Last week, I saw an osprey flying in slow circles over the remains of an enormous nest that last summer held a brood of young.
The nest, perched on a thick branch of an aging oak tree, fell into Chase Creek during the third of the four winter storms and now it looks like a pile of kindling.
That fish hawk seemed angry and I can’t blame him. How would you feel if you came back into town after a long vacation in a warm place to find that your home had fallen into the creek during a nor’easter?
We like to think of this as a place where there’s not much dirty laundry — fortunately, since we have no laundromat.
But this winter was ugly, with the destruction of dozens of trees, arrests for drunk driving and drugs, a home invasion and a burglary, one resulting in the death of an elderly man, all reminding us that no place is totally safe.
Surveys of Americans on the subject of locking doors show that at least 7 percent of Americans regularly leave the doors to their home unlocked and in the Northeast it may be as high as 22 percent. The likelihood that you lock your door has to do with your age (older people lock less), as well as whether or not you live in a city. Your gender (women lock more) also predicts the likelihood that your door is locked.
The police lock on the front door of the New York apartment that my husband and I moved into in 1982 was the gold standard of security at that time. A three-part device, it consisted of a plate bolted to the door, another embedded in the floor, and a heavy metal rod like a ski pole with a bend at one end that fit into the floor plate and slid with a sound like a guillotine as the door opened and closed.
A police lock could not be picked or jammed, and the only way in was to destroy the entire door, a fact that slowed down fire fighters as well as felons. Fortunately, the one time we had a fire, we had plenty of time to dismantle the police lock from the inside and escape unharmed.
The police lock never got traction on Shelter Island, a refuge where an unlocked home was unremarkable and latchkey kids did not exist because there were no keys. But today, people who lock are edging out the unlocked.
A writer and his wife are self-described “city people” and their introduction to Shelter Island’s no-lock policy will sound familiar to people who didn’t grow up here. “When we closed on our house, we asked the owner for the key,” he told me. “He didn’t have one. He was taken aback that we wanted or thought we needed one. But we persisted, and he had a set made at the hardware store.”
Count them as lockers.
A real estate professional I spoke to is not a locker, but she recalled the time she decided to go on a two-month trip and was gently told by a neighbor that this might be the time to lock her house, and let the police know she would be away. Reluctantly, she took the suggestion telling the policeman,” I’ve been told that I should call you.” The police she said, were glad to keep an eye on the place.
She’s now a reluctant locker.
An Islander I’ll identify as an environmental educator falls into the category of the situational locker, especially when it comes to the family cars. On the Island, they don’t lock cars and even leave the keys to their 20-year old stick shift inside the car on the theory that anyone who got the urge to steal it would have no idea how to drive it.
They only remove the keys from the new car (10 years old) to save them from being accidentally locked inside. Don’t laugh, it happened. “We like to imagine that Shelter Island is a safe, secure place where we can trust people to do the right thing,” she said. “But, yes, the recent [events]are definitely a concern.”
A long-time resident who grew up on Shelter Island, lived away and then returned is one of those who have revised their locking practices.
“I have not been a locker, but I am now and feel both guilty and sad about it. To live on Shelter Island is to live in paradise. I still believe that, but being careful wins over nostalgia.”
I admit that I am now a locker, even if my purpose is to keep good things inside (heat, the dog) more than bad things out. For 25 years, our Shelter Island home was unlocked year-round whether we were here or not, but I used to ride with my sisters in a 1970 Volkswagen bug with no seat belts and I’m not doing that anymore either.
Now I’m into home security, including a smoke and CO detector that sends me a text message when my husband creates clouds of smoke while broiling salmon.
It’s our nest, and even though I know bad things can happen, it makes me feel better to know I’m doing what I can to protect us.