Ms Mantucket

There was no Bert Parks crooning “There She Is” from the sound system (in his place was Barbara Streisand, aka Bill Farrell “singing” People), nor was there an elaborate runway for the beauty queens to sashay down, but there certainly was plenty of pomp, circumstance and a whole lot of fun at The Faregrounds Restaurant last Monday night for the Eleventh Annual Ms. Mantucket Pageant. Hosted each year by the Nantucket Rotary Club, the sell-out event raises money for its local scholarship fund by providing local “gentlemen” the opportunity to shed their manly personas and bring the house down with their best beauty queen presentations.

Although a little rough around the edges (some sporting facial hair, chest hair and a few wardrobe malfunctions!) these guys were all incredibly good sports.  Judged in the categories of “inner beauty, flamboyance and sense of humor” they were all winners in my mind.  But, alas, there can only be one “queen” and this year’s crown and title were awarded to Nate Connor, Miss Kathleen’s Beauty Bar.

There is no shortage of outrageous and creative behavior on Nantucket, but it’s particularly fun when the men lead the charge.  Young and old “dudes” have been known to don their best turkey costumes for the plunge on Thanksgiving, sport their silliest patriotic hats on July 4th and bring out their favorite yellow pants and sweaters during the Daffodil Festival. Nantucket men are confident enough to proudly sport their Nantucket red pants (sometimes with whales on them!) and sensitive enough to invest themselves wholeheartedly in a good island cause.

For generations, the men of Nantucket have set an example to their fellow men of doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of the island.  It’s particularly heartwarming and reassuring to see today’s modern Nantucket men stepping out of their comfort zones to benefit the island’s women, children and non-profit organizations. This June, teams of men will take to the Nantucket streets in women’s shoes to strut their stuff in the “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” event to benefit A Safe Place.  Another group of local men have founded a group called Man Up to raise awareness and seek solutions for domestic violence on the island. Others mentor and coach island youth, sing in their church choirs and work tirelessly on clean teams to keep our island pristine; all working to the same end – to make Nantucket better.

To all Nantucket men over the ages who have done the exceptional, the extraordinary and even the outrageous to raise awareness and resources  we applaud you. To those seeking ways to join their fellow menfolk in making a difference…and having a whole lot of fun in the meantime…there are a myriad of ways you can get involved this season. Join a local board, make a donation or go a little crazy and throw on some high heels to go the distance.

Mad Men

Shellie Dunlap


It’s been a somber few weeks for our nation and the world. The news ticker is flooded with the latest information (or lack of) on the missing jetliner, the unrest in Ukraine/Crimea, the horrific mudslide in Washington state and the earth quaking in southern California. Closer to home, those of us on Nantucket lived our own national headlines last week as a historic early spring snowstorm pounded our island relentlessly with wind and snow for almost 18 hours. As the storm wound down, but the wind howled on, we were horrified to turn on our televisions to see that our neighbors in Boston were embroiled in a headline of a different kind….the kind that destroys buildings and ultimately cost two of Boston’s heroic firefighters their lives and injured many others.

It has been humbling and heartwarming to watch the response to this tragic event. The photo above expresses the sentiment of the Nantucket people, our Boston friends and perhaps the nation at large. On this day, the winds now calm, the flag hauntingly still, but flown at half-staff to honor the fallen heroes in reverence and gratitude for two men who most of us never knew, but who all of us collectively mourn as we know at any moment it could be one of us they are rushing to save.  The Chaplain of the Boston Fire Department, Rev. Daniel J Mahoney said it best, “We take care of them in life and we take care of them in death.”

These moments, when those who risk their lives for us are lost, remind all of us to stop and consider how much those charged with serving and protecting us do. I, for one, am entirely guilty of taking them for granted. On a tiny island like Nantucket the contribution our firefighters, police department, first responders and their many associates make is unlimited and unwavering. These unsung heroes wear many hats. You’re as likely to see a fire captain teaching a fire-prevention class to school children as you are leading his crew to battle a dangerous blaze on Centre Street. Our police force works diligently to protect us from hardened criminals while also directing traffic through the downtown maze of street repairs. Our EMS and hospital workers give as much tender care to bumps and bruises from a bike path collision as they do to a 3 car pile-up on Milestone Road. In a nutshell…they “do it all,” they do it selflessly and they do it for one reason – to keep all of us on Nantucket safe and secure.

Why not take some time in the coming weeks or months to stop by the Nantucket Fire Department or Nantucket Police Department and express your gratitude and appreciation to the men and women who serve our island? Design a family project to bake them cookies or pizzas, make a donation to their organizations or simply shake their hand or offer a hug. To the men and women who serve our island assiduously we want you to know….long before we have a need to punch those three ill-fated digits on our phones…how much we value all you do for the families, residents and visitors of Nantucket.

