Montauk by Winter

 

By summer Montauk finds its reputation. The farthest point from New York City that still attracts its crowd, the sea centered town becomes a haven for those looking to swim, surf, sail, party hard, rest hard and escape the clutches of the city; but the point is no escape, for its streets become cluttered with people and traffic just as its beaches swell with desperate tourists. The dream of Montauk, a disappointment.

By winter, Montauk finds its salvation. Far from New York both geographically and in appeal, the town falls as silent as the snow that falls upon it. Late in the season, few remain; workers reconstructing the beaches with vast piles of sand, waitresses and baristas serving them, a few inn keepers patiently awaiting visitors, a handful of fishermen, surfers clad in black wetsuits and very few non-working residents, quiet and searching for an escape from the world. Save for the very few visitors hardy enough to venture in this season it seems as though everyone knows everyone else by both name and reputation. By far it seems the smallest town I have ever visited.

While there I spoke with a woman in a coffee shop by the name of Allie Moxie. She told me that she found my camera interesting as she had been looking to photograph again, a pastime she had long ago surrendered for the sake of work in film. She offered me some advice on where to go in order to encounter people to photograph before sitting for a portrait of her own. After some time she had revealed her purpose for being in a coffee shop so far from the city which never sleeps.

“I’m trying to live out here.” Placing emphasis on the word ‘trying’. “I haven’t been working enough though, and I hardly have anything else to do to fill the time.” She talked like a person who had been lost in thought for months. It seemed to be a time in her life
wherein escape was imperative. She had worked in film for years and was trying to get out, but there was little to do where she had landed herself at this time of year.

Outside the wind howled like the voices of people desperate for connection. If Montauk by summer is where young folks come to live than Montauk by winter is where old souls go to die. That is not to say that the winter here is bad; in fact it is something quite beautiful. I mean only that death is not so terrible as we have made to make it out to be. Here it is quiet and peaceful, transformative and impermanent. One can die in Montauk and leave it in another form.

Standing on the cliffs near its shores it is easy to see this; the beauty of a thing dying even as we know by summer, it shall be reborn.