Andrew Burmon is the Huffington Post's Travel Editor.
My childhood dog, who tagged along with me through growth spurts and puberty then waited stubbornly to die until I returned from San Francisco, used to sit with me on the top step of the back porch and flare his nostrils, letting in the decay of the beach and salted breeze. On foggy days, when we couldn't see the bay -- no more than thirty feet away -- he'd listen for the gulls, the chuff of the porpoises and the shrieks of the Bald Eagle that flew over from the mainland. Every once in a while there would be a scaly thump as an Osprey lost its grip on dinner.
He sits inside now, in a metal jar on the shelf next to the ashes of his forebear and not far from the bowl of his successor, who delights in the same smells and wages war on the kayaks that sometimes drag his people away. In an unchanged landscape, loss masquerades as continuity.
Ever since Hurricane Bob prompted the year-rounders to move inland, my family has had a tiny home with a massive view on your northern edge. When people ask me where I'm from, I tell them Massachusetts -- I grew up there after all-- but that little house is the more significant fact. Boston is that old girlfriend, the pretty one whose friend I always liked better because her flaws seemed better tailored to my own. You are the friend.
Mine is an inkblot of an island, all messy coves, inlets and associations. For some, it is defined by the old money cottages. For others, it is the constellation of cabins and trailers in the dark woods further up island where kids get drunk or high; a pick-up drives down the spit near my house and flashes his lights, signaling to the boat offshore that the coast is clear. It isn't, but no one cares. This is nothing but the ticking of your watch.
For me, you are a collection of habits and familiarities. The girls behind the counter at the shop know to get me a tuna on pumpernickel and that I'll eat it on the Bookshop porch so I can talk to the antiques dealer, who does a brisk business in barbs and subtle kindnesses He wears bright Chuck Taylors and knew me better than I did for years and years. He was always sweet about it.
Here is what I know: At the southernmost and northernmost tips of the island, there are small, round geographical markers. In the field near the narrow middle, there is a monument where a group of Harvard researchers recorded a solar eclipse in the 1700s. The feral kittens who live under the ramshackled place on the other side of the hill warm their bellies on the road at night. My mother paints in the yard when its sunny and my chainsaw-wielding father launches periodic offensives against the undergrowth. The deer eat whatever is in the garden no matter how much you pee on the lawn and the best raspberry bushes are behind the Public Library.
The woman I love will volunteer to go swimming then back out at the last moment. Fruit flies will be fruit flies.
Inevitability renders serendipity foreseeable when you know the rhythms of a place; I can tell when the fog is about to envelope you. I sit on the top step of the back porch and listen to the seagulls argue.
The dog stands next to me for a moment before running off, chasing something I can't smell or hear.