The Fox of Fire Island by Martha Graham-Waldon
Imagine a place where there are no cars, no trucks, no motorcycles, no traffic. Imagine a place where you can stroll from the beach to the bay in no time at all; where you may encounter deer and other fauna along the way. Who could ask for a better get-away than that?
I am lucky to have a generous and kind friend who includes me in her family's yearly sojourn to tiny Fire Island, one of several barrier islets located off the coast of Long Island. Its charm and beachy lifestyle draw loyal families from New York City and all over the East Coast who return to its sandy shores each summer.
After my red-eye flight across the continent from California, I find myself standing at the dock of Bayshore, ferry ticket in hand, waiting to board with dozens of families who carry provisions to fuel their vacations. They jostle carts and wagons loaded high with cases of water, beer, snacks, pets (I saw a cockatiel in a cage) and plenty of beach toys. Some will stay the whole summer, or at least the kids will, while some dads and moms commute to work in the city during the week. We board and the ferry churns through the calm waters of the Great South Bay, past yachts anchored in front of stately ocean front homes with lush green lawns sloping down to the water. After a short half hour ride, the ferry reaches the shore of the village of Ocean Beach, my destination.
Joanna meets me and we set out across the island toting my luggage in a large wagon. We walk down tree studded lanes of summer homes, some large, some small, with yards brimming with bright flowers, ponds and unique decorations. Colorful bird houses hang from small trees, impish figurines gather in fairy circles in sand dunes. Cottages and stately homes line the "walks" as they are aptly called. The only sounds are of humans having fun and the call of wild birds. This is because there are no cars on this island. You can walk or bike from one side to the other, with a beach on one side and the harbor on the other here on Fire Island. Designated as a National Seashore in 1964, the island is home to protected deer, birds, fox and other fauna that thrive in the dunes and forests.
This year my visit begins with dark storm clouds and intermittent rain. Joanna reports that they have seen a fox roaming around the neighborhood so we keep a watchful eye for him. But we spend most of the day indoors until the afternoon when we walk five houses down to the beach. Gray castles of clouds are piled on the horizon portending more rain. Yet finally as we walk down the wooden boardwalk and stairs, shards of sun break through. Down the walk ahead of us we see a small rust colored figure. The fox! We watch him dart into a yard and drink from a fountain and just when we think he is gone, he appears again looking curiously toward us, as tame as a dog, before scampering under the wood pilings of a sprawling cottage. Now my day is complete. The fox has brought us luck and the rest of the week is filled with sun, sand, sea breezes, ocean swims, lobster dinners and blessed quietude. A heavenly summer stay on Fire Island!