Breaking news: another summer has come and gone. But I’ll not bore you with the tried and true recitations of how the ocean is still warm, warmer than July in fact, at Great Rock and Norton Point, State Beach and under the cliffs at Gay Head. Or how the fish are running at Lobsterville and Wasque, more than in July or August, in fact. Or how the crowds have hurtled off to wherever it is they go, like eels to the Sargasso Sea, perhaps to reproduce before mysteriously reappearing right on schedule next spring.
In other news, days are notably shorter, but they are exceptionally well lit, at least compared to mid-summer. Nights, meanwhile, are reliably cool. Those who moved out to rent their places for the summer have squirreled away their real estate taxes for another year and have moved back into their own beds to sleep well. Those who moved out of their winter rentals, meanwhile, have also returned to more comfortable digs, perchance to dream of a more permanent arrangement with this over-loved sandpile.
This just in: the place is generally falling into the sea. Autumn is a great time to watch it happen, however. Along the beaches of Chilmark and Aquinnah, the low light and steady breeze of an October afternoon has a remarkable ability to bring out the poetic quality of the constant hourglass flow of sand trickling down from dunes perched on top of scarps. The great and small pieces of land that have sloughed off and slid down part or all the way to the beach, bringing their plant cover of blooming goldenrod and reddish huckleberry along with them, look less like ruination in progress than like a series of hanging vases. Or a landscape designed by M.C. Escher.
The walls of rock-studded clay where the sea at high tide leaves no beach at all, meanwhile, don’t have the parched look of a quarry or bomb crater that they can have in the noonday sun of summer. Where the sea licks at the clay faces, small polished stones protrude with a seeming pattern, both undeniable and inscrutable. They look like a jewel-encrusted door in the cave of the count of Monte Cristo. The pebbles and stones glisten, flaunting colors forged deep beneath the earth’s crust, sometime before the Atlantic Ocean was born. Forged, it may be comforting to remember, from sediments that were once a part of majestic, if nameless, mountains and idyllic summer islands torn down eons ago by oceans that are now also gone wherever it is that oceans go to die.
Comforting to remember, perhaps, but no reason not to go out and vote for sanity in the short term. Understand?
And that, as the most trusted man and seasonal Vineyarder in America used to say, is the way it is.