And it’s also where we go when we think there might be a hurricane—maybe not right in the middle of the hurricane—but we go there to anticipate, commiserate, before the potential storm. Then, we see the water has climbed all the way up to the parking lot where they’ve relocated the lifeguard stands. And it’s where we’ve seen our neighbors set up chairs and cocktails in the newly made pool that shouldn’t be there. But it helps us all make light of what could be a really bad experience for the beach—our beach—like with Hurricane Irene last August. And then, there is the relief we feel after the storm when we see that although there has been erosion, Indian Wells is still there, even replenishing itself over the fall and winter months, when it gets that well-deserved recharge, respite, from all of us.
And it’s also where we find out that Kenny Preuss, the man whose snack truck has been loyally stationed like a sentinel at the entrance to Indian Wells for many years, isn’t there anymore because he has two kinds of cancer. While others have come and gone, and Craig and “Aunt Darlene” are now keeping us stocked with plenty of beach treats, Kenny will always be a part of Indian Wells that many of us will not forget. He not only remembered our names, he remembered what we liked—even when it was something silly; but Kenny would keep a supply of “JAX” just because “Cindy’s kids like ‘em.” And, of course, I realize there are many people out there with their own (probably better) stories. But that’s great too, because it just means I’ve got more good stories to discover, and even stronger proof about how we’re all connected to each other, through a place, through our beach, Indian Wells.
I met James Lovelock once at theMuseumofNatural HistoryinNew York City. He’s not from theEast End; he’s fromEngland, and as far as I know, he’s never heard of Indian Wells. But among his accomplishments as a NASA physicist, Lovelock originated the “Gaia” theory which looks at the entire planet as something of a living organism. The land masses are kind of like the body; the atmosphere is akin to the lungs or respiratory system; the oceans represent the circulatory system, and all of us (humans) are the micro-organisms impacting the Earth’s overall well-being. While there’s been debate about whether Lovelock was actually ascribing sentient characteristics to an inanimate object (i.e., the Earth), there’s no question (if you read his Revenge of Gaia) that he views the Earth/Gaia as fighting back with climate change impacts. But the idea of a place taking on living attributes is crazy, right? Because places can’t think, can’t feel …can they?
But what if we changed our perspective a bit? What if, instead of being nature’s plague, we could become, through our collective, shared experiences, all of the nerve endings of a place? If that happens, haven’t we become much more like the brain, even the soul, of a place—in any case, much more than just an infiltrating colony of bacteria. And if that happens, doesn’t that place become more than just a place, special, even alive in some context?
And that’s why I think our beach is truly special to me. It’s beautiful on the outside, but even moreso on the inside. On the inside, we have all helped this “place” achieve that kind of natural homeostasis which is truly rare, a state whereby the “ecosystem” or “body” is in balance. Our beach is a place where people, whose families have been fixtures in Amagansett since its founding in the 1600s, gather on the left side as the Amagansett Beach Association; and to the right, as an online-assembled “meet-up” of younger people sunning and socializing before heading out to Cyril’s. The rest of us are somewhere in the middle, and usually, everyone gets along—just so long as nobody pees in the dunes! And while the characters in the individual stories may be different, the synapse, the bridge, that connection linking us all to the central plot is the same—we are all having fun, making memories here, growing up with, and continually being formed by this place, this beach, our beach, Indian Wells.