We salute you.

Shellie Dunlap


It’s been said that “whenever there’s a real breakthrough, you can go back and find a time when the consensus was ‘well that’s nonsense’ which means a true creative soul has to have confidence in nonsense.” The arrival of spring gives all of us the opportunity to tap into our creative juices, design a roadmap for a new season, re-brand and re-market our businesses, organizations or even ourselves and take a chance on a little “nonsense.” There is a flurry of creativity flowing on Nantucket right now as the island stretches her arms wide and awakens from her winter slumber. Restaurant owners like Seth and Angela Raynor from The Boarding HouseThe Pearl and Corazon Del Mar are designing cutting edge new menu items, shopkeepers like Stephanie Correia from Stephanie’s Nantucket are displaying colorful spring items in their storefronts, non-profit organizations and island-wide community groups are strategizing innovative ways to promote their causes and design events that will create the fresh “wow” moments of the season.

Even while many are searching for the breakthrough ideas that will bring about exciting changes and opportunities for the island, there are also signs…comforting, reassuring signs…that some things remain unchanged.  As early as two weeks ago, while the ground was still dotted with remnants of dirty snow, the daffodils burrowed their stems through the hardened winter soil and quietly made their annual appearance. There was no fanfare, no announcement, no “ta-dah” look at me moment; just those little green stems doing what they always do year after year – showing up and reassuring all of us that soon our island will be awash in a sea of yellow and spring will be here in earnest. Sometimes, just “showing up” makes the greatest impact of all.

On Nantucket, there is a genuine appreciation for all things new…and all things old.  The island is chock-full of creative minds who are dedicated to keeping the island fresh and contemporary…the latest in municipal infrastructure, extensive and accessible biking/pedestrian paths and a state of the art sanitation and recycling center.  There are others equally devoted to preserving the historical fiber and integrity of the island…working tirelessly and passionately to help ensure our conservation land and beaches are protected, our harbors kept clean, and the overall beauty that is Nantucket remains unspoiled. Those who love Nantucket understand the importance of keeping one foot deeply rooted in the past while simultaneously advancing the other foot forward to accommodate the contemporary lifestyle of both island residents and visitors.

As you design your Nantucket itinerary for this spring or summer, be sure to add some new places to your favorites list…but also plan to revisit the hold haunts. The long-time merchants and island business owners who have spent the past few months passionately designing this season’s “breakthrough” ideas are counting on one thing – our loyal patronage.

Just show up.

Shellie Dunlap

The View

The popular daytime television show “The View” reminds us that you can put virtually any topic before a group of four individuals and they will each respond to it differently. Their unique perspective is based on something that has impacted them in the past or some influence (positive or negative) they are currently experiencing. I think the same can be said of our “view” of the world in general. It’s easy to be optimistic and upbeat when the sun is shining, business is thriving and all the kids are getting along. But when the weatherman predicts another storm, the flu bug bites and the roof begins to leak our point of view changes. Our perspective fluctuates depending on the day of the week, the “state of the nation” or sometimes simply the view out our window.

My view of Nantucket (literally!) experienced a major shift this past week.The Lee Real Estate office that’s been located at the top of Main Street for the past 25 years, just relocated to 10 South Beach Street. As enthusiastic as I am to be part of this exciting new “ground level” opportunity, I confess there was a part of me that was sad to pack up my desk and leave the familiar space behind. The view from the front window of the Main Street building, looking all the way down Centre Street, was the inspiration for many of my weekly vignettes. It helped shape how I see Nantucket and was a reminder to stop each day and enjoy the vista. The angst didn’t last long. As I settled into my new space, also looking out a large picture window (this time at ground level!) I realized although the view is completely different, it holds unlimited new possibilities. I found myself channeling Annie from the Broadway musical of the same name and humming the tune “I think I’m gonna like it here!”

Whenever we move there is emotion involved; sadness in the leaving, but anticipation and excitement for what’s to come. Many on Nantucket have experienced this phenomenon. Very few people who live here reside in the home or business location they started in.  People upsize, or downsize…some head closer to or away from the hustle bustle of downtown…and still others move to finally get “a view” of the water, a golf course or some unobstructed green space. One thing’s certain…unless it’s new construction, the space we find ourselves in was once occupied by someone else. On Nantucket, that “someone else” can date back to the 1600′s!  It’s fun to consider who lived or worked here before us, honor their vision and design while personalizing the dwelling to reflect our unique style and bring a fresh perspective to the space.

