and when I had my own apartment it had three locks – the one that locked when the door shut, a dead-bolt, and one of those bars that ran between the floor and the door. When I moved to a little island, where nobody locked their doors, those instincts took a few years to wear off.

Then the day came when I was sitting in a van on a street in Manhattan, waiting to return about $70,000 worth of camera and lighting equipment to a rental house, after a long shoot day. After we unloaded the equipment, the cameraman looked in the van to see the keys hanging from the ignition. I had left the keys in the van, with expensive equipment, in downtown Manhattan. it was proof to him that I had lived on Nantucket for too long.

These days I lock my doors. A friend of mine who works in law enforcement has told me for the last few years that things have changed. I thought it was just that his job had skewered his point of view, the same way a doctor might begin to think everyone has some sort of disease. But these days I am inclined to take his advice. There are too many crimes on the front page of the island’s newspaper.

So we lock our doors. I tell myself that it is just good policy. The first six months or so that I lived in my very first apartment, I checked the closets every time I came home. I don’t know what I was looking for. Just making sure, I guess. Thirty years later I do not check the closets. But I lock the doors. We are getting used to doing it as a matter of everyday habit.

Nantucket is changing. Friends of mine who were born here, or who came here as young hippies many years go, or who summered here and still have the notion of this island as the summer haven of their youth, often complain that this place is getting to be just like any other place. That might be true, but it leaves out that there are some good things about other places. We are changing and some of it is good. Some of that change is something we should celebrate. And some it requires us to lock our doors. Like everyplace else.
– John Stanton is a documentary filmmaker and writer on Nantucket

Local politics

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

The candidate drove around town, collecting his yard signs. This was very early in the morning, the results were in from Tuesday’s vote, but Wednesday had yet to really begin.

There is nothing that annoys people faster than not retrieving your yard signs. This is something the candidate had learned from more than a few years in local politics. It is easy to make enemies over small things. Politeness counts.

In the interest of full disclosure, I spent the last few months working to help the candidate try to become this island’s next state representative. But this is not about winning and losing. This is really not even about one particular candidate. So no names.

This is about sane politics versus crazy politics. This is about asking your neighbors, those that know you and those that do not, to vote for you. Local politics are as simple and profound
as that.

Someone once said that American-style democracy worked best some 200 years ago, when the voters were the well-informed and well-meaning farmers and merchants of New England. If that is true, then the act of asking your neighbor for his vote is the building block of this nation.

And so the candidate and his volunteers handed out brochures, held signs, shook hands and made phone calls. And on a clear, bright, autumn Tuesday, his neighbors came to the polls and cast their votes.

Meanwhile, on CNN and Fox and MSNBC, the insanity of the presidential election was in full roar. Everything was hype. And it seemed like everyone bought the hype. Republican friends extolled me with stories of how thrilled they were when their candidate picked a completely-unknown political neophyte as his running mate. Democrats are sure their candidate is the second coming of JFK.

Both sides pointed to the other and leveled silly accusations. Wedge issues once again got in the way of real issues.

Meanwhile, the air was filled with the news of bank closings. And every day the paperboy brings more.

It found myself daydreaming on how quickly the late, great Tim Russert would have filleted these candidates, or at least forced them to give straight answers about what they know and what they don’t know.

Politics work better the lower you get down the scale. Maybe it’s because the issues are so concrete. Who will run the Steamship Authority? How will we protect our groundwater? These are things we can debate without the hype, or the faces of spin doctors filling television screens.

And so very early the morning after his defeat in the Democratic primary for state representative, the candidate drove around in his truck and collected his yard signs. He knew it was the right thing to do. In a small, but very real way, it was reassurance that at least on some level the system works.

Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said that all politics is local. We should be so lucky.

– John Stanton

Citizen Science

Monday, September 15th, 2008

There was a shark head in Sarah’s freezer and a NASCAR race on the television in 15 minutes. So we only had time for a quick chat.

Sarah would be Sarah Oktay, who grew up in a hardscrabble part of Oklahoma and after high school cobbled together enough factory jobs, waitress shifts, and scholarships to stretch her life from a trailer park to a Ph.D. The road ended up being 17 years long.

And so years after she was working at a factory making the hard chrome for car engines, she was doing research at Ground Zero, following the path that the debris from The World Trade Center left in the Hudson River, in the wake of September 11. She was also analyzing air samples around lower Manhattan, studying what is now known as Trade Center Cough.

These days she is managing director of The University of Massachusetts Nantucket Field Station and Grace Grossman Environmental Center. The possibilities for scientific study on this island were part of what drew her here.

