In her 2012 debut novel, The Road to Mercy, author Kathy Harris shares the wisdom of an elderly gentlemen about life’s detours. “Perhaps the old man had chosen to look up through-or at least around-his problems while still smiling,” Harris pens, “knowing that a detour didn’t have to alter the destination, it merely changed the path.” Early 1900’s scientist, James Jeans, has a slightly different (but no less optimistic) approach to life’s detours. “The really happy person,” Jeans once said, “is the one who can enjoy the scenery, even when they have to take a detour.”
Nantucket by its very nature requires us to take some detours…often metaphorically, but sometimes literally. We live on an island where the population fluctuates with the boat and airline arrivals, the retail shops and restaurants can change hands annually, the once vacant lots get developed and the large body of sand we all sleep on sometimes shifts, accretes or (gasp!) erodes (shhh.) All of these ongoing transformations require those of us who visit and live here to heed Harris and Jeans advice and enjoy the scenery when we have to take an island detour.
A few weeks ago, my colleague and I were driving up Main Street when we encountered one of our hard-working local police officers re-directing us. We rolled the car window down and asked him with a smile if we should take the Martha’s Vineyard route or the Hyannis one. He laughed, we laughed and then we skirted around the maintenance work and took the Orange Street route. We all know that a “detour” on Nantucket means you might be a tiny bit inconvenienced as you’re re-directed, but you’ll still arrive at your destination anywhere on the island in under 20 minutes.
Sometimes, an island “detour” directs you to a destination you were not looking for and had no plans to go to. 21 years ago, our family was nestled happy as Nantucket clams in our little house on Woodbury Lane. We had no intention of ever selling our home or purchasing a new one. One Christmas holiday, we took a drive with an old Ford Explorer illegally jammed full of a dozen friends and family and ended up in some random neighborhood in the Hummock Pond area. A detour landed us in front of a big yellow house on a quiet cul-de-sac and we fell in love. As Nantucket fate would have it, it was for sale and Santa delivered big time! Since then, we’ve hosted hundreds of friends and family in this home, welcomed each of our grandchildren to Nantucket here, held church and neighborhood picnics and most recently married off our daughter on our back lawn. It was one Nantucket detour that truly has allowed us to enjoy some scenery that we never knew we needed.
As you spend time on Nantucket this spring or summer and find yourself greeted with a “detour” sign, be reminded that the new route you take (figurative or literal) may lead you down a path you didn’t even know existed and might just bring you to some new places and faces that will enhance your Nantucket Experience in ways you couldn’t imagine.
Enjoy the journey!
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