- Properly speaking, Huntington is not a resort community. However, the harbor itself is a resort-type recreation area, filled with beaches, moorings, and artifacts which support summer leisure activities. Those are largely abandoned and ignored in the heart of winter each year, although depending on the actual weather some hardy souls continue to use boats when possible. Furthermore, as the temperatures continue colder, many of the older residents migrate south for a while, to be joined by families in a month when recently culturally iconic “winter break” arrives.
- My own happiness with such a fallow period is limited to enjoying silence _ leaf blowers have been stored for a month or so. Once in a while I will head for an empty town beach, or _ if snow cover is limited as it is this year _ to empty fields and woods in other parks. Pedestrians have also been culled to the hardy few, hardly recognizable in heavy attire even though I have seen the regulars almost every day for a long time now.
I love to go where crowds avoid
Beach in winter, woods in rain
Meditate or just enjoy
Nature singing pure again
Romantic poets felt the same
Artists wandered empty hills
Mountains, seacoasts, blasted plains
Freed of shallow cultured ills.
Alone so happy, yet compelled
To soon return where I belong
I seek companionship as well
Madness balanced by the throng.
- Restrooms locked. Picnic area cleared. Lifeguard chair removed, toll booth vacant. Mostly, sand and playground are devoid of people as well. On nice days, or if cabin fever has built too high, small children very bundled run around the open beach. Every day _ rain, shine, sleet, snow, bitter wind, or raging storm _ someone will be in the parking lot, often not leaving warm dry car, letting their dog or dogs experience the outdoors.
- Off season even in truly seasonal places has permanent residents. I may fantasize that they are even more deserted than here, but actually recreation areas are all equivalent. Better outerwear has made outdoors year-round activity accessible to everyone. I know that is a good thing. I wish more folks would take advantage of it for our collective mental sanity even as I gripe about how there is nowhere to be alone except in my own house.
“I wish we were going away again this year,” grouses Joan, for the millionth time.
“I’m perfectly happy to stay here,” I reply. “Besides, it’s been mild. Certainly better than last winter.”
“I can’t stand the cold.”
“I miss flowers growing.”
“Get some more indoor plants.”
“It gets dark too soon.”
“No different than anywhere we would go on vacation in the Northern Hemisphere.”
“I can’t believe all the people who are still here.”
“I hate winter.”
“I kind of enjoy it.”
- In spite of modern materials and paints, marine life such as barnacles still manages to cling to or thrive on submerged hulls, cutting efficiency. High tech engines need service and recalibration. Birds and dirt manage to coat exposed surfaces. An expensive annual off-season ritual involves hauling craft out of water, power washing everything, wrapping tightly in shrink wrap, and stashing them somewhere safe until spring. This reduces shoreline land, but waterfowl probably approve more open water and flyways.
- I know Iapprove more open water. Summer harbor can resemble a junkyard, filled with odd detritus that people convince themselves they might want to
use sometime, but rarely do. Winter’s crowded storage lots are an inch from actually being junkyards, sometimes literally if anxious owners who have finally had enough are unable to unload their “investments.”
- Greatly simplified, until a few centuries ago, Northern Hemisphere civilization was organized by season. Agricultural production forced sowing, growth, harvest, and fallow at certain times of year. That other favorite activity _ war _ was generally bounded by when the peasants were available and when the ground was dry _ which usually meant it was only waged in summer. Washington, after all, went into “winter quarters” at Valley Forge, as did the British at Philadelphia and New York.
- Less than a hundred years later, with mechanized agriculture providing possibility, the American Civil War inaugurated our current era of any battle any time _ today from climate-controlled machines. Rural populations the world over have migrated to cities that know no season at all. There is no universally valid cycle of planting or harvest, nor on-season, nor off-season for anything else. Tropical bananas, or tomatoes and strawberries grown in greenhouses almost anytime anywhere, are harbingers of what will come.
- My wife, for one, would not care. She’d love to live in a spaceship or mall at a constant 72 degrees exposed to exactly 12 hours of sunlight each day. Humans evolved in relatively climate-steady Africa, so any yearning for seasons is hardly instinctual.
- I wonder, though, whether our 24×365 world is corrosive to civility. Until civilization itself adapts, I think many people miss enforced down time. Being constantly needed and always on call is possibly necessary and rewarding for parents of young children. It is hardly a benefit when working for a faceless corporation.
- I’m not trying to bring back a golden past. Good riddance to days of slaves and peasants chained to land and sun! But I do not believe our individuals and institutions have yet come up with the right replacement for us to live relatively happy and balanced lives.
- Hecksher Park also has its off-season, although this winter it may seem more like off-weather. This playground being deserted probably has more to do with wet and clouds on this relatively mild day. In any case, at almost every park, people have decided they will be happier and healthier if they get out and jog or run or walk or ride. It remains a rare day indeed when there are no people in any given open space.
- People driven by media fads are as much fun to watch as any ducks responding to instinct. While I recognize that I am just one of the herd, I always manage to maintain some spirit of detached observer. I mean, I may make gentle mock of obsessed overweight seniors grimly striding their triple rounds of the pond, but here I am obsessively taking pictures and writing obscurely. The duality of being in and out at the same time _ whether as part of a crowd or as part of nature _ is one of the grand joys of the game of life.