My East End
“You might as easily be in Tuscany,” my husband said as we stood breathing in the vista at the outdoor concert at Wolffer last week. It had been overcast when we headed over but just as we arrived, the late day sun broke through and painted shades of orange pink over the expansive sky that framed the orderly acres of deep green grapes. While the Lynn Blue band played soulful tunes, young girls danced in floral dresses on the lawn in front of the stage, shaking egg shaped maracas. Toddlers teetered around barefooted on the grass.
“There are so many different landscapes out here,” my fourteen-year-old son said to my husband and me as we headed away from the open fields of Wainscott and back to our house off three-mile harbor, nestled in the woods.
The following morning I took my dog, Mocha to the community beach on Island Road where sounds of osprey accompanied the dance of light on the calm bay as if choreographed. An oversized horseshoe crab floated slowly up to the shore. My whole day was changed in those few moments, the stillness of nature creeping into my being.
As my son described, there are many different versions of life out here, and the beauty of the place is that we can each select our own. As I dream of my twenty years of East End summers, these are some of the images that paint my canvas:
Mornings before 9:00am on Wiborg beach drinking coffee out of a paper cup. My husband and I are standing near the waters edge in a cluster of tails wagging, dogs rolling in the sand, some brave dog souls chasing balls into the water. Ours is not such a dog, we have to carry him almost the entire way but he nevertheless gives us an excuse to be there.
Classes upstairs at the Golden Eagle in the old studio or my favorite artistic moment: I am standing on the beach overlooking the bay at sunset, painting the house with the blood orange roof that anyone who has spent any time on Gardiner’s Bay knows well. I am learning to paint with oils for the first time.
When my husband and I bought a boat in 2007, we were blessed with the additional charm of views from the water. Heartbreaking sunsets and slivers of untouched beaches, tying up the boat to dine at a location along Noyac Road or Shelter Island have become part of the wonder of the East End.
On Saturday mornings I have watched through the window of my yoga class while families sit on a blanket in the Amagansett Square and children run in the grass. Bright blue and purple curtains billow in the wind as I practice along other likeminded souls. Or practicing in the sun streaked studio of the Body Shop above Eileen Fisher, where Patia has been leading classes in her beautiful studio for over forty years. She is fabulous, as is being with the clientele who have practiced with her from the start. She recently shared the wisdom of one of her clients in her nineties. When asked how she ages so gracefully, she offered, “embrace change,” a good formula for aging but also for living.
In 2005, it was here where I recovered from my double mastectomy and the complications that followed. Coming out of a very dark time, I can remember the sense that the ocean breathed for me that summer, when I was almost too weak to do it myself.
At both Bridgehampton and East Hampton Libraries, I have taken summer memoir writing classes and have stayed in touch with each instructor.
Yet in my mind’s eye, there is nothing like the experience of pulling up to my favorite farm stands. At Balsam Farms, the eggplants are so succulent they almost leap into my hands as I approach them. Their Bloody Mary mix is the best we have ever tasted and I cannot make it home with a full box of cherry tomatoes without at least half of them being eaten.
En route to drive my son to a surf lesson with his buddy in Bridgehampton, we stopped by my other favorite farm stand on Main Street in Wainscott. I had promised to return to pay them for the fruits and vegetables I had brought home with me the other day, I can hardly say “purchased” as it was more like “selected.”
Deep red cherry tomatoes, a perfectly ripe cantaloupe, and juicy peaches were placed on the counter when I then realized I had not much cash and they didn’t take credit cards. “Bring me back the money when you have a moment,” suggested one of the owners and a few days later, I did.
At the same stand a few years back, while shooting a photo series on Hampton farm stands, my daughter captured me biting into a perfect peach. She shares my enthusiasm for the artistic displays of fruits and vegetables. In one still, with my straw hat perched upon my head, I am smiling ear to ear as the juicy liquid dribbles down my cheek. It becomes one of my permanent images of summer bliss.
From the time our kids started going to sleep-away camps and summer adventures elsewhere, we have always reserved August as a time when our family is together out here. Sunsets, bonfires with sticky marshmallows, and more wet towels and clothing that smell of fire than can fit into the first load of laundry, but oh so much laughter.
To choose to see and focus on those aspects of life out here that I love most, requires some weaving and bobbing. To notice a swan dancing in the pond on Route 27 and not the traffic, which of course gives me time to notice the swan, is a choice, one that I try and mindfully keep making, along with the practice of gratitude, day after day.
In my late twenties, over twenty years ago, I moved to Los Angeles for seven years. I was allowing my heart to lead. That didn’t mean I was following a romance; I was not. Rather, I was following the rhythm of my soul. I had often heard one moved West to feel and East to think and at that time, I wanted to feel.
What I now know is the East End is a place for one’s full expression. With all its offerings, it’s the best of both coasts, at least to me.