To The Halves or Halve Nots:
Only on our side of the bridge would the push-pull between two villages have become a sandbox fight.
The proposal of Three Bays Preservation Inc. and Mass. Audubon to move sand from the Cotuit end of the most beautiful island on earth to the Osterville end of the most beautiful island on earth is stirring up the troops.
As Chuck Sabatt, president of the Osterville Village Association, obviously someone with a sense of humor, said recently, “...if we were trying to find a crisis...we may have found one.”
Some Cotuit residents aren’t laughing at the prospect of lopping the tip off Sampson’s Island and dropping it at the opposite Osterville end of the island -- particularly when they view the O’ville ocean front Mcmansions as the source of the erosion/deposit problems in the first place. But before this sandbox squabble escalates into a turf war, it might be helpful to view the whole island from a different perspective . Here’s a loftier view -- both from a small plane and from a fifty year love affair with both ends of the island.
For four generations of our family, Dead Neck and Sampson’s have simply been known as “The Island” -- the promised land for picnics, boat trips, hiking, birding, beaching, shelling, and sunning -- a destination which demands only the question, “Should we anchor on the outside or the inside?”
My earliest Cape memories are gathering driftwood to cook supper at Pirate’s Cove (the inlet that once separated the island’s halves). This was in an era when driftwood, now scarce, was plentiful, when lumber, not plastic, washed ashore from seagoing vessels and when laws against campfires hadn’t been thought up. After stripping and peeling the perfect skewer sticks, we would crisp our hot dogs to black in the crackling fire. To this day, I can’t eat a pink, boiled frank. What a desecration!
With the familiar faces lit gold by firelight, we ate and chatted and sang our hearts out: folk songs and sea shanties and all the college favorites of our parents. When the lingering pink stripes of a summer sunset faded and the first stars twinkled, it was time to go. We packed Mom’s baskets and wrapped ourselves in towels for the windy trip home in Dad’s skiff. I will always equate security with those rides -- huddled with my sisters in the bow of a boat, my Dad squinting into the declining light, steering us through the wind and waves towards home.
He once wrote a poem about our family and the island. I quoted some of it in a story I did for Cape Cod Life last summer. Here’s more:
Affection and the earth’s geography
Rest in conjunction at the narrow bar
That stretches on the Sound a mile or so
From bay to bay, a stone’s throw off the land.
We anchor in the river just behind,
Protected from the southwest breeze outside.
And help the children down to wade ashore.
This last of summer days before the fall.
In August, there’s a more eternal sky,
A deeper blue with knitted woolen clouds.
The fragile air ignores a brilliant sun
And warns us how to savor one more day.
The older sisters, six and lately five,
Always a pair, run calling up the beach.
I stand in shallow water by the boat
As Sally hands the two-year-old to me.
The breeze, by afternoon, brings all to life.
A brace of swift Cotuit skiffs, big-sailed
And heeling hard, churns through the narrow pass,
Waved on by three small orange-vested girls.
During my ritual, summer closure ride, before taking my motorboat out of the water this year, I headed, as always, to the island. As I came through the cut and rounded the tip of Dead Neck into the river, two little, life-jacketed girls waved eagerly and urgently from the beach. Slightly stunned, I waved back at this mirror image of my sister and me so many years ago -- marveling at the timelessness of this place and its pleasures. We waved until I was well on my way to Cotuit where the orange sun hanging over that picture perfect New England steeple and slope of houses blinded me with late summer light.
Here’s hoping our deep and mutual affection for this place keeps our dredging debates focused on dumping sand, not on each other.
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