A Tale of Two Hamptons

Written By: Suzanne Carter

Serenity comes over me on Rt 27 as I cross over the Shinnecock canal on my way to my East Hampton home. I change from the news station on my radio to the soundtrack of “Something’s Gotta Give”. As the speed limit slows, so does my racing thoughts. I stop ruminating about what I didn’t get done at work and begin to plan my vegetable purchase at the farm stand. What white wines do I have refrigerated? I have arrived!

I have been a visitor and part time resident of the Hamptons for more than forty years. Originally traveling from New Jersey , I was now making a 6 to 10 hour drive from Maryland. My journey is a pilgrimage to my very special place. When my stress levels peak at work, I have the urge to get in my car and just start heading up 95 to my East Hampton sanctuary.

It is here in the Hamptons that I can just “be”. Whether I am sitting on my deck gazing at the water, the type that is chlorinated and rectangular, or walking on the beach, I am more mindful. I am at peace in the Hamptons at least for ten months of the year. However, it is in the summer that I lose my focus. It is in the summer, that the crowds overtake the roads and my favorite restaurants. It is in the summer that our tranquil towns turn frenzied.

The driving practices of the summer inhabitants leave me breathless. I clutch the steering wheel as the car in front of me crosses a double yellow line on a curve to pass a slow moving truck. He makes it back to his side of the road with seconds to spare. On another trip, as I round a bend, I encounter a pick up truck hurtling towards me in my lane. We barely avoid each other. Why, might someone ask, was he in my lane? Because he couldn’t wait until the car in front of him pulled into a driveway!

My usually tranquil church changes. There I am breathing deeply and reciting to myself, “wherever one or more are gathered…”. Wait a minute! Is that who I think it is? One of the famed Hampton celebrities? Despite my best efforts at concentrating on the service, my focus shifts to whether or not I will be behind them on the way to communion.

In July, my wonderful walks on Long Beach turn into a comparison of my shabby seven year old car to the newer luxury models filling the parking spaces along the beach. Despite my efforts to prepare for my looming retirement, I contemplate the purchase of a Range Rover. I gaze out over the water looking towards Shelter Island when a horn sounds behind me. A car driving way to fast veers around me in an effort to get to the optimal parking space. Where are those police when you need them?

They are in town making sure no one runs over the streams of visitors trying to get across the street. They are marking tires to make sure no one exceeds the parking time limit. The traffic in town is unbearable. What goes on at the East Hampton Post Office? Are they giving out free stamps? I abandon plans to visit town during the summer and head for the spaciousness of the King Kullen lot. It is here that people who have never heard the words, “attention K Mart shoppers,” attempt to purchase the necessary provisions for their house. Trailing nannies and other household employees, they negotiate the aisles.

I lose my serenity and all efforts at reaching a Zen place vanish. I try to repeatedly tell myself to relax as I wait for ten minutes to go over the bridge into Sag Harbor. It doesn’t work. “Just be,” I say silently as I stand at the blender making my fourth batch of frozen daiquiris for the guests sitting at my pool. It doesn’t allay my anxieties about my ice cube supply. Maybe I should have a second daiquiri. Even my very special activity, walking on the beach loses it’s magic. Returning to work was beginning to look attractive.

How can I enjoy the beauty of the summer in this picturesque place and retain some semblance of peace? I peruse the list of disaster provisions recommended by the American Red Cross. If I bought these non-perishable supplies from Maryland could I avoid the stores and roads altogether? Turning into a recluse for July and August is looking quite appealing.

As I contemplate enrolling in a regular yoga class it comes to me. “Namaste!”, I shout, frightening the dog. My favorite translation of this eastern greeting is that the spirit in me recognizes the spirit in you. I decide I will try it. On line at the supermarket, I smile at the person behind me with an overloaded cart and saying it silently to myself. She smiles back and we engage in a discussion about the number of guests we are having for the weekend. On the road, I yield and wave to the person exiting a side street to proceed. They wave back. My friend describes how a driver blew his horn and shouted profanities because she blocked his egress while pushing her mother’s wheel chair through a parking lot. I suggest she should have smiled and wished him well. She looks at me strangely. “Namaste,” I whisper.