24 Jul 2018

Nantucket Simplicity

Henry David Thoreau spent two years at Walden Pond contemplating nature, the human psyche and life itself. Among multiple other revelations expressed in his famed book “Walden,” he concluded that, “Our life is frittered away by detail.” “Simplify, Simplify,” Thoreau beseeched his readers. Even on a tiny body of sand 30 miles out to sea, we have to work hard to heed Mr. Thoreau’s guidance. And there may be no finer spot on the island than Claudette’s in Sconset to experience the simple life.
Claudette’s is one of the rare places on Nantucket where visitors are encouraged (dare I say required) to check their stress (and their egos!) at the door…aka rotary. The menu is as simple as the setting itself. A half dozen delicious sandwich options, a small rack of chips, a couple of cookies and a select cooler of beverages. Your Platinum Amex doesn’t get you Priority Booking here. It actually gets you nothing…this is a cash and carry shop. It’s one of the great equalizers on the island. The owners and the friendly young people behind the counter care not who you are, where you work or how long you’ve been coming to the island. Everyone is required to stand in life to place their order and if all the little café chairs are taken on the porch, you’re expected to politely wait your turn and then clean up after yourself when finished. It’s that simple.
I confess I love new trends and all things “complex.” I’m challenged and enticed by complex recipes and menu items. A “Type A” multi-tasker, I’m energized by a robust work and social calendar. I can clip along at a fast pace for days on end. But there come those moments, when all of us feel as Thoreau did, as though life’s being “frittered away” and we long to simplify. Thankfully, there are still many ways and places on Nantucket that allow us to unwind, unplug and embrace the simple life.
In an era where ensuite bedrooms, flat screen tv’s in multiple rooms and central A/C are all but required when seeking “comfortable” accommodations, Nantucket still prides herself in a collection of historic homes where guests are unapologetically encouraged to throw open the windows to enjoy the breeze, read a good book and sit on the porch sipping lemonade. If a little stimulation is in order, one can stroll along the shell lined streets into Sconset village or take a bike ride through Polpis. Perhaps the most inspiring way to experience the simplicity of the island is to rise at dawn, percolate your own cup of joe and make your way to the beach to watch the sun climb up over the horizon and glisten across the water as the surf breaks near the shore. This is a daily offering and like Claudette’s is also a great equalizer – it’s available to everyone.
If your calendar is jam-packed with one social activity and important deadline after the next and you’re longing for a little simplicity, let Nantucket make it easy for you. Spend some time picking berries at Bartlett’s Farm. Take a hike to Altar Rock and pause for a good long while to enjoy the view from the top. And don’t miss lunch at Claudette’s where the biggest decision you’ll need to make is turkey salad or roast beef.
Shellie Dunlap
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