In the ever-unfolding story of Island Creek, Duxbury has been the setting for quite a bit of growth. We’ve grown clams. We’ve grown oysters. We have a growing business. What most people don’t know is that this small community has also been the backdrop for growing up–most of us from small, rowdy children into something that at least resembles adulthood.

Last week I went running during my lunch hour.  I deftly wove (okay, dragged myself) through some back roads and found myself at the middle school track. Running the track, I came upon a path that struck me as familiar as an old friend’s face. This was the place where I saw my first fight. This was also the place where I kissed a boy. Can’t say that one was my first. I was surprised by the memories and it brought me right back to that time, those feelings.

It is singularly bizarre experience – working as a professional person in the small 15,000 resident town you spent your childhood in.  This is especially odd for me because I moved away from the northeast for many years. The idea of living in Duxbury was inconceivable – I had moved away because this little town couldn’t accommodate who I wanted to be. It was too limiting, too preppy, too known.

Fast forward ten years, and I’m running on my old middle school track, feeling all the good and bad ways that I felt during that time. If you want to escape, this is not the way to do it. People know who you are, who your parents are. They remember the time you smashed the windows in the high school, you remember their children’s drug habit. Locations are filled with stories – the town forest, the beach. The Vicker’s house. My parent’s backyard.

Speaking of which, how many of us have had our mother’s stop by the office unannounced? Well, just about everyone here has. This is a sort of closeness that many people would rail against. And I get it, because I was there at one point. I needed space.

What surprises me most is that I came back. I was incredibly nervous about my return. I didn’t have a solid reason beyond ‘it’s where I’m from’ and that was barely sufficient. Lucky for me, I did come back. Because from my new vantage point, I can see that in focusing on those old ghosts I wasn’t able to anticipate some of the sweet stuff.

The moment I saw the path on my run I was struck by some of this sweetness: The deciduous and coniferous landscape that inspired and taught me. The people that cared for me, those I cared for, and shared experiences with. The character of a small place which doesn’t – can’t – pretend to be anything other than what it is, what it has been.

In being confronted with how I identify or don’t with this town by working here, I have felt one major emotion emerge. It’s consistency and depth surprises me as much as the path did on my run. Put simply, I feel like I have a place. A space that is connected to history, my own, and the history of a landscape and a people. The support that I feel in this connection underlays every other experience I have. It allows me to move through my day with perspective, and that perspective brings peace. And while rooted in history, that peace feels especially new.

I suppose I’m still surprised at how I got here. How I got myself back to this coast. But the ‘why’? Why I’m here now? That question doesn’t exist for me. It is. And I am grateful.

Dana Hale runs the sales department here at ICO and goes by many aliases including “Oysteress” and “The Hale Storm”. Don’t get in her way.