At sunrise after a light rainfall a few weeks ago, my two rambunctious dogs burrowed under the fence and set out on a big adventure. Most often they gallop to their favorite spot, deep in the woods to the wetlands, where they delight in rolling through a fertile combination of mud and deer droppings, then reappear, beaming with pride in their dramatically altered fur coats. On this occasion, carrying leashes and calling out their names as I made my way through brambles, I paused to take a breath and heard the utter stillness of nature. There was an almost mechanical “swoop-swoop” sound, followed by a downdraft from the wide wings of a red-tailed hawk overhead, and a little farther ahead, bunnies scampered under the protection of a shrub and posed like statues, with paws pursed tight in front of their breasts. Although I was close to home, this undisturbed patch of land seemed far away, secret and magical.
Nature plays an important role for many people who purchase property and those who already live here on Shelter Island. In the late 1990s when I began working in residential real estate at a local agency here, the broker-owner Frederick Dinkel would often share his observations of nature with me. I still cherish the infectious enthusiasm of his discoveries; a meadow of vibrant orange and red wildflowers off of West Neck Road, an osprey nest full of eggs teetering on a bulkhead on the harbor, a colony of spotted salamanders under a massive log near Camp Quinipet.
A client of mine who was recently interviewed by a nationally known publication was asked by the reporter what drew him to Shelter Island. An avid sailor and fisherman, he described how, after spending time in the Hamptons, he had ventured through the island and realizing how ideal it was for boating, he and his family promptly secured a property. “No matter where you are on the island,” he said, “there is an acute awareness of being surrounded by saltwater and wide stretches of pristine beaches and preserve.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, I was on a tour with a couple and their young son. At each listing, we walked the land surrounding the home, and at each property much to everyone’s excitement, there was something wild to behold: a woodchuck ambling under a shed, bright Baltimore orioles playing tag through the branches of a cedar tree, a herd of eight heads of deer spying at us through the thicket, and at Reel Point, a fox with a long bushy tail scampering on the sand. Nearing the end of the tour, the child became restless and the parents remarked “we’ve been lucky so far but he’s going to have a meltdown.” At the final home, the boy began stomping on the ground and soon after tears flowed. Out of nowhere, a Monarch butterfly fluttered between us and alighted on the boy’s head. “Oh look!” the mother exclaimed, “he likes you!” Seconds later, the butterfly took off and then landed squarely on the boy’s nose, with its wings opening and closing slowly. He smiled from ear to ear, and giggled as he looked, almost cross-eyed at the butterfly, then beamed at us. As the Monarch fluttered away, the boy cried out, “Oh come back, come back you!” The father turned to me and said, “Ok, where do we sign, we’re sold on Shelter Island!”