We came to Sag Harbor 15 years ago after a very long haul in Greenwich Village. We’d spent several summers on Shelter Island, hopping over to Sag just to browse the town, hunt antiques or catch a slice of pie at the Paradise when it was a luncheonette. Sag gradually grew on us and, one long-ago day, we decided it was the place we wanted to live.
So we gave up our Manhattan digs and rented a house on tiny William Street. Winter hit a few days after we did leaving us surrounded by unopened shipping boxes inside and snow outside. We knew nobody in town when we began to dig out and settle in.
Sag is not a town that tolerates strangers. It embraces aliens like us and confers a sense of belonging. By the time spring sprang we’d met a host of responsive natives and been welcomed with warmth and generosity. Before the beautiful greening of this new world we felt like we’d lived here forever, give or take a few decades.
When the house we’d rented was sold from under us we moved into our own house in Noyac where we were greeted by a whole new set of neighbors who very willingly helped us survive the trauma of finding fuses and valves, planting trees and pointing us toward markets, medics and mechanics. More and more we came to appreciate voyaging into this self-contained oasis that even boasted a 5&10.
We were lucky to meet the team that puts out this newspaper every week, a guide to the community that kept a level head in the face of the powerful winds of change. Sag Harbor even survived “gentrification” and resisted surrendering its identity as an American landmark. Keep up the good work!
Without our noticing, the seasons ticked on, life went on. It seemed like the clock had nothing to do with much of anything. But it did. Time and tide had taken us to a place where we had to face a few realities like age, health and closeness to our only son and his family. We only saw them for the July 4th holiday and over the New Year, but they lived in San Diego, not exactly around the corner. And the fact was, we hardly knew our granddaughter who was sprouting faster than the tree we’d planted when she was born at the turn of the century.
It became obvious that it was time to pack up and head west, not an easy decision. Our son and daughter-in-law gave us the push we needed and did the groundwork to find us a new address in Southern California.
So this is being written from a land of freeways, malls, cactus and trees that resemble anorexic willowy girls who subsist on pineapples and wear funny hats. We live in a community of some 500 houses filled with what we euphemistically call senior citizens. It is a bit too soon to gauge our reaction to this desert oasis but thus far the people we’ve met here have been western friendly and helpful. We’d been warned that everybody here was nice and caring, from your next-door neighbor to the supermarket clerks. Good lord, it seems to be true, not easy for easterners to accept easily. From time to time the screamers on radio rant shows aim their rage at New York and its environs. How those puny pundits would react to Sag we don’t know since hating anything east of west is their stock in trade.
In past visits to San Diego we’d learned that weather is the major local obsession. Here the legendary days are warm and beautiful and surfers ride significant waves and dolphins play in the other ocean, the one on the wrong side. At night the temperature dives, typical desert behavior.
Weather is the headline news no matter what is happening in the world outside. The weather men and women have a tough time during long stretches when they can use only one slide, 73 degrees and a graphic of a smiling sun, to describe the climate. For all that, they are given a lot of TV time so they report on weather in places you never heard of, i.e. “Boy they had some day in Azoomistan, rain, snow, hail, stalactites and meteorites. Wow and holy molly!” Oh, from time to time there is rumor of rain and the need for it or snow in some California mountain town like Julien where men once moiled for gold and now bake apple pies, but generally San Diego lives up to its promise of silky days and merciful evenings.
Since we got here, I check the winter ravages in Sag, probably looking forward to reading about a blizzard or two, but this year you’ve enjoyed a mild season which news I accept with mixed feelings. I mean, we opted to spend our declining years declining in comfort while you guys freeze. You may gather we have conflicting emotions about the traumatic change in physical and emotional climate.
One other thing: For a city that prides itself on 73 degrees and a smiling sun, over the holiday we heard more singers dreaming of a “White Christmas” than we’d ever heard before. One wonders if the dreamers have any clear idea of what it is they’re dreaming of. We do, including that tiny Christmas tree floating around in Otter Pond.
For all the positives this move promises us, the pull of Sag Harbor remains vivid and strong. I guess we’ll adjust to the time being three hours too late and we might learn to say “what a gorgeous day…imagine 73 degrees!,” but even if the cactus starts to look good and those ditzy palm trees get to us, we won’t forget our years in Sag.
We thank you for that.