Nature’s Nudge

Written By: Peter Doyle

NATURE’S NUDGE Last fall, as super storm Sandy barreled through the Northeast, we gathered with family in our New York City apartment. Parts of our family who live in Connecticut joined us, just as they had for Hurricane Irene the year before. That year, we had to very reluctantly cancel an annual family reunion in Amagansett as a result of the warnings about Irene. Because Irene came through with very little impact on our lives, we were all skeptical about how bad Sandy would be. Despite the dire warnings from officials, we all assumed we had nothing to worry about. We quickly realized that Sandy would be different as we saw the reminders of how powerful Mother Nature can be. The storm instantly thwarted desperate efforts to keep her at bay. Human-built structures of metal and stone were reduced instantly to bits and pieces by mere wind and water. As we discussed the potential impact of the super storm amongst our family, huddled in our seventeenth-floor cave, we worried about our apartment windows crashing in, chairs flying off the terrace onto Broadway and trees falling everywhere. We watched pictures of the devastation along the coastlines of New Jersey and selfishly feared for our little sandy piece of land in Amagansett, and whether it could survive the onslaught of big Sandy’s fury. What I kept to myself was that the scenes on TV reminded me of stories I had read about the great hurricane of 1938, which turned Napeague stretch into a salt water strait, and Montauk into an island reachable only by boat. I thought about the Trail’s End Restaurant, which reopened right where the hurricane had left it, a few hundred feet from its original location. I thought , “if Sandy moves our house to a new location, will I be able to leave it right where the storm drops it off?” As the full fury of Sandy’s power got closer and closer to New York, we began to talk about our favorite places on the East End, places, which might, at that very moment, be gone forever. Our kids talked about Nick’s in Montauk where they can watch surfers while eating dinner and about watching three different sets of fireworks on July 4th. Our nieces and nephews talked about staying at the Seacrest and going to the Amagansett Beach Association with their great aunt. I wondered about all the fishing boats in Montauk I had been on. I thought about all the times I had rushed through rounds of golf at Montauk Downs, not appreciating the spectacular scenery. My wife was devastated at the thought of her beloved childhood Beachhampton, underwater, wiped from maps forever like a mini Atlantis. We ALL worried about our friends out there, whose homes, businesses and even lives were at risk. We worried about ARF, where our kids had volunteered for several years. “What will happen to the animals? “ our daughter bemoaned. Finally we each made our own silent wishes that everyone and everything would be all right. Later, as the storm moved on along its path of devastation even inland into Vermont, we began to get reports from the news and friends on Long Island about the damage done by Sandy. The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was now home to a small Hudson tributary, subway stations were flooded to the ceiling, and power was off in large sections of Manhattan. Many homes in the area were lost or flooded, their owners needing to be rescued by boat. Breezy Point was obliterated by a fire driven from house to house by tremendous winds. A friend emailed from Bethpage, saying that he had lost power, but felt lucky because trees fell on three sides of his house, and none actually hit his home. But what of our home, our little refuge in the sand, its surrounding amusements, and the people that run them? I had found online pictures of Montauk Highway in Napeague covered by water, and of Gurney’s beachfront bar about to be engulfed by the ocean. I feared the worst. Gradually, over the course of the day, we learned that, amazingly, the people and places we love on the East End had been spared severe damage from the storm. Planks were ripped off their moorings, people had to be rescued, and the beaches were carved away. Our house had some damage to the steps, a mere hangnail compared to the trauma suffered by others. In the end, the place we love so much had survived and would be ready for another summer of memories in 2013. We breathed a collective sigh of relief. As we made our first trip out to Amagansett since the storm, we appreciated all of our favorite places a little bit more, and realized just how lucky we were to get to spend time in such a wonderful place. I got up early to play the back nine at Montauk Downs. As I rushed through the first few holes in a hurry to get back to my family, I dragged my handcart and clubs to the next tee. Much to my surprise, the tee box was occupied by a huge male deer and his family munching on the grass. He raised his magnificent head and stared at me as if to say, “Relax, we will be done in a minute,” and returned to his breakfast. It was yet another, much gentler, reminder from Mother Nature to stop and appreciate what we have on the east end of Long Island, a small piece of paradise.