Whatever vantage point you enjoy Nantucket from…whether it’s a multi-generation property teeming with family memories, a new home or commercial space awaiting your personal touch or an elegant room at one of the island’s famed inn’s, take a moment to look out the window, reflect on the scenery and then stop by our new office and share your…

Point of View.

Shellie Dunlap

Sowing Seeds

Steve Maraboli, bestselling author of Unapologetically You, Reflections on Life and the Human Experience, suggests that “you’re frustrated because you keep waiting for the blooming of flowers of which you have yet to sow the seeds.” There may be some who suffer from the frustration Maraboli describes, but there are many others quietly out there sowing seeds that benefit others. What an unexpected and pleasant surprise it was a few weeks ago, to pull out of my neighborhood and discover the Champoux Landscape team busily digging and planting hundreds of daffodil bulbs along the new Cisco Bike Path. Their efforts were part of a donation made to Palliative and Supportive Care of Nantucket (PASCON), an organization devoted to assisting families facing life threatening illnesses. Watching the Champoux team work, I was struck by how this simple selfless act would bring joy to so many this spring and for years to come.

As I sat down to pen this last night, I found myself contemplating this “sowing seeds” concept on a deeply personal level. We laid my mother-in-law to rest yesterday afternoon and gathered family to celebrate her life in the home overlooking almost 15 acres of manicured lawn and gardens that she and my father-in-law lovingly tended for almost 40 years. Even on a frigid snowy winter day it was easy to see the years of love and investment that had been put into those gardens. It’s something she was able to enjoy during her lifetime, but it’s also something long standing…an investment that will be enjoyed by many others for generations to come.

Nantucket is famous for sowing seeds of all kinds. The town forefathers and local residents work tirelessly to help ensure that decisions and investments made today will both preserve the integrity and original design of the island, but also will help propel Nantucket forward…making it an ongoing place of prosperity and opportunity. There are multiple organizations, like PASCON, that sow seeds of a different kind.  They invest directly in the lives and the people of Nantucket…purposing to ease the burdens of friends and neighbors who aren’t able to sow their own seeds or who simply need assistance to do what they can. Still others quietly come alongside local organizations or individuals and extend a helping hand…volunteering, fundraising or sometimes just offering an encouraging word.  All of it making a difference.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself on the Cisco Bike Path this spring when all those newly planted daffodil bulbs have wiggled their way through Mother Earth and are framing it in a sea of yellow…pause and consider what each of those flowers represents. The lives that were lovingly cared for by PASCON, the selfless efforts of those who planted the bulbs and the many friends, neighbors, island guests and complete strangers who will find joy in them for years to come.  Then join me in asking the big question – what seeds can I plant today that will make a difference in someone’s life tomorrow?

Sow and Reap

Shellie Dunlap


Moby-thon in the Atheneum’s Great Hall

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.” These are words from the opening paragraph of Herman Melville’s legendary Moby Dick as recited by Nantucket’s own, Nat Philbrick to kick-off the Third Annual Moby-Dick Marathon sponsored last weekend by the Nantucket Atheneum and the Nantucket Historical Association.  Ninety-five additional readers took their turn orating the epic sea tale which references Nantucket and her whaling history.

As I quietly slid into an empty seat in the Great Hall of the Atheneum on Saturday afternoon, I felt a bit like an intruder into someone’s life drama. The storytellers were animated and believable and immediately drew me into the storyline. Words and sentences that seemed ironic or confusing as written words on a page, conveyed their deep meaning, emotional torment and in many cases humor when recited in passionate context. The atmosphere was casual with listeners welcome to come and go at their leisure or settle in for the twenty-five hour marathon. Many people were reading along with their personal copies of the classic…REAL books, not the electronic versions…while others took notes, some sat quietly listening intently and still others multi-tasked…knitting or crocheting as the plot unfolded.

Although I love to read books of all genres, I confess I’ve never been particularly drawn to the classics. But listening to the dramatic and complex tale this weekend has spurred my interest. I love Melville’s use of big words….nudging me to stop “skulking” and begin “ruminating” about why I should be thinking outside my “insular” surroundings, ignoring the “tempestuous” winds of change and stop fearing “leviathans.” I left the Atheneum feeling smarter somehow, empowered by Melville’s written word and connected in a new way to the island we all love.

Nantucket has been the setting for many a fictional character, but also for thousands of real life characters who arrived on Nantucket looking for opportunity. Those first few lines in Moby Dick bring to mind countless stories I’ve heard over the years of people with “little or no money” in their purse or wallet and “nothing to interest” them on shore who made their way to Nantucket…some for a season and some for a lifetime.

