When my wife and I started thinking about where to retire, we didn’t really consider the obvious place — the Vineyard. Two of our best friends had houses here, and I’d been coming to the Island for years. We’d enjoyed many glorious summer days and nights here, including the one in 2009 when I asked Robyn to marry me. But Vineyard real estate is not priced to attract retired English professors.

I’d always considered myself lucky to get paid for reading books and having time to write a few of my own, but I hadn’t been on the road to high net worth. Dutifully, trying to apply the metrics of the retirement gurus, we’d looked at places we could afford, and they all had one thing in common: we hated them.

Then a friend who lives here, a builder, told us about a project he was about to start. By getting in early, he could give us a break. We’d come to the Island on a September visit, and one fine afternoon, as we sat on the Menemsha dock feasting on lobster and littlenecks, all the reasons against moving here melted away. The decision seemed to make itself.

Could we manage it? We still don’t know, but we’re here and determined to figure out a way to stay. Robyn is younger than me, and she wants and needs to work. Within a few days of our arrival she’d found a good job. This winter we’re living in a rental while our house is under construction, and every week brings another jolt of sticker shock. Everything — gas, groceries, dog grooming — costs half again as much as we’re used to paying. I am unable to refrain from mentioning how much I dread the electric bill from Eversource.

Yes, it’s crazy expensive here, but many of the treasures of this Island are still free for the taking. There’s no charge for the tide rides at West Chop, swimming at Eastville or fishing for stripers under the stars at Tashmoo. The sunset at Menemsha is free, and so is the peace at Sepiessa, the surf at Squibnocket, the cliffs at Aquinnah. The beaches, the boats in the harbor, the stone walls, the salt air, the Atlantic sky — back in Virginia, when we got a sparkling summer day, we always called it a Vineyard day.

I’m describing summer pleasures, but they don’t end at Labor Day. They might be even sweeter in the fall, when it feels as though the party’s over and the guests have departed. There’s a palpable sense of relief. The collective blood pressure goes down. The days have a different rhythm, the light has a different slant. Instead of SUVs with racks for bikes and kayaks, the most common vehicles on the roads are pickups and vans — working vehicles. The Island undergoes a gradual transition from crowded resort to a wonderfully varied community where everyone seems to know, or at least know about, everyone else. We keep meeting people we hope to know better.

Robyn’s job at a lumberyard brought this home. She’s at the crossroads of the Island’s busy construction business and she hears all the scuttlebutt. We’re joining a church that rightly prides itself on its inclusiveness, and that opens another door into the community. At the dog park, I tap into a rich vein of information, Island lore, juicy gossip and spicy opinion. Those who’ve lived here for years feel deeply about their Island, and they prefer the off-season. They like having the place to themselves.

I’ve noticed a solidarity and neighborliness that wasn’t evident on my previous visits. When the electricity went out at a friend’s house in West Tisbury, neighbors she’d never met dropped off water and food. When I walk the dog, drivers slow down and give us a wave as they pass. This waving is a standard Island courtesy. At notorious traffic flash points, like Five Corners, there’s rarely any kind of problem. The rules of civility prevail and drivers give way till it’s their turn. This, to anyone who’s been here in high summer, is absolutely astonishing.

I’ve even seen a few hitch-hikers. Not that long ago, hitch-hiking was commonplace, a dependable form of Island transportation. You could set out walking and pretty much count on getting a lift to your destination. Long-time residents speak of hitch-hiking as evidence of the communal good will that was once ingrained in the Island’s culture.

No doubt I’m inclined to see things through rose-colored glasses, but I’m not blind to the problems that threaten the ethos of the Island. The social and economic structure is showing signs of dangerous stress. Island businesses can’t find employees. No one knows how to solve the acute housing crisis. There are more locked gates and No Trespassing signs than ever before. I’ve heard people whose families have lived here for generations wonder aloud how much longer they can afford to stay — and whether it’s worth it to hang on.

It’s a familiar dilemma: People come to a beautiful place wanting to claim a piece of paradise for themselves, and they end up jeopardizing the very things they prized.

The warning applies to us, I realize, as we are settling in. True Islanders we’ll never be, but we no longer feel like visitors. Every few days Robyn, who’s spent her whole life in Virginia, sings out, as if she can’t quite believe she’s here, “I’ve always loved New England!”

I walk to the construction site every day to see how it’s going — the house is behind schedule, of course, but it has a view of the harbor that sends shivers down my spine. We’ve fallen in love with Island all over again — a different Island this time, and we’re at the threshold of a different relationship. This is more than a fling. We’re in it for the long haul.

Stephen Goodwin lives in Vineyard Haven. He is a co-author of The Nature of the Game: Links Golf at Bandon Dunes and Far Beyond, forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf in May.