Summer on Nantucket
Kat Robinson Greider
August 23, 15
“Sumer time and the living is easy…” go the lyrics to the famous song. I think
that’s what many people think of when they think of summer on Nantucket…
beautiful beaches, lovely restaurants, galleries and stores, a slower pace of life,
fun with friends, fishing, golfing, cocktail parties…. This is where people come to
relax, rejuvenate, heal. Many people have the experience of coming here for a
vacation and deciding to stay. Many others come back year after year. Nantucket
is certainly a special place, which is important to remember when you’re stuck in
traffic downtown or can’t find a parking place at Stop & Shop. I recently heard
someone who lives here year-round saying, “It’s awful here in the summer – the
traffic is terrible and it’s so crowded. Why would anyone want to come here?”
Clearly, the living isn’t easy for everyone! But that statement does point out the
different ways the same situation, the same place can be experienced by different
people depending on their own situation and perspective. It is easy to start taking
some of the great and special things about the off-season on Nantucket for
granted if they’re something you experience most of the year, without realizing
that for the folks who come here in the summer, the traffic and crowds are likely
much better than the place they are coming from. And it’s probably similarly easy
for summer visitors, who come to have fun and relax, to expect that Nantucket is
always the Nantucket they experience in the summer, without thinking that the
“ideal of Nantucket” depends on a vast service industry.
A simplistic way to look at it would be to say that there are two Nantuckets, there
is the one that the more affluent residents and visitors experience …and there is
the one inhabited by those whose job it is to create that easy, carefree experience
for them – the housekeepers/cleaners, landscapers, nannies, the caterers, cooks,
bartenders, waitstaff, the people who pick up the trash and sweep the sidewalks.
How is summer on Nantucket experienced differently for those folks? For many
year-round residents summer represents survival - Can you work hard enough in
three months to make enough money to support your family for the rest of the
year when most of the restaurants, guest houses, stores and summer homes are
closed and the jobs disappear? These folks see a very different Nantucket
summer. If you’re working all the time, how often do you get to experience the
beautiful beaches? If you’re barely making ends meet, do you ever experience
eating at one of the fine restaurants or enjoying a carefree cocktail party with
Many people, particularly people who live here year round, have a complicated
relationship with summer on Nantucket. On one hand, it represents livelihood
and survival. But seeing the disparities in income and life style evidenced by the
yachts, large homes, catered parties, clothing, jewelry and entitled attitude can
make gratitude challenging when year round living is a struggle.
But there is a direct interdependence. The “Nantucket summer experience” could
not exist without the hard work of those in the service industry, and the yearround population would not be sustainable without the summer visitors. But
more and more the balance is being strained as greater numbers of year round
residents cannot afford to live on the island. Human service agencies are
reporting higher and higher utilization of their services. There is a housing crisis
that affects even residents who have good year-round jobs. We are already losing
talented young professionals. What will summer on Nantucket look like if there is
no year round population to provide the infrastructure that visitors enjoy?
Most vacationers do not necessarily think about what the places they visit are like
when they’re not there so they do not have an investment in those communities,
but Nantucket is fortunate to have a sizable segment of the summer population
who has deep, generational ties to the island. They do invest in the community
and care deeply about the direction the island is taking. There are decisions that
will need to be made soon that will affect the sustainability of the year round
community. These decisions will have an effect on how Nantucket is experienced
by a wide range of people – year round, seasonal and visitors.
Summer on Nantucket can never be experienced the same way for everyone, but
there is are common feelings we can all cultivate no matter which part of the
community we represent– appreciation and gratitude. For the visitors that help
sustain the island economy, for the workers who help make the island a beautiful,
relaxing place for visitors and residents, and most of all for the island itself which
offers many special things that are free of charge and available to all.
In closing, I want to say that just as seasonal visitors to the island can help remind
us of the special things we take for granted, seasonal members of the church also
help us remember to appreciate some of the special things about our church that
we may take for granted because we live with them all the time. We all create the
community on this island and in this congregation. May we be grateful stewards
of the gifts we are privileged to enjoy.
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