As storms go, it wasn’t much of one, just a little rain, and some gusty wind—enough to take out old or over-watered trees. Except for the loss of the electricity, it was a dry run. Or perhaps “dry run” is a bad term, because the one thing the weakened storm did do in a significant, threatening way was change the ratio of land to water in Sagaponack.
Until Sunday I had only imagined what it looked like when the ocean came into the pond wholesale. By luck, we had arrived at high tide: The road was just beginning to submerge, sea foam was pouring into the parking lot at both entrances, the ocean was rolling straight through the breach and crashing as if that were always its place, toward the western edge of this no-longer-serene pondscape. It is violent, grays and browns and greens. It is loud—you must holler to be heard.
When we take a face full of foam, an old-timer yells, “That’s Indian poo!” This was the first time I’d heard storm-tossed seawater called such a thing. But we were retreating, and I did not ask for clarification. I later deduced the reference was an implication that there could be some justice on an elemental level.
Storm surge is a funny thing to call it, too. With Sagg Pond as its agent, the ocean can easily draw new boundaries. Water came over Sagg Bridge and White walls. It spread and filled indiscriminately across farm fields and house lots. Terns fished “inland.” The swamp was entirely full, the oaks halfway up to their squirrel holes in clear water.
As I looked around Sagg, I was noting the places where I’d never want to build a house or plant a crop. From the look on most people’s faces, I got the sense they were assessing the same sort of things: bewilderment, awe, relief. The familiar was tangibly surreal.
Everybody’s satisfaction with the storm quickly faded. While many crops were spared, salt and wind did an early defrocking of fruits and flowers. The next day looked a lot like early October. Worse than that, the electricity did not return. And one romantic night proved enough for most. Those who could, fled to better accommodations in nearby Manhattan. The previous surge was now accompanied by the equal and opposite, vacuum. It doesn’t matter how much one paid for the rental, or the home—when the toilet doesn’t flush, nobody wants to live there.
Which goes back to the point about Indian poo …