Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 40 Issue 15 • August 12-18, 2010
now in our 40th season

Rounding the Point

by Robert P.Barsanti

And now it is August.

A hot, bright, and buttery July has packed up and left on the late boat.  We turned over the cottage. We washed the sheets, tidied the magazines, vacuumed up the sand, aired out the towels, then stocked up on Bounty and beer for August. We had been waiting for them since the daffodils came up in April.   Bills have been put off, payments delayed, and phones avoided until August arrived.

Now, like a promise kept, August rolled in with all his kids.  The boogie boards are stacked on the roof, the bikes hang from the rear door, and the tires are already deflated. It rolls in on the last boat of the night, moves the clothes and the food in, then falls to sleep.

 August is the briefest of months, but the most intense. For two-and-half weeks, you either hide or you cheer.  Some people will wade deep into the social pool, wearing their suit and a smile.  They will snatch a cocktail off the bar, search for the famous faces and wait for the photographer.  Others mutter off onto the beach with their books, a threadbare towel, and their transistor radios.

Count me in with the hermits. Out over Miacomet, the stars hang thick and smoky over the sand.  The Milky Way smears north to south.  Pegasus, Taurus. Andromeda slowly spins amid a thousand forgotten constellations.  The tropical storm waves, born near Bermuda, come rolling into the beach every fifteen seconds in a flash of bioluminescence and bubbles.  To the east, near Point of Breakers, the fisherman have lined up for night casting.  Out west, near Cisco, the orange of a beach fire flickers in the darkness.  Otherwise, the stars of August slowly spin without the help of Mojitos or Margaritas.

On a steamy August night, I slipped from Miacomet and headed downtown to the Circus.  The town fathers and mothers sit at the head of Main Street, just under the windows of the Pacific National Bank, and survey the show.  The tide of bright paste youth heads down the brick sidewalks to the harbor; the men wear lime green, the women electric pink.  On the cobblestones, The Father of the Year and his three helmetless daughters slalom the Suburbans with Ralph Lauren bags hanging from the handlebars.  One set of musicians plays a bluesy set in front of the Hub, another pair play sea shanties in front of the old Nantucket Looms building, and the Cobbletones sing the Whiffenpoof songbook to a well-fed and sunburned crowd at Zero Main.  The sisters of Our Lady of Lily celebrates midnight vespers and sale, complete with bored men in wicker arm chairs and the Pilates club champions wrapped in Members Only Pastels. Out on the wharves, the slips are filled with empty boats that glow under water, gleam on deck, and gently shift with the tide.  The lights of the Eagle, on its last run of the night, move over the houses of Brant Point before nudging into its slip and delivering more partiers.  The town fathers, from their seat, study all of this, from the cobblestones to the spotlit six story mast of the Shamrock.  The pageant passes before them, as it does every night in August.  They can have it;  I fled back to the beach.

The next night, the boys and I sat at Pocomo Point for the sunset.  We had sandwiches, Matt Fee tea, and chocolate chip cookies the size of an open hand.  At this point, the last kite boarder had pulled his sail in, the swimmers were at their dinner tables and the seagulls kept a respectful, but interested distance. The six o’clock ferry was the size of my fingernail and crept out through the jetties.  We were grateful to be going nowhere.  There were no more greetings to shout, no more farewells to wave. We had lived through too many beginnings and too many endings, but not today.  Instead, we were happy to be there and to have them there.  We had great food, great company, and a wide, placid harbor and an imminent colorful sky. It was enough for right now.  The departing ferry remained a curiosity; something to interest a child with.  We weren’t going anywhere today.
Soon, however, the Opera House Cup will have a new name inscribed on it.  A new champion will be found for the member-guest, the men’s four ball, and the sandcastle competition.  August will have more than its fill of sun, sand, and stripers. The checks will clear, the payments will finally go out, and the fireworks will fall over the Boston Pops. 

Then August will leave on the six-thirty boat. Some will leave after the Pops, some in the middle of the Pleiades meteor shower, and some just before Labor Day. Some never return, but some come back year after year, as the only thread of constancy in an inconstant life.  Babies will change into children, children will grow into surfers, surfers will swell into motherhood, and mothers will answer the phone and become grandmothers.  They will sit on their beach chairs above the tideline and watch how those phone calls drop in off the top of the wave.  The boat comes around Brant Point, and it goes around Brant Point.  Not us, not today, but soon.  Everybody rides off on the morning boat.   

Every year, when August leaves, we stand at Brant Point at seven in the morning.  Invariably, the skies are clear and hot.  The sunrise streaks the harbor and fractures into a million winks and glints.  One more beach day is in the offing, one more afternoon on distant tropical swells, one more ride on a head high wave, one more Watermelon Cream.  August leaves with the same words as everyone else…”Just one more.”

The boat backs from the slip, turns awkwardly in the mooring field, and sounds the bassoon note of the Nobska.  There are still sailboats coming in, there are still yachts in the slips, but this ferry is leaving.  We wait until they can see us, and we wave from the shore.  The tide hustles them out, but we will still be here for a while longer.  We wave and they reach for us, then, at the last, they blindly throw the coins.


Nantucket’s most complete events & arts calendar • Established 1970 • © © 2019  Yesterday's Island •