Winter

February 23, 2006

For some species, winter is a time of hibernation. And even though we don’t hibernate (most of us, that is), our rhythms do change: the days are shorter, we stay inside more, we’re less active. I think it’s fitting that winter is also when we end one year and begin the next. What better time to slow down and reflect on our lives, right?

Winter on Shelter Island…it’s difficult to explain what it’s like here this time of year to people who haven’t experienced it. There’s the good–that soothing silence when you step outside the morning after a big snowfall. The bad–the inconvenience of stores closing earlier. And the ugly–no late ferry on the weekends.

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Ecosystems

October 13, 2005

“I tell you, country clubs and cemeteries are the biggest wasters of prime real estate.” So says Rodney Dangerfield’s character, an obnoxious land baron, in the 1980 movie Caddyshack.

I haven’t really thought too much about cemeteries, but I have mixed feelings about country clubs.

I live in a house that borders Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, and I love that I can look up from my desk out my window at the beautiful wide-open fairways. In the early spring it’s particularly stunning. The wide expanses of green grass, the rolling landscape, and the bay just beyond.

Right now as I write this, the golf course is mostly brown, except for the greens, which are, well, green. As I understand it, the greens are the only sections that are allowed to be watered. The rest of the grass has died because of the drought.

But right next to the golf course I see a wooded area that doesn’t seem to be affected by the drought at all. The tall trees with their robust root systems draw water from deep within the ground. And those trees, in turn, shade the smaller forms of vegetation, protecting the bushes and plants from the hot sun. The fallen leaves decay, fertilizing the soil. It is a complex system in contrast to the simple grass fairways, and much better able to weather environmental stress.

It makes me think of something I learned about ecology back in college: Lawns are an artificially immature ecosystem. That is why they are so prone to infestation by weeds and pests, and why they will die if we don’t water them. I remember this neighbor we had when I was growing up in Setauket who would lay down new sod every spring. They had the best looking lawn in the neighborhood, but it couldn’t even survive a single year on its own.

Why am I talking about lawns and golf courses? This idea of an artificially immature ecosystem interests me, especially as a metaphor for certain parts of our lives.

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The Moon

September 22, 2005

Believe it or not, it only takes a little imagination to turn your world upside down.

Sometimes I’ll lie down on the ground facing the sky and pretend that down is up and up is down. I imagine some magnetic force is holding me to the “ceiling,” and if it were to let go, I would drop into the infinity below. This is particularly thrilling at night when the black starry sky resembles an abyss, especially here on Shelter Island where the night sky is so clear.

A few years ago I met an amateur astronomer who explained to me why the night sky is so much clearer here than it is up-island. Sky glow, from artificial light (house porch lights, parking lot lights, stadium lights, etc.), obscures their night-time view of the heavens. Not so for us on Shelter Island, though. On a clear night you can look into the sky and see countless stars. It’s not quite as spectacular as the view of the sky from, say, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, but it’s clear enough to take the breath away from my up-island friends who come to visit.

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Dogs

July 28, 2005

I have a friend who says you’re either a dog person or you’re not. Given only those two options, then I would have to say I’m not a dog person.

I didn’t grow up with a pet dog. I never learned to love a dog like it was a part of the family. So I haven’t cultivated that obsession about them that many dog-lovers seem to have. For example, I absolutely do not understand how someone can passively watch a movie in which people drop like flies, but throw a fit the moment the dog is killed.

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Time

June 30, 2005

Driving to the Post Office the other day to get my mail, I started to think about the price we pay to live on Shelter Island, especially in time. No mail delivery. Time. No garbage pickup. More time. To leave the island or return to it, we have to wait in line for a ferry. Even more time. I can’t imagine some of my up-island friends taking the time to drive to the Post Office every day to get their mail. Their heads would explode!

Of course, wherever you live, life can be as hectic as you want it to be, but in my experience, places seem to have an energy of their own. Haven’t you noticed this? I lived out west for a few years in Tempe, Arizona, and I found the energy there to be more welcoming and friendly than in New York City, for example. The energy on Shelter Island seems a bit more leisurely than the rest of Long Island. Not that we don’t work hard here, but even when I’m busy or on a deadline, things don’t seem as crazed as they might.

Shelter Island seems to be saying to us, slow down. The signs are all around us, literally. Look at the speed limits. Even if you wanted to race around like a crazy person, as soon as you get in your car you are reminded to chill out and relax a little.

Einstein once said, “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.” I’m by no means comparing life on Shelter Island to sitting on a red-hot cinder! The point is that we experience time differently in different circumstances.

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My Beach

June 9, 2005

People are often surprised when I tell them I live on Shelter Island.

“I haven’t seen you before,” they say. “Did you just move here recently?”

“No, I’ve lived here for eight years.”

“Eight years?!”

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