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Coaxing summer to stay just a bit longer

Mary Bergman

September is summer dialed down a notch. By the time you hear this, we will be just a day away from autumn. But if you are like me, you coax summer to stay as long as you can. The air has been thick this September, the wind surprisingly still. I have yet to put a blanket back on my bed. The harbor was 73 degrees today, the best swimming of the year so far.

We made it through August, which seems worth celebrating. I have come to have a bit of sympathy for August vacationers — they’ve waited the longest of any of the summer travelers to visit our shores. They’ve looked forward to this week, their one trip to the beach, or to the Downyflake for donuts, or Something Natural for homemade Portuguese bread, all year long. And by the time they get here, many of us are too tired to be on our best, most hospitable, behavior.

I remember what that was like, to tuck an extra loaf of bread into my suitcase to freeze once I got home, to remember a place through postcards or photos or a slice of toast, carefully portioned out over a long winter. When I was living in D.C., I kept a black-and-white photo on my locker at work of a meandering dirt road, a classic Nantucket scene, a promise that I would find my way back to this part of the world, one way or another.

There are moments when driving around the island where I have these flashes of memory. I’ve driven down this road a thousand times before. It happens most frequently on Quaker Road, passing the old cemetery. The Quaker Cemetery is almost completely devoid of headstones, the green hills undulating like an inland sea. I see families picnicking or flying kites or, the other day, a man doing lunges, all while I’m waiting in traffic to get to the dump. It’s a strange place, where the past and present converge and the living and the dead gather.

The light will fall on the cemetery just so, and I’ll think, I can’t believe I live here. Nantucket isn’t a perfect place, but it’s increasingly becoming a strange miracle for an everyday person to live here.

I have this same feeling in my little house, won in an affordable housing lottery more than six years ago. The shingles have weathered to a respectable gray, and the rosemary I bought four years ago at an end-of-season sale has proliferated so much it threatens to engulf my small deck. I know what a gift it is to be here, in a place that is, in the cosmic and coastal geologic sense of things, not long for this earth.

The other night, September’s harvest moon rose in the sky, tinted blood red from the smoke of the wildfires out west. How disconcerting that such damage rendered so striking a scene. We drove towards the moon, towards the edge of the island, the easternmost bluff at Siasconset. The moon pooled into the sea, a silver arc rippling across the darkness. And while the distance from town to sea was only seven miles, I had waited all summer long for this moment, when the moon looked close enough to touch.