“In a closed system like this you don’t have to worry about the introduction of things that can change your data. I can’t believe how quick evolution is being achieved on this island. A black widow spider was found on Tuckernuck that might be a completely different species. They not only look different but act different. We are studying them to see if they are a truly different species or just a freaky new tribe. There is also a new species of knotweed that is a hybrid of two other species. That appears to have happened in less than 100 years, which is very fast,” she said.

In person Sarah does not come with a title. She moves easily between regular folks and academics. She feels science should be accessible. In fact, she sometimes uses what she jokingly calls “civilians” to collect data, including visiting elementary-school students.

“Civilians are just as capable of getting good research data. It is up to you to do a good job teaching them,” she said. “I never lived anyplace where people cared to much about science. You can especially see it in the kids.”

On this early evening at the end of August, she was in the middle of what is called a shark-gut study. As the catch from the Anglers’ Club shark tournament was being weighed at the dock, she was ready to find out what the sharks could tell her.

“We look at the size and health of sharks. We take out stomach contents to get an idea of what they are feeding on,” she said. Sharks are near the top of the oceanic food chain, so changes in their feeding habits are a window through which to see problems in the rest of the food chain. “It takes less energy for them to feed if there are a million little fish. But as certain species get overfished, the amount of effort the sharks put out to feed increases and that is important to know.”

In the midst of all the controversy about shark tournaments, Oktay’s work goes hand in hand with anglers.

“I have never begrudged people hunting and fishing so long as they eat what they take,” she said. “I am against people who hook a shark just to kill it, but this tournament only awards points to food sharks like threshers and makos. The fishermen here are very helpful. The ironic thing is that with more and more catch and release tournaments, I get less and less samples to study.”

It is messy business to cut open sharks, look inside their stomachs, collect some scat, collect samples from the brain, teeth, liver and kidney. But Oktay is the sort of scientist who likes to get elbow deep in her work.

“Life is what you make of it,” she said. “Most scientists that I know would not like it here. They like having their little teeny, tiny niche. They hate having to talk to people or work with kids. This is a good job if you like being your own boss and like deciding what to do, like being part of a place.”

Nantucket is a place where nature is often connected to politics, or at least to local debate. It is a fair bet to say that most scientists would not be so quick to jump into that mix. Sarah is more than happy to lend an opinion to local environmental debates. True to her roots, she is not one to back down when she thinks her science is right.

Sarah Oktay’s journey has given her friends who are factory workers, bikers, fishermen and university professors. Along the way she even met a few poets, one of whom she married. The gift of that unusual mix of friends is not lost on her.

“I have girlfriends in academia who do not even watch the Patriots,” she said with a shrug. “Never mind NASCAR.”

– John Stanton

Innocence Lost

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

There is a snapshot on my desk. My then-14-year-old son is standing on the Staten Island Ferry, smiling at the camera, while the twin towers of the World Trade Center loom over his shoulder in the background.

The twin towers had no meaning then, except as a backdrop, part of that great view of Wall Street as the ferry sails up to the dock.

Today the snapshot takes on the patina of an artifact from a more innocent time. It looks almost like a snapshot taken in pre-Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor. The familiar background, the posed photo, the smile. The feeling that everything after that moment is history. The feeling that there was a time when we were more innocent.

It is an illusion, of course, because every era has such moments. That does not make the images of Sept. 11, 2001 any less indelible. In our digital age it seemed like we were all right down the street, close enough to hear the rumble and taste the acrid smoke in our lungs.

We all have our stories of where we were when we heard. I was painting a house and had brought some tea to my wife during coffee break. The television was on at the newspaper, but there is often one on in the background of newspapers. Then the second plane hit the towers, a sight so out of place it appeared to be a movie. Nobody could say a word for a long moment.

At the Downyflake people were three deep around the counter staring at the television. In my e-mail box were messages from Tom Scott, images shot from a window in his downtown NYC apartment.

I found my date book and began searching for the numbers of my friend Chris Worth. Chris ran The Hub, when that place was not only a classic newspaper, magazine, and cigarette store, but a small oasis of community. Now he worked on the 62nd floor of the second tower. I dialed the numbers over and over, all morning, to no answer. Finally, he called his mother, who directed him to me.

He had left his cellphone on his desk, never to be answered again. His office had received training in how to correctly and efficiently get out of the building in case of an emergency. They did. He walked five blocks without looking back.

In those days, I often worked out of a production office in Manhattan. Chris would meet me for drinks, always at the same bar. He told me he was standing in front of that place when he heard the sound of the building collapsing. He turned and watched. Then he went inside and had several drinks.
Back on Nantucket there was an eerie silence to the day. It was not until later I realized it was due in part to the federal ban on flying. As the afternoon wore on the television was filled with stories about the attack on the Pentagon, and the struggle and crash in the Pennsylvania countryside.

