Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 40 Issue 9 • July 1 - 7, 2010
now in our 40th season

Celebrating our 40th Anniversary!
Island Memories

Freedom and Flow

In 1970 I spent the summer on Nantucket in a little beach cottage on the remote tip of Madaket with my New York graduate school boyfriend, two cats and a dog.  Our only neighbor was ‘Madaket Millie’, a now famous island icon.  Friends who visited would simply show up on our doorstep since we had neither phone nor mail service.  We also decided in that ‘back to nature’ summer to bicycle or walk everywhere instead of using the car except for infrequent grocery trips to town.

Having just completed two years of graduate school, I was so mentally exhausted that my analytical mind spontaneously went on vacation for the summer.  Intense intellectual thought gave way to searching for wildflowers, edible wild plants and exploring different ecological niches like meadows, bogs, sand dunes, and marshes by bicycle.  Communing with nature in this way awakened feelings of blissful merger with the Earth.  A child-like sense of play, adventure and wonderment long buried under layers of education and conditioning began to slowly emerge and flood my body with the joy of being alive, ie happiness—a condition studiously avoided by serious graduate students.

To celebrate this new hands-on ‘field work/study,’ I started gathering specimens of flowers during my bicycle forays—blue-eyed grass, knapweed, campions, pearly everlasting — for a simple nature book and pressed flower arrangements.  For wild food, I experimented with cattail pollen in pancakes, chicory and marsh mallow roots roasted in the oven and of course wild blueberries in muffins and pies.   (I’m sure this type of gathering would no longer be an appropriate thing to do, but then it was a most compelling activity.)

Learning directly from the book of nature seemed to me a more essential path to wisdom than all the abstract intellectual knowledge I had piled up, which to be fair, was perhaps a necessary preparation for that summer’s discoveries.  With no deadlines to meet, money to make or classes to attend, the confines of linear time vanished and I found myself dwelling within natural cycles of morning, afternoon, evening, rain/windstorms, light, dark, the moon’s phases. 

These experiences on Nantucket opened the door to a new, yet instinctively remembered, way of living and being with the Earth. Even though we reluctantly left Nantucket and returned to grad school in the fall and our ’serious’ studies, the experience of freedom and flow in Nature which was Nantucket’s gift to me gave my life a new direction and purpose.

Visiting Nantucket this summer after 40 years, I felt all those glorious, youthful memories rise again.  Despite the recent decades of development, I am hopeful visitors will still find “Yesterday’s Island” alive, well and wise.

— by  Shanti Elena Mayberry

This season is Yesterday’s Island’s 40th year publishing on Nantucket.  We’ve seen many changes on the island in those four decades, and over the years we’ve made many changes to our newsmagazine.

As part of our anniversary celebration, we’re printing memories of the island in 1970 that have been shared with us by readers.  Jo Ann Hubbard saw our request on the Yesterday’s Island Facebook page and was the very first to respond.  We’d like to thank her for sending in her story, and we hope that it jogs some memories of others on-island 40 years ago.
If you have a memory of Nantucket Island in 1970 that you’d like to share with us and our readers, please email it to or mail it to us at P.O. Box 626, Nantucket, MA 02554.


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