26 Feb 2013

Change on Nantucket

Change on Nantucket

I’m a creature of habit – sometimes to a fault. I held on to my outdated flip-phone long after my friends and family had hopped on the band wagon of smart phone people, strictly because it was familiar (and wasn’t smarter than me!) I rarely re-arrange my furniture, prefer to frequent the same restaurants and have eaten the exact same breakfast almost every day for the past 20 years (2 eggs scrambled, blueberries on the side and a V-8 chaser). It’s not that I’m uptight or even uncool…I just prefer things to stay the same.

So imagine my angst a few weeks ago when I looked out the second story window of my Main Street office and saw a team of workers armed with chainsaws preparing to cut down the two deep-rooted Elm trees framing the Pacific National Bank. Disheartened and slightly depressed, I processed the fact that my view of Nantucket was about to be forever changed. Not just the view from my window up Centre Street, but the view that had welcomed me to the island the day I drove up Main Street for the very first time. Sigh.

Nantucket is the ideal home for people like me. The town guardians are fastidious in their efforts to preserve the rich history and character of the island. I love that the majority of the homes are grey and white, the exteriors of the buildings in the historic district look much the same as they did the day they were built and the basic architectural fabric of the island remains unchanged. There are times however, when even our best efforts at preservation remain out of our control. Trees get diseases and die, beaches erode, storms blow through reconfiguring the layout of the dunes and sometimes carrying homes out to sea.

When these changes occur (even subtle ones like two Main Street trees coming down), I’m reminded we typically don’t fully appreciate what we have until it’s gone. I find myself noticing every tree on the island these days, stopping to consider how they frame the historic homes and buildings, silently hoping they are each sporting deep healthy root systems. I have new regard for the rolling dunes and expansive beaches. I feel gratitude and awe for the long standing historic homes and buildings. Even as I’m comforted by Nantucket’s “sameness,” I’m also learning to embrace the unavoidable changes that are part of the ebb and flow of island life. As David Bowie says in his 1970’s hit Changes, “Time may change me, but I can’t trace time, I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream.”

The next time you’re on Nantucket, take a long walk from the boat basin up Main Street. Note the trees adorning the sidewalks, the cobblestones paving the street, and the large historic building at the top of Main. The trees may be gone, but the famed Pacific National Bank building still stands proudly waiting to greet you. Lament the differences since your last visit and give thanks for the things that remain the same.

Ch ch changes….

Shellie Dunlap

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