In the years that have followed 9-11 there have been almost too many stories to comprehend. The firemen who responded that day rightly became the national symbol of sacrifice, and courage, and loss. There was legitimate leadership, pandering, infighting, and flag-waving. There were debates about the balance of security and liberty. There was the 9-11 Report, and no end of conspiracy theories. There was also no end of real heroes – a word that is most often overused, except when it is the only word that will do.

In America, and probably everywhere else, there is no escaping the fact that when history and symbolism collide they become politics. And when things become political they take on a certain stink. Somehow 9-11 became a political football.

The influx of talking heads and yammering politicians of every stripe brings on a kind of dull buzzing in our brains that can obscure the awful nature of that day. It became another news story, to be analyzed and argued about on Fox and CNN. And all of this is without even mentioning the war that followed.

Then one night I found my seat at Bennett Hall to watch John Shea and Amy Stiller in a play called “The Guys.” It was about a fire captain and a writer who was trying to help him write eulogies for the men he lost on Sept. 11. The entire play was just the two actors on the stage, sitting at a table, beneath a bare light bulb. It was also the first time I cried in a theater since Bambi’s mother took a bullet when I was 7 years old.

The lesson for me is to strip away the noise of politics and try to remember the moment. Most of us can close our eyes and see the now iconic photograph of the twin towers, spewing plumes of smoke, the Statue of Liberty in the distant background.

As for me, there is a photograph on my desk of a boy who is standing on the Staten Island Ferry. He is smiling. The twin towers fill the background. The sun is shining. It seems long ago.
– John Stanton is a documentary filmmaker and writer on Nantucket.

Frank the poet

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

He was Frank the carpenter. Now he is Frank the poet. The two are sides of the same coin, of course, but a few months ago Frank Cunningham decided to set aside his tools to give writing his full attention.

Carpenters, of course, are paid much better than poets. “I made $100 on poetry so far,” he said. So he will craft his stanzas until his money runs low, then pick up his carpenter’s tools again.

But until then his new life has some benefits that go further than a paycheck. He has worked with Robert Behrman, composer and music director at the First Congregational Church, and Armenian-born violinist Armen Ghazaryan, to put his words to music. Seeing them performed was only part of the thrill.

“That I could, somewhat accidentally and in the dead of winter on this island, meet some people of different skills to collaborate with has been very satisfying,” Frank said.

But his real challenge is to see if he can bring poetry to everyday life.

Frank grew up in a small town called Ballina, in county Mayo, in the west of Ireland. It is a place where someone singing a song or reciting a poem, maybe to make a point during an argument, is not considered out of place.

Nantucket is not a small Irish town where the roots of language run deep. It is a place where the average guy walking down the street probably cares very little about poetry.

Frank remains undeterred. He has read poems on job sites. The response? He laughs as he tells you, “A lot of silence. But what’s the point of writing them if they’re not heard by the general public? One thing is I think I can read my poems to anybody and they’ll get the message in it.”

He has read poems to grocery clerks, standing in the aisle at the Stop & Shop. He sometimes pops into artist John Devaney’s studio to read a new poem. And he often finds himself at open mike night in some bar, elbowing his way to the stage to read a few lines in between the singer/songwriters.

“A poem will stand up against a guy with his guitar, singing a song about some woman he once loved,” he says, laughing. “But I notice that the musicians all go for a cigarette break when I get up to read.”

Well-done public art serves the same purpose as a public water fountain. You walk down the street on a hot day, you stop at a water fountain, take a quick gulp, and walk away refreshed. Art can provide the same fine relief, especially when times get tough.

It was like that one cold, gray day this past winter. Frank ran into a Jamaican housepainter he had worked with a few years ago. He recited a poem for him that contained the lines, “Culture’s quick divide/trivialities thrown about/as both checked the women out.”

They shared a laugh, a small moment of warmth on a day that needed it. William Carlos Williams once wrote that “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

That is true even if what is found there is a small moment of insight and a smile.

 John Stanton

A sense of place

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Winston Churchill is supposed to have said something like this: We shape our public spaces, and afterward they shape us. At least that is what it says on the website for a group called the Project for Public Spaces. I found the website when I Googled the title of a book I read a few years ago called “The Great Good Place.”

In one of those ironies that seem a part of Nantucket life, especially during the summer, I had just been to a get-together for a group called ReMain Nantucket. It is spearheaded by Wendy Schmidt, whose husband Eric is the CEO of Google. Only on Nantucket.

Public spaces seem to be the next frontier for this island. We have saved plenty of open space, but the sort of informal public spaces where neighbors meet each other have been left to the rip tides of market forces.

