The Colors of Nantucket
by Andrew Spencer
Arriving on Nantucket for the first time is akin to Dorothy’s entrance into the Wonderful World of Oz. Before you get to the island for the first time, you only think you’ve seen real colors. When you set foot on this little strip of sand for the first time, however, you realize what is meant by truly vibrant colors.
The brilliant blue sky is matched by the clusters of blue hydrangea blooms that cascade out from expertly manicured gardens. Of course, we’re surrounded by that same shade of blue in the Atlantic Ocean, home to the bluefish, the ubiquitous summer visitor that provides sport and food for so many local anglers.
Floating around in that sky are countless fluffy, white clouds. At times, they look like sky-bound versions of the Queen Anne’s lace blooms that grow wild all over the island. Those brilliant whites are also reflected in the sun-bleached scallop shells along the beach and the scrimshaw toppers on the world-famous Nantucket Lightship baskets. And then there’s the most beautiful white of all: the white of a wedding dress worn by a Nantucket bride.
Green is another abundant color on the island, as the rolling expanse of grass that covers the moors explodes in a verdant display every summer. The beach grasses high atop island dunes reflect that emerald hue as they dance in the summer breeze. Island lawns are similarly lush, as are the boxwoods that stand sentry along the edges. Hydrangeas are the staple of every Nantucket garden, whether they be pink, blue, white or shades of purple.
As the sun sets on another gorgeous Nantucket day, a new set of colors make their entry into the Nantucket color palette. There are few things anywhere in the world to compare to a Nantucket sunset, as that phenomenon literally encompasses 360 degrees. The entire sky comes alive as the sun dips below the horizon, with oranges, pinks, and reds setting the night aglow.
Those same colors become more prominent in the fall, as the island dons its autumnal costume. Orange pumpkins suddenly appear alongside brilliant red cranberries. The moors begin to take on a shade of brown in preparation for their winter slumber. The island’s deer population begins to
become more visible at this time, too, and the brown of their hides matches the hibernating grasses. Those browns eventually give way to the white of winter snows, when the island seems to take a well-deserved nap in preparation for and anticipation of the excitement of the yellow daffodils poking up along Milestone Road to ring in another season on Nantucket.
Ironically, perhaps the most iconic color associated with Nantucket is grey. Anywhere else in the world, that color is relegated to the world of drab and nondescript. But here on Nantucket, grey is a welcoming shade that anyone who has spent time on the island knows is perhaps the most special color of all. The island is known as the Little Grey Lady, and for good reason. Whether it’s the grey of the weathered shingles that cover so many island houses or the fog that oftentimes blankets the island in a cozy cocoon, there are countless shades of grey on Nantucket, and they all—along with every other color in the spectrum—contribute to the unique qualities that make Nantucket such a special place for so many.
There are no words that can adequately describe the visual spectacle that is Nantucket. As a writer, I am all too well aware of that linguistic shortcoming. No, words don’t do the landscape true justice. To accomplish that, we must rely on another group of creative folks: the local artists who paint their visions of Nantucket, using colors to express the beauty that words cannot capture.
Article edited. Full version available in ONLY NANTUCKET Fall /Winter 2019.