Nantucket Essays

Sharing September

• by Robert P. Barsanti •

She stood at Children’s Beach at six o’clock in the morning.  The Eagle hummed with lights and activity, but otherwise the harbor was quiet and still.  Four ducks paddled past the sailboats, and their wake, eventually, rolled up on the beach.  The sun rose in scarlet and in crimson, burning a path across the water to his feet and flecking the high feathers of clouds overhead.  She picked up a stone and put it in her pocket.

And in a moment, the light was gone.  The path had sunk under the harbor, the colors faded, and an exiting ferry shook and ruffled the still waters.  The world turned on.

The island gives us September, but we can’t keep it.  September arises at an unexpected moment and presents itself in sublime beauty and then it fades.  You can’t photograph it, you can’t paint it, you can’t keep it.  You can’t even put words to it.

“Did you see the sunrise this morning.”

“That was something.”

“It was.”

The pebble helped her remember.  You couldn’t put the pebble on Instagram or Facebook, but you could touch it in your pocket during the morning rush and remember the stillness and the light of the early morning at Children’s Beach.  So, in the rush of mochas and lattes and trash cans overflowing with coffee grounds, the weight of the pebble swung her back to four ducks, still water, and a flare of color.

A Russian author once wrote that “Happiness is only real when shared.”  How can you share this?  The grace of September appears in a solitary corner for a moment.  You could be walking the dogs at Cisco on a roaring, dark, and cool afternoon when the rays poke through the clouds and spotlight the beach grass, a patch of sand, and the white caps on a a few of the incoming waves.  Caught in one spill of sunlight, a constellation of terns dips between two incoming breakers.  The waves, the birds, the light holds still for less than a moment and then moves on.

The grace only moves you and the dogs.  On a cool and windy afternoon, the beach settles into a winter quiet without surfers, without swimmers, without kadima paddles.  The dogs may see it, the dogs may feel that one moment glittering in their hearts, but they can no more share it than you can.  However, you can put a pebble in your pocket and they cannot.

September reconfirms your place on the island.  June, July, and August shove you about.  The streets fill with strange cars and tinted windows.  Empty bottles and wrappers get stuck in the hedges.  The island is on its way to work or on its way to dinner, and they all sit at Five Corners.  August has its pleasures, but they are shared with everyone else on-island.  You sit before the rolling southern surf with a thousand others and their boogie boards.  You stand at Children’s Beach among ten thousand and share in music and fireworks.  House guests, clients, visitors, all want to join you for dinner.  Then they, and their cars, and their trash, go.  They turn the pages on the calendar, look up the weather at Altar Rock, and pause amid the memos.

She doesn’t have any memos and her calendar has no pictures.  Instead, she stopped washing the dishes and looked out the window.  Corsairs of fog race over the island, tumbling over each other just overhead.  The sun eases towards the horizon and burns the mackerel back clouds far overhead.  The orange burn fades in and out in the fog until, at a final moment, it flares just over the ocean.  In the eastern windows, those high clouds drop to purple while the fog burns scarlet.  She should take a picture, she thinks, and then it fades.  She steps outside, witnesses the beauty, and picks up another pebble.

Happiness whispers only to the soul.  It pats you on the shoulder and reassures you that there is grace and beauty left in the world.  It shows this only to you and only for a moment; it is only real to you. In that moment, the island burns through the papers and the wrappers and the bills and the daily irony and places unspeakable grace in front of you.  See, here it is.  Right here.  For just this moment.  For just you.

In September, the stones get heavy.  They pile up on the table, then they go into a vase, and then they settle onto an end table.  They are our own personal cobblestones; they pave our lives out here.  We step upon the quiet September moments that lie unforgettable under us.  The visitors return to highways and pavement, and we stand on the remarkable pebbles of sunsets, sunrises, and flashes of grace on a rolling moor.  On Nantucket, our lives are paved with moments of forgotten beauty.

She sits at the top of Main Street under the brick wall of the bank.  The cars have paused and the streets reflects darkly all the way down to the Pacific Club.  At this one moment, the sidewalks still hold their strollers and the stores remain lit, but far above, a quarter moon spills its light on the far off harbor and the street before her.  A few stars poke through the canopy of leaves.

A hundred people witnessed the moment.  A hundred people have been touched.  And a hundred felt the moment reassure and reconfirm the beautiful truth of September.

Articles by Date from 2012