Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Season

We are almost embarrassed that it has been so long since our last post; but as we said at the time, issues on Mount Desert Island and elsewhere have been largely overshadowed by national economic events. That doesn’t mean there has been nothing going on around here. We have seen the occasional “dust up” over a few local regulations and other matters, but little has happened of island-wide import. Taking a longer term perspective however, there are some subtle shifts occurring in island life about which we all should be concerned.

In just a couple of weeks the time of year locally known as “the season” will begin. “The season” refers to that period between July 4th and Labor Day when most of our summer residents occupy their homes, and when the events calendar swells to overflowing. “The season” for many of these longtime residents has always remained a constant in their lives, and it has been eagerly anticipated as a welcome respite from day to day business and social interests, as a time for relaxation and enjoyment of nature’s beauty and bounty, and as a time for extended families and friends to gather in a quiet, relaxed setting – often for the only time each year.

Year-round families also enjoy and look forward to “the season”, but in a different way. Most of them work long hours during the summer months, although they still entertain family and friends and look for opportunities to savor these wonderful days that seem to pass all too quickly.

But in the words of Bob Dylan – “the times they are a-changin”! Increasingly, “the season” is not what it used to be.

For one thing, families from all economic strata don’t place the same value on just being together that they used to in years past. Various generations often see things very differently today. They have different priorities and sometimes vastly different lifestyles. The closeness that was so much a part of extended families 50 years ago, all too often no longer exists.

For another thing, society has changed. There used to be relatively little social competition among wealthy summer residents. They lived rather elegant lives to be sure, but they usually saw summers on Mount Desert as a time to “rusticate” and to be with their friends in a more low-key fashion than was possible in the cities where they spent most of the year. Today, there seems to be much greater competition to build the biggest, most extravagant house on the boldest, most dramatic ocean cliff; to be seen at a party with the most prominent national and international figures; to have the most well-known house guests; or to have at one’s disposal the largest private jet and the most expensive yacht.

Perhaps the main reason behind these changes is the fast, intense and highly competitive pace of life today compared to 30 or 40 years ago. No one seems to have the time to do everything they feel they need to do, and finding time to relax is something that frequently is neglected. Also, many people today do not respect tradition the way they used to. The current generation appears to be much more self absorbed, much more materialistic, much more interested in being first, and much less inclined to learn from their parents and grandparents.

Of course, exceptions certainly can be found; and it is possible that we unfairly exaggerate the potentially negative aspects of modern life. Still, there is little doubt that the idyllic, idealistic summer days of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s are very much in the past. All of us are poorer as a result.