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Meet your Neighbors: Nancy Nau Sullivan

Meet Nancy Nau Sullivan! Nancy is a writer living in Dune Acres. Her book, THE LAST CADILLAC: A MEMOIR, was officially published on April 26, 2016, by Amphorae Publishing Group. She will have a book signing Saturday, at 2pm, at the Westchester History Museum, Chesterton.  The book is about the years she took care of her father while raising two kids on Anna Maria Island, Florida–amidst family crises and a hurricane or two.  Formerly, Nancy was a newspaper journalist, teacher, and, most recently, Peace Corps volunteer in Mexico.

What brought you to the Dunes? My Aunt Margaret. She and Uncle Lewie built a house in Dune Acres after WWII. She always had a roast in the oven on Sundays. My mother and father would pile us in the Chevy, and we’d drive out Rt. 12 from Lansing for that roast, and for Christmases and Thanksgivings and other family gatherings. I spent my young years figuring out ways to visit Aunt Margaret, and was mostly successful, running around the beach, riding in my cousin’s boat, kissing my first guy on the lake in that boat….The trees grow and the dunes shift, but the lake rolls on and the memories stick…

How long have you lived here? Off and on for 60 years, if I count all the weeks I camped at Aunt Margaret’s — and Ruthie McKeown’s.. We had a family house on East Road in Dune Acres, until it burned down on the coldest day of 1978, and the water froze coming from the fire hoses. My mother built another on the two lots at the bottom of the Dune, and we had that, as a family, until last year. My Dad died there, my brother carried my mother into that house when she was dying of cancer,  and we planted a cherry tree that day.  I was married at the old St. Pat’s in Chesterton (that burned down, so did the marriage). We had our reception at the Dune Acres clubhouse, the floor sagging, the caterer running out of steaks because they hadn’t counted on the appetites of a dozen West Point cadets. My veil was a Spanish mantilla. I wore a yellow sash. My groom was handsome. We hung out in the Dunes all night, hiding in the blow-out, looking at the stars.  ..I’ve been to Florida, Alabama, Argentina, and Mexico to live, but now I’m back in the Dunes. I feel at home. I  live here, and I intend to stay.

What is your favorite thing about the area? I have to say the seasons — and I hate the cold, but who can deny the snow on pine branches, the frozen blue lake, the birds and squirrels that brave the cold, the gold of icy dune grass, the surprising warmth of the sun on a windless day. The treat of being able to walk the beach on that windless day. The changes in the Dunes with the seasons are everlasting , sigh-producing gifts. I am always amazed at the numbers of birds….They are so loud lately, the blue jays and cardinals. Tiny yellow ones and mousey grey ones that flit about and eat the biscuit crumbs. At the end of last winter, two deer came up the Dune where I live. One of them stared at me through the kitchen window, then they met up and ate some ivy and picked their way all around the house. I wanted to shout, Get out of here. Go over to my son’s where you will be safe. In town…. Now summer is coming. The infinite flowers, the drone of frogs and crickets, the bugs. Well, it’s their home, too. I can share.

Tell us a secret about the dunes. If I tell, it won’t be a secret. But, my secret is the beach, mid-afternoon, on a weekday. Almost  certainly, no one will be there, and I will own the beach, which is impossible. No one owns the beach. But I feel like maybe I do, for an hour or so. It’s about 150 steps down to the beach. After I’ve made that round trip, I feel accomplished. I’m still alive. Very much alive.

Top three hidden treasures, other than the obvious natural treasures. One would be the beautiful cemetery in Furnessville where a Gaelic cross marks the grave of a long-time beloved Dune Acres resident. Across the street, the School House Shop, a particularly enduring, and endearing, place, is fun to poke around in. My daughter- in- law found Serrano ham from her home country, Spain. I bought a silver and gold studded belt there one day a long time ago, and I still have it and even wear it.  And what else?  Who can say there are better ribs anywhere else than at Wagner’s?

What would you teach people about the Dunes? The Dunes are not hills of sand; They are moving, living things that shift and change with the years. It astounds me that people build humongous houses on them. I know the pilings secure the footings and all, but, come on, the Dunes hold their mystery. Amazing that a small child survived being buried in one, many feet into the sand, for six hours. No one, not the scientists, agronomists, arborists, geologists, none of them, have been able to figure out any of that horrific event.  I want to believe it was the benevolence, the forgiving nature of the land, the beauty of the Dunes, that allowed that one miracle.

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