After 17 years on North Haven, some elements of life have achieved a pleasant predictability. After the first heavy spring rain, the peepers will begin their insistent shrieking from vernal pools and roadside bogs. Dandelions and violets will be the first to bloom, followed by strawberry blossoms, thickest in the flood plain of our compost. A red-winged blackbird will perch on a dead cattail stalk at the edge of Sage Woods.
And in May, the island restaurants will begin to open, tentatively as a magnolia blossom, just weekends to start, and then a gloriously full schedule as the days approach the solstice.
Even in the worst of the bad times, it was possible to get some Calderwood takeout, or have a Nebo meal on the porch or seated at a socially distanced table. The food, at least, was there, and was some solace.
As it turns out, the appeal of these summer routines isn’t only the food.
But as it turns out, the appeal of these summer routines isn’t only the food. It’s also the people. Like the dormant dandelions and hibernating peepers, year-round islanders are scarcely seen in the winter, mostly because there just aren’t many places to congregate.
Nor has congregating indoors been a condoned activity of late.
And, like the rounds of robins once again hopping around my lawn, our summer friends fully depart in the winter months. Their reappearance is as much a harbinger of pleasanter weather as any other sign of spring or summer, and re-opening island restaurants provide the perfect habitat to spot them in.
Calderwood pizza at my house is delicious, but Calderwood pizza at an outdoor table with summer and year-round friends stopping by to chat is sublime. A Nebo cocktail in a to-go jar is a fun (and delicious) novelty, but doesn’t have the same zing without a passing “How was your winter?”
The several summers we endured without The Landing’s French fries, burgers, and ice cream were sad, and then even sadder in 2020, but its reopening in 2021 was the cause of much rejoicing.
Not only does my summer require veggie burgers and French fries to feel fully realized, but its spacious porch and lawn are designed to facilitate spontaneous social interaction, whether it’s kids cartwheeling on the lawn or climbing on the anchor, or adults taking a moment for a complete conversation while they do.
I recently turned 41, and while I didn’t ring in that birthday with quite the same flair as 40 (I did not, for instance, light anything on fire this year, although I did run into the sea), I did play some fiddle tunes with friends, including one I hadn’t seen since a long ago contradance at Waterman’s.
Then I headed over to the brewery, where I shamelessly flaunted my birthday status, basking in a surprisingly on-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.” My half-pint of Campfire Porter, on the house, was smoky and delicious, but the pleasure of running into people was just as fine.
Within the predictable structure of the island’s summer season comes the unknown variable of the people one might encounter and the conversations that ensue. It’s the wild card that makes each summer, as similar as they might feel, unique and rare.
Courtney Naliboff lives, teaches, writes, and plays music on North Haven. She may reached at Courtney.Naliboff@gmail.com.