Middle Moors | Nantucket
Nantucket Essays


• by Robert P. Barsanti •

So, I was cold. May fools and frustrates the best of us. On a bright and cloudless Saturday afternoon, when the Red Sox were hitting home runs out of Fenway and the Figawi sailboats zipped before the wind on their way over from Hyannis, I took off my Polarfleece for the second time this spring and left it in the back seat of my car. My boon companion bounded from the door and cut back and forth across the grass in the Middle Moors. I tucked a bag of treats into my pocket, adjusted the sunglasses and trailed behind him, as I always do. Five minutes later, in the wind of May, I felt how stupid I remained after all of these years.

The Middle Moors, just south of the Airport radio beacon and north of the Milestone Road, have been transformed over the last few years. A healthy mix of clear cuts and fire have destroyed the alien scrub and pine and brought the moors back to the bare and wind-whipped ground that existed out here for centuries. If we could drop a hundred or so sheep into the middle of these empty fields, the ground could stay empty for a few more centuries. Right now, in mid-conservation, it appears as if an acre wide machine had chewed up everything over six feet high and buried it deep. My boon companion found the open space both thrilling and confusing. Now, he had a clear path for any sorts of darts and feints, but no convenient bushes for his business. When the time came, he sprinted a hundred yards over to the still standing pine trees, paused behind the high brush, and then came bounding back.

For most of my time on island, the Middle Moors grew untended and unhinged. Pine trees, scrub oak, miscellaneous bushes were all knit together by ticks and poison ivy. I thought nothing of them as we went bouncing along the sand roads to one pond or another. Of course, the scrub wasn’t any more natural to the island than deer or rosa rugosa. Someone brought all those seeds here and forgot about them. But my only experience with the Middle Moors was dense, low lying vegetation, not empty sheep-cropped grass. Now, in runway sized strips, the moors are “back” to the way they are supposed to be. The ticks have been burned away, the deer scared into the remaining hundreds of acres of thickets, and the poison ivy reduced to blackened scraps. To me, of course, this doesn’t look natural or real. Had I lived on island before World War II, I would feel differently. On the other hand, If I lived here back then, I would have bought a lot more land and a few dairy cows. If I knew then, what I knew now, I would be a lot richer, a little happier, and I would have remembered to bring my polarfleece.

I am closing in on my fiftieth year and my AARP membership. An aged man, as the poet said, is a paltry thing; each year adds a few more “never agains” to the list. Every day you wake up with an appreciation for the things you don’t have anymore. Wisdom is a cheery way of saying regrets. I miss the people who used to sit downtown with me, I miss waking up with a roll and a step, and I miss the extra few yards on my drive (even if the ball now stays in bounds). After dinner on Saturday, a young couple half my age asked me to tell them three things they didn’t know about my life. At their age, those three things would be celebratory, at my age those things, a valedictory. My age and my gray hair weighed deep on me on Saturday when a Red Cup Nation Hockey Team hopped over the Almodobar’s fences at Five Corners. The men wore shorts, blue buttoned down shirts, backward’s baseball caps, and Dad’s golden graduation gift on their wrists. The women wore considerably less. The Hockey Team would want their sweaters or a polar fleece after the Chicken Box closed that night. Or perhaps they wouldn’t. My memory of my ignorant youth doesn’t include too many shivery nights.

The old man who currently occupies the front part of my brain frowned and grumped at their trespass. Get off their grass. The young man, currently resting in the infirmary of the medulla, sized up the height of the fence and looked for the proper take off spot. Never again. First: I now know what it is like to look out your front window to see young people in places that they shouldn’t be, doing things that you rather they wouldn’t. Second: I have tripped over enough fences to know what it feels like to land face down. Red Cup Nation doesn’t know that. They also don’t know that this moment blows away and takes their friends with them.

Fandango is the privilege of youth. When you are young, you don’t know any better. Carrying a thirty pack of Bud Light is something that you do, not something that you don’t. With years come wisdom; you know that you don’t want to be that guy with the whale shorts, pork pie hat, and two full hands with sixty electric blue cans of bad beer. Or, perhaps, the years just bring regret that you can’t do that anymore without feeling like a fool. On Friday night, two men my age stood on the bar at the Straight Wharf and led the Red Cuppers in song. I was embarrassed for them moments after I recognized that it would have been me on the bar, many, many years ago at Thirty Acres. When I was young, I figured that everything was the way it was supposed to be, and the way it would stay, whether it would be middle age or middle moors. With age has brought the sad wisdom that I can’t forget the lessons I want to and I can’t remember the things I should. Like wearing a sweater.

Articles by Date from 2012