The next time you find yourself at a Nantucket social function be sure to ask fellow guests to share their Nantucket story. You’re likely to hear accounts as varied as ancestors who were local ship captains… to folks (like me!) who arrived on the island for a four day vacation and never left.  If you’re curious to hear an audible accounting of the lives of Ishmael, Ahab and Queequeg, plan to attend next year’s Moby Dick Marathon where you can pull up a chair next to fellow literary lovers and let Melville carry you away.

Whale tales…

Shellie Dunlap


The Free Dictionary defines “snowbound” as “confined to one place by heavy falls or drifts of snow.” I wonder if the folks in the FD think- tank had a tiny little island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in mind when they inserted the word “confined” into their definition? There is no question, the rapid fire winter storms that have brought Nantucket one deluge of snow, wind and bitter cold after the next these past few weeks have had us all feeling a bit confined even while being captivated by the sheer beauty of our island all dressed up in her winter white.

On the worst day of storm Janus last week, as notices came across the news ticker and social media sites announcing all boats and planes were cancelled, many businesses and restaurants had closed and the town officials were admonishing residents to stay off the slippery snow and ice covered roads, I confess I felt a bit like a school kid again.  Delighted to have a “snow day,” I welcomed the opportunity to put a large pot of soup on the stove, grab a good book, throw another log on the fire and embrace Mother Nature’s fury.

There is something seductively eerie…and at once serene…about realizing you are huddled together with 10,000 or so other friends and neighbors watching it snow sideways and listening to the wind rattle the rooftops.  There is assurance that comes in knowing that once the storm subsides, the community will rally to help confirm everyone is safe and cared for. The island spirit shines bright on the sunniest summer day, but it is perhaps at its brightest during these stormy winter days as neighbor helps neighbor to ensure driveways are cleared, sidewalks are shoveled, frozen pipes are thawed and residents can quickly resume their daily activities.

When the blizzard winds finally calmed and the flakes stopped falling, it was amazing to see how the island had been transformed. The sand dunes at Cisco Beach were blanketed in billowing snowdrifts, hydrangeas that color splash the island in bright blue all summer sported frosty tufts of white, trails and paths filled with joggers and bicycles most of the year provided a great passage for snowshoer’s and cross-country skiers. Our little island known as a premiere summer beach destination was transfigured into a spectacular winter wonderland.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to hit the pause button on life…time to escape from the hectic pace of the daily grind…and are looking for a place that’s as tranquil in the winter as it is bustling in the summer…look no further than Nantucket Island. Bring along some warm boots for long walks along the icy creeks, your favorite mug for piping hot cocoa and a camera to capture it all for the memory books. Come let the island refresh you!

Chill out.

Shellie Dunlap

Two Pennies

In his 2005 bestseller, “Through Painted Deserts,” a road-trip memoir about three months spent crossing the country in a Volkswagen camping van, Donald Miller concludes that “everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.” I am constantly amazed at how many “new reasons” I find to love Nantucket after returning from some time away. Every time…every single time…the ferry enters the channel bringing the harbor and downtown into full view, it takes my breath away and reminds me why it’s always hard to leave.

There is a time honored Nantucket tradition of tossing a couple of coins off the side of the ferry as it pulls around Brant Point and departs for the mainland. Island lore has it that doing so helps ensure one’s safe return to the island. “Two Pennies Overboard” is a beloved phrase that’s seen on paintings, house quarter-boards, boat hulls, book titles and inscribed on various keepsakes throughout Nantucket. It reminds us to preserve the tradition and keep plenty of pennies on hand for those trips off-island.

In many places, this type of local folklore is just propaganda for the tourists. Not on Nantucket! The locals here take their age-old customs very seriously. On any given departing Steamship or Hyline Ferry, you’re likely to find as many locals as visitors gathered on the outer deck to ceremoniously toss their coins together. Some ascribe to the “two penny” custom (like my daughter whose two pennies can be seen airborne in the photo above). Others (like my husband who does nothing in moderation), believe it’s best to leave nothing to chance and fling in all the coins in their pockets.

I am not certain when or how this tradition was born, but for me it’s less about wanting to ensure I return and more about staying connected with the place I love as I bid farewell. There is comfort in knowing that no matter where we’re headed or how long we plan to be away, when we board the boat for our journey back across the water, the island will be here waiting to welcome us home.

