We live in a peaceful place.
This is a truth that visitors to the East End see from the moment they arrive, but it is also a truth that those of us who have always lived here need to remember, especially in the chaos of this season of shopping and planning of family gatherings.
As we take a few minutes, from time to time, to gaze across the still waters of the Peconic Bay, or out across the roiling ocean along the south shore, or along the boulder-strewn pebbles of the Long Island Sound, we can imagine other, less peaceful shores — boats filled with refugees fleeing violence, modern piracy, aggression in the South China sea, or even masses of cruise ships disgorging their passengers upon once-pristine Caribbean islands or in the midst of the sinking lime of a city like Venice, drowning in tourists or water, depending on the day.
Our little sanctuary is part of this chaotic world, and it could easily fall prey to the stresses and pressures of overtourism and rising seas. We are not immune to these pressures, but we are lucky to have among us so many people who fight every day to keep this place the way it is.
We never would have thought, growing up decades ago among the potato fields and along the salt marsh shores, that legacy industries like farming and shellfishing would remain the backbone of our economy here. But at this point we have proven that is these fundamental industries — keeping a community fed — that will last when all fads have come and gone.
Throughout the chaos of the tourist season, it is easy to overlook the community that is bound together here, the neighbors helping neighbors at food pantries, the bartering of corn for tax preparation or a bag of oysters for help repairing a broken electric socket, the loan of a tractor when you need to till a field, the way today’s bread has a way of making itself to hungry mouths. This kind of economy can only thrive if we all share the same values, if there is a neighbor who has a tractor to loan you, if the source of your food matters to you. There is enough here that none of us should go hungry.
There are so many people, out there in America, feeding a survivalist urge — stockpiling canned food, or weapons, or medications, in bunkers where they hope to hide their families from the rest of humanity in the event that all we’ve built our society on breaks down.
But there are many people out there who are not prepping for the worst. Whether they are living on faith that things will remain the same, or that God has worked out all the details of his plan for us, or just on gratitude for waking each morning to see the rising sun, this hopeful waking is so vital to our survival.
But there is far more than hope at play. There’s a growing theory among those who are aware of how quickly our society could all fall apart who believe that places with strong, capable communities will be the most resilient against all the future pressures the world will face. These are places where people care for their neighbors, know how to grow their food, fix their cars and engineer solutions to all sorts of everyday problems they face.
In this season of gratitude, let’s remember the strength of this community that we are all working to build, put faith in our neighbors each day the sun rises on our peaceful place, and work to be the neighbor that we’d like to have.