I have been thinking a lot about the idea of timelessness lately. When I was a kid, there were people in Provincetown I thought would live forever, people who never seemed to age. Their houses did, shingles weathering and porches soft and sagging, but their faces looked the same from year to year. I think the salt preserves people who live by the sea.
I moved away, I came back. These people I thought would live forever have all started to die, an entire generation now essentially gone. In a town of only 3,000 people, these figures loomed larger than life–the town historians, the poets, the hippies, and the old women who worked at the school cafeteria in summer and at the fried clam shacks in summer. These were people who’d lived their whole lives in the same three miles of sand, who remembered their neighbor’s lives as well as they remembered their own.
Their houses still remain, purchased by new owners with plans to fix them up, to iron out any inconsistencies. That summer I delivered mail, I nearly fell through one of those sagging porches, so these improvements are certainly needed. The houses show up on a rental site with a cute name, any evidence of their previous owners completely erased.
This weekend in particular has me thinking about time, and the desire to stop or at least slow it. On Nantucket, the last weekend in April is the Daffodil Festival, as it has been for the last 45 years. It is a stunning few days when the weather cooperates. It’s been pouring rain for the last two days and as I write this, the rain looks like it might be letting up in the early morning hours of Saturday. A coordinated campaign to plant thousands of daffodil bulbs along public ways and roads on the island decades ago has resulted in a proliferation of daffodils that bloom each spring.
A hallmark of the Daffodil Festival is an iconic antique car parade. Is there anything closer to time travel than restoring an antique car? There’s an element of bending time to your will, of damning the decades and getting a machine that was built before your grandparents were born to work. I find classic cars entrancing. Or I did, until last year when I started to notice that a few of the cars in the parade proudly displayed the year they came off the assembly line in their windshield–and I found that I was now older than some of the cars considered “antiques.” Maybe I will become one of those timeless people, roaming these sandy towns. Hell, maybe I already am.
It really is something to see the island blanketed with these yellow blooms, each flower lifting their trumpeted heads towards the sun, swaying in the ceaseless wind. One look at my lawn is all you need to know I am no gardener, but there is something compelling about these daffs and how each year they return, with little to no human intervention. The lawn of my grandparents house is littered with daffodil bulbs they planted, and even though they are both dead, their daffodils return year after year.
When the water rises and Nantucket transforms into a new sliver of sand, one I can’t even yet imagine, I hope the daffodils continue to bloom.