It wasn’t long after disembarking the Grey Lady that I found myself wondering, so what’s next? The island of Nantucket, which remains as beautiful as ever, has clearly been ravaged. The house just two charming doors down from where I stay has been ravaged. There are few signs that it ever existed. The house next store is up on stilts. New builds are being raised up on stilts as well and the sound of new construction wafts through the air as if it has always been part of the sound of the ocean breeze. Across the street the harbor view has grown to become breathtaking, but only because a house was damaged so badly during that last winter storm that no one wanted to buy it. So, it is no longer. The view, while spectacular, is sad. While this is obviously not a unique story in this countries long history of horrific natural disasters, it is the one that I am observing at the moment. And the sound of change is deafening to me. The island goes on. And while humbled at the opportunity to be here taking part in island life, I can’t help but ask myself, what’s next?
Reports from so many news agencies in the past few days and weeks focus on the rising ocean tide. Miami is threatened by the rising sea levels as well as the Florida Everglades which are slowly dying off and rotting into the city. All of Florida is at risk for that matter. This is a terrifying fact and Floridians are not alone. As someone who has grown up on an island and has almost always lived on an island or near a coastal town, I find myself wondering, why is it that the only place that I have ever heard these topics discussed widely, regularly and passionately is here? Is it because the threat is higher to a small town 30 miles out to sea? Is it because changes in lifestyle are imminent in this town of semi-traditionalists? I’m guessing not. I think it’s because “Nantucket-ites”, the true islanders, are constantly and ferociously concerned with the world around them. They are concerned with the ecosystems in the water and on the land it surrounds. They fear the eradication of the same animal life they are known for hunting for years. They are the protectorates of life as they know it and they are not reluctant to tell you so. The people of Nantucket are not only admirable people, they are the stewards of their land and their history and they are proud of that. And so they should be.
So for me, the question remains, what’s next? To be fair to myself, I do not wonder this already because I am “being a New Yorker” and rushing on to the next thing before I have even finished this one. I am back in my humble cottage, preparing to do work in puppetry with the community while during my short stay. I have conference calls scheduled back home and morning email sessions have already been logged. Creative writing sessions at the beach are scheduled into my planner. Fresh fruits and vegetables are in the fridge and dinner plans with friends have been penciled in. (Tonight is affordable seafood, fresh off the boat). This is the status quos that I have built for myself on the island and I am grateful for it. But still, when I leave, what will be happening? Will the winter be so ravaging that the National Guard needs to return to the island again? Will more houses come down as the shoreline continues to erode and the ocean continues to take back its land? How will these changes and virtual inevitabilities change the resolve of a people who just whose home is named after the Native American word for “far away land”? One must imagine that they will shift, listening to ecosystem of the land and the changing tide but staying true to one thing. They are the stewards of their world, which is so intimately connected to the greater world at large, and they are proud of this. It is my hope that the rest of the world can somehow embody the same passion for this planet.