The Apex of Summer and the Freedom of September

Aug 27, 2019

Credit Mary Bergman

It was one of those days where the sand scorches your feet, where even the ocean doesn’t feel crisp enough to refresh you. Summer was at its apex, the sun and the smell of salt and sunscreen enough to intoxicate you.

She was reading a book on singlehanding, the art of sailing alone. I read the Seashore report on the Peaked Hill Bars dune dwellers, the art of living alone. It was the busiest weekend of the summer, and our thoughts had turned to escape, as our choices in reading materials reflected. The beach was littered with trucks, all polished to a high gloss, distorting the sun and reflecting it towards our little tent. We’d staged an accidental pedestrian occupation on Point O’ Breakers, come down this way on bikes looking for blackberries, but they were still a few weeks away from ripe.

I listened as the other conversations on the beach quickly turned to the catastrophic: the shark sighting off Cisco, the ticks in the woods, the traffic. And worst of all, the three most dreaded words in any child’s language: back to school.

Summer’s wave is cresting, and by the time you hear this, all the blackberries at the end of South Shore Road will be ripe. They will be plucked, one by one, and popped into mouths, baked into tarts, or turned into jam. There may be a few still left on the vine, heavy and syrupy, and just beginning to turn.

September, the sweetest month of all, is just days away. And while we know September on Nantucket is our local’s summer, amidst the relief, there is a twinge of collective longing in the air as August, a the high season, slips away again.

Sad the high season is slipping away? I must be losing touch.

Another year, another unending chorus of I don’t remember it ever being this crowded before. And some of it must be true: have there ever been more cars choking Washington Street on a rainy summer day as all of the island streams towards town to buy t-shirts and hard-pack ice cream? Has there ever been so much construction? I don’t remember the sounds of leaf blowers and air compressors punctuating my every thought on a summer morning in years past.

Could it be when winter comes, and we find ourselves talking to the same hundred people over and over again, we forget the intensity of summer? Living in a place of such extremes as we do on the Cape and Islands, us year-rounders develop a strange sort of self-preservation in this forgetting.

I will be just as happy as the next clam to have the island returned to us. There are people I haven’t seen in months, friends who enter a reverse hibernation and spend summer on one side of the island, refusing to cross through town unless their livelihood depends on it.

Summer ends, everyone leaves. Even a few you wish would stay all pile on to the ferry, their tanned arms waving at you as the boat rounds Brant Point.

But the water is still warm, the days still long. September is the time to do all the things you’d said you’d do this summer.