I live off a dirt road, rutted and pitted. Pebbles and dust spew from car tires. After a rain, puddles form in potholes where gnats and mosquitoes breed, hustling to begin their brief lives. Ticks and poison ivy lurk beneath scrubby oak and cedar. Towhees rummage in the leaves for insects; the blue of half a robin’s egg punctuates the green and brown.

Trucks bearing surfers—their mutts, with their hanging tongues bouncing in the back—are not slowed by the twists and speed bumps in their way. Axles and bones rattle. The road is only wide enough for one car to pass. I pull over for the elders, forgetting that I am one of them now.

Where is here? Here is a stretch of rocky Vineyard shore where I have jounced up and down this road for the past 30 summers, and throughout falls and winters when the noise and man-made world of my legal residence, New York city, became intolerable.

But I am also drawn here because I am not so different from this road. My life is rutted by pacing the same path over and over again, not knowing if it is the right one. It is potholed from the times I have fallen. Twisted from when I’ve had no idea where I am going. Narrow when fear kept me from pushing beyond restrictions.

I arrived this year in late April, having weathered the worst of the Covid-19 crisis in New York, where we honed our safety procedures and waited to learn from our doctor on the Island whether my family’s presence would unduly tax the Vineyard. We came with food and toilet paper, medications and pet supplies, house plants that would die without our attention.

We are eight: me and my husband, our three grown children—one with a husband, one with a fiancé, one with a partner—all working remotely. Even after quarantining, we rarely travel beyond the dirt road.

In April, few neighbors were here yet to light up the cedar shingled homes visible between the still leafless trees. The road was mine; my mask ready to don but never needed. Still, each walk revealed another snake killed under car tires, a beer bottle set atop a tree stump, a new gouge in the fragile sandy dirt made by 15-ton trucks on their way to a just reopened home construction site. Even in lockdown, humans can’t help but leave their mark.

I always thought I wanted to live here full time—to know the precise moment the daffodils push through the ground, the locust trees display their leaf buds, the first monarch butterfly arrives. And to know, as the weather cools, when the last hummingbird leaves, the seals reclaim the beach, the first ice crystals appear on the brackish pond. This may be that year, I think. A year of cocooning.

April rolled into May and then June. More lights appeared. My neighbors, many going back generations, stared when I drove past them or saw them on the beach. Who are you? Do you belong here? I do, I do. But what I claimed as home for the past two months seems less so.

July proceeded on its hot and humid course. August’s arrival caused no ripple in our daily existence. Ennui snakes in like fog, obscuring my sense of purpose here. I am not preparing my fall schedule of writing workshops for homeless mothers and young women in juvenile detention. I cannot hand a tissue to a woman in one of my Zoom groups who has begun to cry. I can’t plan my fall trip to Bethesda to see my niece and grandnieces. I seek the distraction of my children. But if I lived here full-time it would be without them—no group Shabbat dinners every Friday evening, no weekly movie night, no games of Bananagrams, Rummy 500 and Trivial Pursuit. Only two of the five dogs would be here. The cat would be absent too.

It is unclear how long we will stay here and in what family configuration. My fantasy of being here year-round never included Covid. My dream wasn’t meant to be an escape but an exploration of living my life differently, of pacing the rutted road in search of purpose and meaning. But one doesn’t preclude the other. I just have to remember how to make the road home again.

Judith Hannan lives in New York city and Chilmark.