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Shorelines: The spectre of Shelter Island Summer 2023

Last summer, enjoying the beloved fireworks show on the Island, I was visited by a fictional friend from my childhood, the preternaturally cheerful Casper the Friendly Ghost.

The little cartoon character, about the size of a pillowcase rather than the bedsheets we used as Halloween costumes, popped up again recently to offer his unique perspective.

Able to travel through walls and unfettered by mere mortality, little Casper helped me calibrate my feelings about this time of year on the Island, a place that often feels frozen in time, and yet sometimes perilously close to undergoing disruption and change, from climate as well as human nature.

The sight of docks underwater is becoming routine. The ferry ramps have had to be raised, as have the rates, but we will continue to take for granted their commitment to transporting us reliably between here and that other world, and safely back again.

These early May days, when the weather toggles between last gasps of winter and glorious glimpses of summer, my thoughts are pulled to pondering what the next busy season will bring to the Island.

It’s easy to linger amid treasured memories of family clambakes on the beaches, classic town parades, gorgeous fireworks and annual chicken barbecues. Some of those traditions are gone, possibly forever; some will continue to thrive and help Islanders make new memories each summer.

Casper’s age is indeterminate, but he appears to laugh at what I might consider a lifetime of memories.

Like the billions of grains of sand on our beaches, we are minuscule in light of the universe, or eternity. This is beginning to sound like a late-night conversation I might have had at the Dory years ago. Speaking of which, will that old watering hole come back to life sometime soon?

Hope springs eternal.

In a lighter vein, it means we should give the Summer of ‘23 a chance to be the greatest memory someone may experience. A summer romance may blossom; a couple may celebrate their vows with an Island wedding; little ones will learn to swim; their older brothers and sisters will get up on waterskis for the first time. Toddlers in brightly colored bathing suits will scuttle across the sand like fat, happy little crabs.

Sunburns and jellyfish stings will be soothed. Ice cream and ice pops from beach trucks will make the pain go away — maybe both on the same day, if the town would permit such a thing.

Culinary surprises await as the newly expanded number of restaurants vie for Islanders’ favor. Golfers will hone their games at Gardiner’s Bay and Goat Hill; then celebrate or drown their sorrows among friends at the bar. The Bucks will settle into their host families’ homes and strive to bring us glory.

So keep up your sessions at the FIT Center as bathing suit season looms on the calendar. Stop by the Pharmacy for a fresh supply of sunscreen. You don’t have to be as pale as Casper, but ward off those skin-damaging, wrinkle-producing rays as you bask in the May sunshine.

And once again, choose something to add to your toolbox this summer. Learn a new dance step, a craft, even a new language. Pick up that paintbrush or camera and capture the stunning beauty around us from sunrise to sunset.

I’m sending my little friend Casper on his way now. What I do with my next Shelter Island summer is up to me, and I’m ready to splash my toes in the bay.

There’s even a ghost of a chance, with our warming waters, that I’ll make it all the way in this year, sometime before August.