Life through Bi-Forkal Lenses
By Kara Jackson
On a slushy January day some seven years ago, I hauled sopping grocery bags up the slippery stairs of my Mattituck cottage and I thought to myself, “This is living.” I’m serious.
For one thing, no longer would I be slogging my stuff up four flights of stairs like some Grecian donkey climbing the hills of Santorini. No more shopping cart wars in contentious and crowded urban markets.
At that moment, standing in the sloppy snow, on the most dismal and dreary day of the New Year, I was secure in my decision to move full-time to my family’s east end cottage.
Growing up, I spent many summer months in this house. The move here was comforting as so much was familiar: the smell of the drawer where my grandfather once kept his pipe, the creaky aluminum glider where we spent humid evenings rocking on the porch. A vintage Chambers stove (which is the best working oven I will ever use) still shines in its stainless steel glory. Driftwood signs with the family name grace the garden where ancient (and coincidentally deer-resistant) azaleas grow. While most of the nearby houses have been upgraded to suit modern living, our house, on a narrow dirt road, maintains its original country charm.
It was the nostalgia that lured me back to the house and it was the promise of a new life that encouraged me to stay there.
Despite my early optimism, the first winter out here pretty much blew, literally and figuratively. There’s a reason why people don’t live year round on or near the Sound: the north wind. It bites and seeps under your clothing (and I’m a snowboarder who is used to minus 20 degree Vermont winters). Aside from the cold, there isn’t much going on out east in the winter. This much I knew and I relished the serenity until it started to drive me insane.
My husband and I didn’t have much of a social network out east but we whimsically dismissed it since we had a wide variety of interests. We thought we’d easily acclimate. Not so. I work on the South Fork and at the time, my husband worked at home. At the end of the day, when I walked in the door, he’d greet me like a penned-up puppy. That first winter was long and hard but as its grip loosened, my love for the east end flourished and has only grown deeper and stronger with each passing season.
Now, living year-round on the east end has given me a superiority complex. I fang on the freshest seafood and seasonal vegetables. Stretches of sandy beach are my own in solitude. My leash-free dog goes to the office with me. I walk to wineries. I keep an organic garden (yes, the deer are a problem). But I’m pretty damn privileged.
Whereas most east-enders do the summer or weekend thing, mine is a bi-forkal life. I lay my head on the rusty, spindly spires of the North Fork; and I put my head to use on the smooth and sophisticated South Fork. The 30-something mile commute between Mattituck and East Hampton allows me to enjoy and appreciate a bi-forkal life.
I will say that my allegiance changes with the seasons. Summer’s hordes of Hamptonites send me scrambling to the Sound. October’s undulating pumpkin pickers nudge me toward the ocean.
But either way, on either fork, the people who live or visit here all say the same thing: they love the beauty and bounty of the east end. There’s a palpable calm here. Many can’t describe the exact feeling in words, but it’s certainly a shared sensation. It often happens the moment one leaves the L.I.E or passes a favorite farmstand with a hand-written sign. Maybe it occurs the instant one bites into a beloved summer pie. Or when bike riding to the beach and stepping off into the smooth sand. Perhaps, it’s just the smell of the old pipe drawer, in the old family cottage that brings back the memory of the man who started it all out here –for me and my family.