Whether you are leaving the island this winter and have the thrill of returning to a white blanketed wonderland (like I did last week!) or you departed this summer with no plans to return until the island is in full bloom again, you can be sure that the two pennies you tossed over as you pulled away were well spent. Upon your arrival on Nantucket, spend some time re-visiting all your favorite places, then go exploring to uncover any hidden secrets the island revealed in your absence and raise a glass at days-end to toast the Grey Lady and give thanks for your safe return.

Go overboard.

Shellie Dunlap

A Christmas Carol

Photo courtesy of Theater Workshop of Nantucket

Ebenezer Scrooge was front and center on the Bennett Hall stage these past few weeks, but the mood was anything but “humbug” in the quaint Centre Street playhouse as the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket cast and crew wowed audiences with their heartfelt and rousing presentation of the Charles Dickens classic – A Christmas Carol. The sets, props, sound and special effects were at once eerie and spectacular. Sean McGuirk was brilliant as Ebenezer Scrooge and the additional adult cast (many of them local talent) were equally impressive in their various roles. But it was the children (all of them Nantucket youth!) who stole the show with their singing, dancing and stirring performances.

The underlying message from A Christmas Carol reminds audiences that the easiest way to overcome our “bah humbug” mentality is to take a page from Ebenezer’s script and review our lives through a threefold lens. Mr. Scrooge himself ultimately professed, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

Nantucket is often referred to…particularly during the holiday season…as the quintessential Charles Dickens setting. It is, in many ways, the ultimate fusion of past, present and future. A visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past would likely be delighted to find so many organizations and governing bodies in place to help ensure our architecture and natural habitats are being protected and preserved…the people of Nantucket writing, speaking and teaching about the island’s history, descendants and lore as we all seek to pay homage to the island’s long standing traditions.

The Ghost of Christmas Present would find the island embracing…and passionately protecting…its rich heritage, while simultaneously seeking ongoing ways to modernize and improve its commerce, infrastructure and create new opportunities for those who visit or live on Nantucket. Then there is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. What will the Grey Lady look like fifty or a hundred years from now? Will our children and grandchildren remain as devoted to her preservation and sustainability as those who came before us? That charge, it seems, lies with each of us and the decisions, dedication and determination that we commit today to inspire our young people to invest in the island we all love.

If you’re lucky enough to be on Nantucket this holiday season, set aside some time to create your own Charles Dickens moments. Take a stroll up the cobblestone Main Street and pause in front of a historic home or storefront as you consider the past, embrace the present and look toward the future.

Bless us everyone.

Shellie Dunlap


Thanksgiving may be in the rear view mirror, but the spirit of thankfulness is still alive and well here on Nantucket. Many on the island (and around the country) took to their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds and spent November documenting their personal “30 days of gratitude.” Although I did not publicly join in the fray, I was moved by the accounts and reflections which caused me to pause and consider how many things (big and small) we all have to be thankful for. In her inspirational bestseller “Help, Thanks, Wow,” Anne Lamott imparts, “When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime… and in the past few days… it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.”

Nantucket offers all of us countless daily reasons to give thanks.  Her sunrises and sunsets, pristine beaches and rolling dunes, charming storefronts and quaint cottages, historic landmarks and cobblestone streets…and the people, from then and now, who made it all possible. But somehow when we pause to consider all this, gratitude seems insufficient.  We owe a debt to the island. On this tiny body of sand in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, many have formed lifelong friendships, met their soul mates, raised children and grandchildren, celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and family reunions. Long walks in Sanford Farm at dusk or along ‘Sconset Beach just as the sun crests over the water have brought clarity of mind, ignited untapped creativity and ushered peace and calm into life’s chaos.

As Nantucket summer residents, our home was a continuous revolving door of family, friends and visitors.  Our family discovered one of life’s hidden treasures…and knew the only response was to introduce the island’s charm to others. Now that we live here year round, our desire to share the island has not diminished, but simply been transformed as we welcome guests to the island during every season and reveal her hidden “secrets” gleaned from personal experience and long time local residents. Devotion to the Grey Lady is contagious and evident as we watch friends who were once summer guests purchase their own Nantucket homes and fill the calendar with visits from friends and loved ones because they too realize the island’s magic is something to be shared.

This holiday season, there are innumerable ways we can…and should… give back to the island that has given so much to us…countless great causes, organizations, people and businesses who need our support and involvement to ease their burdens or assist in their missions.  But perhaps the simplest way we can express our gratitude and “give back” to Nantucket is by sharing her with others…to throw open wide our island doors and invite friends, family and first time visitors to experience the calm…the history…the hospitality…and the inexplicable beauty that is Nantucket.

Share the moments.

Shellie Dunlap