Ray Oldenburg, the sociologist who wrote “The Great Good Place,” said that places like coffee shops, bookstores, bars and barber shops are essential to community vitality. He also said that one of the keys to such places is an owner who feels a civic duty to let people hang out in his place, which sometimes runs against the instincts of businessmen. If people are going to hang out in your shop, the trade-off is low turnover of tables and probably less money in the cash register.

This is a difficult thing to expect, especially on an island with skyrocketing property values. My film “Last Call” used the Bosun’s Locker – Preston Manchester’s saloon that once did business on Main Street – as the center of a fading community. But it was Preston’s natural sense of how his place was an essential part of society’s fabric, coupled with low property values of pre-Walter Beinecke Nantucket, that made it happen.

The ReMain Nantucket people seem serious about finding a way to shape some of those market forces in favor of community over profit. After years in which everyone understood the importance of preserving open land, we are now understanding the need to preserve a social structure called “downtown.”

They seem serious about reaching out to everyone who wants to have a voice in this.
There is, however, one question that hangs over any such project. Whose vision of Nantucket will the final picture, if we get that far, resemble?

A friend of mine likes to say that every five or six years or so there is a sea change in how Nantucket is perceived. We see this island differently, depending in part on when we got here. That same friend loves to look at the black and white photo of the Bosun’s Locker regulars standing outside the bar, just before Preston closed the doors for good.

But the future will probably not look like that. It might be time to set aside nostalgia for the black and white photograph version of Nantucket. It might be time to set aside the Town and Country version of Nantucket that newcomers seem to dream about. It might be time to think about what a new place that balances market forces with community will look like to our kids.

 John Stanton

Singing the Blues over Greens

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Things did not go so well in my garden this summer. The zucchini made it to the table, as did a few cukes, and the basil is waiting to be made into pesto, but there was none of the abundance of past summers.

Maybe there is something wrong with the miniature terroir of my back yard. We changed over to town sewer a couple of years ago, but it would be a disturbing thought if the loss of our septic tank had anything to do with it. Now every time I see a vegetable garden I fight the urge to pull my truck over, pound on the door, and subject the owner to an hour’s worth of questions about how they did it.
I supposed I could get my hands on a book about correcting the chemistry of the soil. Maybe having a garden is not about the harvesting, but the planning. Am I missing something? Is gardening all about books on gardening? Is it about winters spent researching just the right seeds to buy?

My maternal grandfather lived with us when we were kids and always had a vegetable garden, the soil packaged between the concrete and chain-link fences that defined our neighborhood. My memory of it might suffer from the sort of nostalgia that often corrupts our views of the past, but it seems to me it was always bursting with green peppers, and red tomatoes, an purple eggplants. It was a garden that suggested an invitation to a feast.

He did not learn to create this wonderful urban garden in a book. His father taught him. Along with whatever few items Pasquale Tomeo brought to this country, he carried in his head how to grow things and passed that on to his youngest son. It is the same way with cooking, passed down with the advice that, “This is how we make this dish.”

The recipes were scrawled in a notebook. I cannot remember seeing a real cookbook on the shelf when I was a kid, although my own bookcase is filled with them now.

In the end maybe it is not the harvest we are interested in after all. Maybe a few moments standing among the eggplants and tomatoes with some fleeting thoughts of family is enough.

John Stanton

That time of year again

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

We complain all summer. They are the same complaints you hear in every resort town. Too many people, most of whom seem oblivious to the fact that we ourselves are not on vacation. Two friends run into each other. One asks the other how he is. “Just making it through the summer,” is often the response.

It is a generally accepted fact that August is the worst of it. I once met a man who lived on-island all fall, winter and spring. Then he rented his house, packed up his tools, and lived and worked in Vermont between June and September. That story is met with almost universal admiration when it is told between the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Then the days begin to get shorter. There is the hint of a cool breeze in the air. Our children begin practice for fall sports. Suddenly, we cannot get enough of summer. After a season of complaint, we now ask each other where the summer went. It is like that old Woody Allen joke about the two old ladies at a buffet. They do not like the food, but complain that the portions as so small.

Maybe we feel this way not because New England seasons seem designed to remind us of what we have, by threatening to take it away. In the same way that June holds out the promise of summer, October holds out the threat of winter. Perhaps that is why autumn is the sweetest season. It encourages the bittersweet urgency to enjoy what moments we can, before it is time once again to hunker down for the winter.

So we take a ride to Coatue and spend a Sunday swimming. We pick even more zucchini from our garden and try to find yet another way to cook it. We pack the college-aged kids up for school and buy new notebooks for the ones still at Nantucket High. Personally, I take great solace in the fact that the striped bass will be back in a month or so, even though I probably will not catch one.

 John Stanton