A walk down Main Street in Nantucket on an August night is like walking through Times Square, except the river of New York tourists are replaced by jovial pastels giggling their way over the cobblestoned streets.
The traffic in Nantucket is also reminiscent of New York. For a vacation island that's only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide, there is a bewildering desire to preserve the average daily driving time from people's mainland lives.
Once October comes, the weddings dwindle down, and after one last hurrah on Columbus Day weekend, most of the stores and restaurants close for the season. The late crowd thins out, and soon Nantucket’s population is close to its residential population of ~11,000 from the 50,000+ during the summer.
At Thanksgiving, a flood of festive people come back to the island, the stores re-open, and the restaurants fire up the kitchens. This continues through Nantucket Stroll, the holiday festival of sorts that floods the centre of town with life again.
As December 21st grows near, the island begins to lull as more people retire to their winter homes. Nantucket grows quiet once again.
The natural beauty becomes the loudest thing around. It is desolate, and the Grey Lady slowly reminds you ever more frequently that you are surrounded on all sides by the sea. The residents stay holed up for the most part, occasionally venturing outside of their homes aside from their occupations, to visit the few restaurants and bars that stay open year round. With a proper jacket that can resist the winds, one can explore one of the most beautiful places without being disturbed by another soul.
The harbor is void of the yachts and pearl colored boats—most have sought warmer waters or have been hauled ashore—and the remaining crafts are fishing boats, all weathered and used. It's remarkable what removing things can do to a scene.
The same perspective can be applied to the beaches that are seasonally inhabited with Chubbies, bikinis, and coolers of Cisco Brewer's finest. When the season changes, the beaches become deserted. Dog walkers and beachcombers tend to be the only visitors of the shoreline. It's strange, because the shores are astonishingly beautiful in a way that you never could have appreciated with other people around. You need the loneliness of winter to see the true colors of the landscape meeting the sea.
This past winter was notoriously frigid—Northeasterners need no reminder—but, there was an upside. For one, the harbor froze in Nantucket for the first time in years. The freeze produced beautiful geometric patterns in the ice, teasing one to try and walk across the speciously masoned surface.
Secondly, the freeze of '15 brought a natural phenomena. The ocean froze. And that's not to say that the tranquil waters of the harbor froze that I formerly mentioned. The ocean froze. The waves froze, and the frozen shelf of sea shifted with the rolling waves beneath its surface.
Winter on Nantucket is severely underrated. But it is lonely and cold, and the wind is unwelcoming. And like last year, sometimes the sea freezes over, and it won't allow the ferries to cross. To experience its beauty comes at a price, and it's quite apparent that most do not wish to pay.