Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY

This summer in New York has been dreary and rainy. Most people I know haven’t been to the beach nearly as much as they’d like, myself included. And I only just made it (in August, for god’s sake!) to Sag Harbor, one of my favorite places on earth.

Forget the Hamptons according to Sex and the City and other equally annoying people. This place is magical. I’ve been coming here since I was in my mom’s belly. For me, it’s a place that swells with memories. I relish the little things I learn each season.

This time, I spent the day relaxing at Foster Memorial Beach, commonly known as Long Beach (and not to be confused with the town of Long Beach). The bay water is calm, so the rocky beach is popular with families and serious swimmers.

I picked up a few movies at the John Jermain Memorial Library (currently under renovation), including the fabulous documentary, How to Draw a Bunny, about the collagist and correspondence artist Ray Johnson. It’s fitting, because Johnson committed suicide by jumping off the LCpl Jordan Haerter Veterans’ Memorial Bridge in Sag Harbor, and I think of it often as we drive into town.

Later, we headed to the Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge. When I was little and slowly walked this path with my now-deceased grandma, she would tell me the names of birds and I would feed black oil sunflower seeds to black-capped chickadees by hand. The path gradually winds to the beach, and a long time ago– before they leveled the path and before the Internet– it was kind of a secret place to go for a dip. This time, wild blackberries were in season and a few beach roses were holding on.

These days, I’m ambivalent about the practice of feeding birds seeds by hand. I know now that this is bad for birds and the habitat, but I’ve seen so many people become truly excited about birds and, hopefully, conservation, for the first time. On this trip, I saw about 20 species with minimal effort, including piping plovers and osprey (which nest nearby). Even non-birders know about piping plovers out here, where sections of beaches are closed during the summer nesting season to protect the endangered/threatened species. Such efforts, though they draw the ire of a few self-indulgent people, have helped the bird population to recover. And for a birder, it’s a great addition to your list.

I generally take the early Monday morning train back to NYC so I can spend the extra night. Watching the sunrise bleed color over the bay is a bonus and the sleepy train ride back is a good way to transition back to city life.


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