Rest Ashored on Long Island
Human beings are remarkable self-preservationists, much to their credit (and their detriment). One skill I’ve prided myself in, whether it be navigating physical or existential highways, is having a solid internal GPS. It’s what enabled me in my teens to tackle drives into downtown Manhattan to see my luthier for repair work on my violin, or plan a spontaneous trip to Muscatine, Iowa to visit an aging family friend. I can visit a place once and recall in detail how to get there, and in the rare cases where my traveling memory fails, my overall sense of east, west, north and south prevails, getting me where I need to be somehow. Whenever life had been tough or in transition, a drive, be it a short jaunt or full-out road trip, always brought solace and clarity. But the cool confidence I had in this skill, like most preservatives, was at long last put into question. I met and married the love of my life and found myself relocating to Long Island. How could any place be east of Manhattan? That calibration seemed impossible, improbable, as I navigated a new life and sense of global direction on a endless sliver of land pushing its tush unapologetically into the Atlantic Ocean. To be sure, on more than one occasion I’ve headed in an unintended direction on the parkways. (In the correct lanes, to my credit.) Then, there was the matter of Route 25 hierarchies. To 25B or not to 25B, that is the question. Or 25A. Or, in legends of yore, 25C and D. And what of East Hills being far west of West Hills? Nevermind the byzantine topography that separates the natives (who in real estate discussions coolly sprout historical school district numbers) from the non-natives, who balk at the concept of a small town —scratch that, a village— being zoned for four different school districts. An exaggeration? Maybe. But that’s what it feels like. That being said, when I thought my internal sense of direction was irreconcilably damaged, my husband provided the encouragement I needed. Still young to marriage, I’d tremble at the thought of doing anything with advice other than receiving it. So let’s call this a mere marital observation: being with a truly wonderful person involves them seeing you when those coping mechanisms sputter and honk and loving you anyway. (And maybe poking a little much-needed fun at you, in the process). I’ve gotten lost here. I will continue to get lost here. But it doesn’t prevent me from trying to figure out this place. Truthfully, sometimes the most joyful thing happens when I get lost here. Getting lost doesn’t have only a negative connotation. Interesting things started happening on my regular sojourns, both those intentional and unintentional. Possessing unexpected time, I began blogging about my experiences galavanting about Long Island, a place rife with almost as many sub-cultures and micro-climates as people. Looking at Long Island through the lens of a newbie means my blogging is not authoritative, but it’s certainly awestruck. As I visit restaurants, wineries and state parks, there is much to marvel at here. The places and faces begin to stick, not only to my mind, but also my heart— found; familiar. The wines we served at our wedding came from Mattebella Vineyards in Southold, a decision my husband and I made during one of our many North Fork adventures, where we discovered wines as stunning and gracious as their vintners. Stumbling into the rare beauty in the dahlia garden at Bayard Cutting Arboretum in late June has its own charms, as does observing those heralds of spring: the teeming variety of tulips that dot Hofstra’s campus each year. There’s nothing quite like a leisurely stroll through Strong Brook Harbor after a particularly satisfying meal at Pentimento, where one can witness the gentle lapping of the evening tide as thousands of fiddler crabs salute. (Connecticut looks on with veneration). Amongst all of our travels, nothing could prepare me for the trip we made to Montauk last summer, on a Tuesday in August. It was one of those magic days— sky clear, sun golden, humidity low. As we descended into town, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of vast openness that culminated when we reached the lighthouse. The sky and water seemed to go on forever. A permanent image remains affixed to my mind: my New Yorker of a husband, his formidable stance stretched in lazy silhouette very much in counterpoint to the determination of his gaze over that limitless vista. The can-do hope of the so-called Empire State was on display in one of its lifelong denizens. I recall remarking to him during the car ride home, light pouring through our sun roof, that this happy day would bring me strength throughout my life. As much as I desire to find and know Long Island, it is here that I have begun to find and know myself— a navigation system sturdier than the one I’d relied upon all along.