Wildflowers of the East End

Written By: Holly Ruttenberg

I close my eyes and my mind drifts back to summers spent on Long Island. I can feel the warmth of the sun caress my shoulders as I sit on the beach and watch my uncle reel in a blow fish. What an awesome sight!! This is only one example of the wonders I experienced during my summers on Long Island. My family was from the city and my grandmother bought a summer house in Rocky Point the year I was born. I loved spending time with my grandmother and her brother during the summers. Life on the beach was much simpler and sweeter than growing up in Manhattan. On long Island I discovered fireflies that sprinkled the summer nights like bubbles in a glass of champagne and green dragons called praying mantis. As a child, I always felt awkward. I went to a strict Catholic school, and the nuns were critical, to say the least. There were also dysfunctional dynamics in my family that I didn’t quite understand. Long Island was a magical escape for me where I could disappear in a land of beauty and wonder. One summer, while walking with my grandmother, we came across a box turtle. We made a special pen for her and fed her salads and bananas. She seemed to enjoy her visit with us, but ultimately wanted to be free. One day, without saying goodbye, she left her pen and waddled back into the woods, taking with her memories of bananas and the love of a young girl. On the weekends, I would drive to the East End with my parents and visit Lewin’s Farm. There was always a banquet of fresh fruit and vegetables. Homemade pies were always on display and made my mouth water. Further east, there were a plethora of potato farms, nurseries, and tiny cottages with roadside farm stands. The character was innocent and provincial. During the Bi-Centennial year, I attended a homemade fireworks display on the beach in Rocky Point. I remember sitting on the iron stairs, holding a sparkler and watching in delight as the sky was painted with red, white and blue glitter. When I became a teenager, my favorite pastime was walking on the beach and collecting sea glass. My jewelry collection came in many colors; green, sea blue, electric blue and the occasional red. Finding these jewels made me feel like a mermaid princess. Among the “beach creatures” that made my heart smile were starfish that clung to me with their tentacles, pre-historic horseshoe crabs and sea robins that seemed to take flight over the water and skim the waves of the sound. On Labor Day, I was always sad to leave my secret paradise, but my soul went back to the city bathed in innocence and beauty. In 2003, I decided to make Rocky Point my home. My grandmother’s house has been unoccupied for years since her passing. The house now belongs to my mother. One day, My Shih-Tzu Oreo and I were walking on the beach and were approached by a large, black dog. At first, I was afraid that she would attack Oreo. On the contrary, they became instant buddies. The black dog waded into the water and Oreo followed her. Unaware that he wasn’t as tall as his new friend, he ran to her and began doing the “doggie paddle” in circles around her. I’ll never forget the surprise on Oreo’s face when he realized he was swimming. We later learned that “Milly” was homeless and adopted her into our “family”. Oreo, Milly and I lived peacefully in Rocky Point for the next two years. Then I started dating someone from the neighborhood and he found a Doberman/ Weimaraner mix online. We drove out to the rescue to adopt him. To make a long story short, my boyfriend decided that this dog was a “Goofus” and wasn’t going to keep him, so I took him into our “family” and named him “Goofie Bear”. I lived in Rocky Point with my little “family” for the next 5 years. During this time, my parents began to age and my mother experienced memory loss. In the interest of diplomacy, I will just say that my situation changed rapidly, and I had to leave the family house. Needless to say, I was terrified. Here I was with three dogs who I loved dearly, not much money and no place to go. Most landlords do not accept renters with one dog, let alone three. Looking on the internet, I found amazing real estate agency that helps renters with pets find rentals. I got in touch with them and got access to their website. While browsing through the listings, I found a cute, pet friendly cottage in Eastport. On my first visit, I decided to make this our new home. When I first moved in, I was terrified that my new landlords would see the size of Milly and Goofie Bear and change their minds about renting to us. Fortunately, they are wonderful people and have been accepting of us since the beginning. Eastport has been a whole new world for us. Generally, I find that the people on the East End are awsome. In Eastport, there is an eclectic mix of wealthy people who come for the summer, blue collar workers, entrepreneurs, and stay at home moms. The cottage I rent has a back yard, but it is not fenced, so I walk my dogs through town every day. Many people have stopped me in the supermarket and asked “Hey, you’re the dog lady, aren’t you?” In Eastport, there is a unique blend of quaint antique and gift shops and natural landscape. The main highway borders areas with woods that house wildlife such as bunnies and white tailed deer. In the morning, I watch the robins while they collect the day’s meal for their young and the squirrels as they playfully scamper on the branches of the trees. Westhampton and Cupsogue beach are also very close to Eastport. Driving on Dune Road on the way to a sun filled day at the beach makes me feel like the “sea glass princess” of long ago. On the East End, tiger lilies grow next to designer roses, and like the tiger lilies a woman like me can paint the landscape with a unique presence. I feel blessed to live among the wonderful people on the East End and to return home to my private paradise every day. Like the humble roadside stands and potato farms that were once the hallmark of the East End, my roots will always be basic, yet planted in the possibility of the noble place the East End has become. With my window open, and the warm summer breeze blowing through my hair, I drive past the elegant wineries that are now clustered on Shore Road, and spot a sunflower field with a bunch of simple tiger lilies growing along the fence. They softly whisper to me, “You are home”.