The sun is shining, blue expanse of sky and darker blue ocean, scrub pines and dunes covered in poison ivy, as well as an extensive variety of plants whose names are not important except for the myriad shades of green and the fact they kept this house safe during the hurricane.

To my right, the pinecrowned evergreens are taller and full of chittering, chattering birds and crickets. One American flag stands, at ease.

To my left, faraway a few wisps of clouds linger like reluctant ghosts of drowned fishermen, above the jetty. Two American flags hang, barely moving, as if they are not yet awake. It is early, not even the lifeguards are on the beach. Stretching my arms, I imagine gathering in the glory of it all, hoping to keep a pocketful for the future, knowing from experience it is better to just be here now.

The faded, soft red, slightly tattered umbrella on the deck, where I now survey this wonderland, stayed up all night and is remembering the stillness of black, the Milky Way and all stars, large and small, that twinkled so daintily. We could have made a million wishes, me wrapped in one of the many quilts provided here and the old umbrella, brave and open to the fickle winds of change after change.

At this place I call heaven on earth, downstairs a woman might be dying, too young, far too young. Her husband is beyond weary, angry, and he needs a haircut underneath his well-worn NY Yankees baseball cap. Of course, I don't tell him he needs a haircut; I just listen and meet the brother she has not been speaking to for fifteen years, who drove from East Rutherford because she called, saying she thought she was dying today. He complains about the cost of gas to get from there to here, then pulls out a cordless razor and starts shaving. I am just on the ground to place recyclables into one of the cans.

The husband, the brother, and I talk about car mirrors and how they have changed over the years. We calmly discuss the possibility of having to move three cars and seven bicycles, if the husband decides to call the ambulance, as if we are discussing the breeze coming from the bay instead of the ocean. Which, on any island, decides the choices of the day. Biting flies and dull heat being the main annoyances.

Back up two flights of stairs to my favorite place, the upper deck, I bring a book and coffee. In a heightened state of alert, I hear a small, spoiled dog padding on gravel; I hear bees buzzing and a few cordial "good mornings", as people pass on paths down to the ocean.

The wind shifts and I hear a cell phone woman's voice," Well, it's 9 am and someone needs to deal with it and I can't get through to Barney...Oh, I didn't mean you; you've got your babies this week. How are the darlings?...Uh, huh, well... you know how I feel about grown people, not you, Rose...I mean for money. Honestly, I would find it incredibly boring...Oh, you're in the middle of making them pancakes? Why didn't you say so?...My family? No, God forbid, I left them all home, but they keep calling me as if I don't have a life or I might be lonely...Forget I called. No, really, enjoy your time with the little ones. Give everyone hugs and kisses from me...No, seriously, don't worry; Janet is next on my list. She hasn't done anything of significance lately...Yes, yes, love ya, bye!" This was followed by a long, dramatic audible sigh, louder than the ocean, as if pretending to be cheerful was such a burden.

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