Snowy, Snowy

Around the middle of January the landscape looked pretty bleak. No leaves, bare ground, relentlessly gray skies. Where’s winter? some of us wondered.

Complained, even. Some years we get through to the spring equinox still wondering when winter is going to show up. The veteran New Englanders among us are sure it is going to show up, maybe in the middle of April. We aren’t fully persuaded otherwise until Memorial Day arrives, the thermometer hits 80 degrees (F), and it still hasn’t snowed.

Well, if you’re on the Vineyard or anywhere in New England, you know we didn’t have to wait that long this year. Blizzard #1 moved in on January 26 and 27. I was scheduled to participate in a reading at Pathways on the 27th. The organizers saw what was coming and cancelled it on the 26th. Good thing, too: by late afternoon on the 27th, nothing was moving. Snow was drifting two feet and deeper on the minor roads.

The plow guy arrives, January 29.

The plow guy arrives, January 29.

We didn’t get plowed out till Thursday.

The real miracle, given the high winds and heavy snow, is that the power never went out. (Nantucket wasn’t so lucky. A reported 80 percent of that island’s customers lost power, and for quite a while too. No joke when the temperatures are way below freezing.) I was seriously grateful for this because I was editing a 400-page dissertation for a PhD candidate who had his own deadline to meet. I let him know that incoming weather might disrupt our email communication. He’d already heard about our weather on the news — even though he lives in Norway.

Travvy and I went out walking that Wednesday morning. The snow was up to my knees in most places. For Trav it was like running hurdles with a hurdle every stride. By the time we got to the path that runs behind the school playing fields, we were both worn out. It took us almost 20 minutes to cover a distance that usually takes 5 or 6. We turned around and came home.

dig 1dig 2dig 3

Once Halcyon Way, Pine Hill, and the Dr. Fisher Road were plowed, the walking became easier. The trails were still buried, but Trav and I could still get a good morning and late-afternoon walk in if we stayed on the dirt roads and Old County Road, where the snow was banked high on either side but the road surface was pretty clear. The stretch of bike path behind the Nat’s Farm subdivision, we discovered, had been in a low-drift area. We added it back into our regular route.

The big challenge wasn’t snow. It was ice. While the rest of New England got socked with a couple more snowstorms, we got flurries, drizzle, and temps that rose a few degrees above freezing then fell just below. The dirt roads got slushy, then the slush froze. My car tires would slip into frozen ruts and stay there. The #1 rule of winter driving is “no sudden moves,” meaning easy on the brakes and the steering wheel. The ruts were always headed in the right direction, so I let them take me where I wanted to go.



Walking? Thank heavens for Yaktrax. I discovered Yaktrax a few years ago and have sworn by them ever since.

Back then hardly anyone I knew had heard of them. They weren’t available on the island so I got them mail-order. One of my two pairs was wearing out — some of the metal coils had broken — and I wanted a new backup pair. Could I get them on the island?

I’d just started to look around when Trav and I ran into a neighbor on the Nat’s Farm subdivision road. He got out of his car to say hi to Trav. We talked about the weather (of course) and about ice. I showed him my Yaktrax. Aha, he said, he’d just heard about them from Kenny at the gas station. He thought Brickman’s was carrying them.

I stopped by Brickman’s when I was in town a couple of mornings later. Yes, indeed, they were carrying them, but not only were they sold out, the entire order coming in that afternoon was spoken for. Did I want to get on the wait list for the order due in the next day? I did. I, two staffers, and a bystanding customer raved about Yaktrax for a few minutes, then I went on my way.

Valentine's Day, just before the snow started in earnest, it was pretty chilly.

Valentine’s Day, just before the snow started in earnest, it was pretty chilly.

Valentine’s Day weekend we finally got another big one. The snow was fluffier this time around and not quite as deep, but it was still pretty impressive.

Winter can be challenging, that’s for sure, but I have to confess: I love it. I probably wouldn’t love it, at least not so much, if I didn’t have warm clothes and a roof over my head, if I weren’t reasonably agile and if I didn’t work from home.

I love the stripped-down trees and the patterns they make against the sky. Winter sunsets can be spectacular or subtle. After the sun goes down on the grayest of days, the snow on the ground seems to extend the day — and the days are getting very noticeably longer. When Travvy and I get back from our late afternoon walk, it’s often quarter to six and I don’t need a flashlight.

20150216 tread

The track of the plow guy.

Snow disappears the roads, then the plow guy brings them back.

It disappears the trails too. The trails don’t come back so quickly, but the snow reveals so much more to the untutored eye than leaves and dirt: tracks of rabbit, squirrel, and deer; the parallel lines of a cross-country skier.

Whether by sound or smell, Travvy knows where the snow is hiding something interesting. He digs ferociously and usually comes up with something crunchy or otherwise edible. He woos at familiar shapes that the snow makes strange. I sometimes mistake the tall stump up ahead for a troll. Maybe he does too.

Trav wonders where Halcyon Way went.

Trav wonders where Halcyon Way went. February 15.

Then the plow brings the road back. February 16, 2015.

Then the plow brings the road back. February 16.

The trees out my window.

The trees out my window.



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New House: Foundation

Winter has socked us a good one this year — nowhere near as dramatic as what’s been happening in Boston and points west, but still it’s been weeks since I could plan my walking routes without thinking about how high the drifts are and how crunchy the snow. And forget about biking. More about winter later . . .

There’s been no action on the construction site in my neighborhood since early January. No surprise there: it wasn’t even plowed out till a few days ago. What was the point? There hasn’t been much action in this blog either: almost a month ago, in “New House: Lot Clearing,” I promised we’d get to the foundation soon. “Soon” takes on a new meaning in the aftermath of blizzards and deadlines. Better late than never, right? These photos are from October and November. We haven’t seen grass, green or otherwise, in quite a long time.

Here’s what it looked like on October 2:

October 2, 2014

October 2, 2014

Travvy checks it out. What was that opening for?

October 2, 2014

October 2, 2014

A scant four days later it became clear that much had happened when I wasn’t looking.

October 6, 2014

October 6, 2014

Two and a half weeks later it looked like this:

October 24, 2014

October 24, 2014

Was the basement going to have windows? I wondered. I finally figured out that the gap Trav was gazing down in one of the photos above was going to be a stairway allowing access to the basement from outside the house.

Trav checks out the paint job, which I think is actually a sealant to help keep the basement dry.

20141101 foundation & trav

November 1, 2014

But what the hell were those holes for? My best guess is that they’re for passing wires or cables from the outside in. So far there are no wires or cables in sight.

November 1, 2014

November 1, 2014

The angles and shadows of the foundation were beautiful. That’s where the stairs are going to be.

November 8, 2014

November 8, 2014

I thought I had a photo of the front-end loader filling in the trench around the foundation, but I don’t. Probably I was too entranced by the operator’s precision, and too far away for a good shot.

Next step: framing.


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January License Plate Report

Here it is the third of February and I’m only now getting around to posting the January license plate report. Excuses? (1) Big editing job was eating up all my writing time and energy. (2) Winter.

What kind of winter have we had? Well, if you’re on the island, or anywhere in New England, you know already. The author of my big editing job lives in Norway. The recent blizzard even made the news over there. Mystery writer and Vineyard blogger Cynthia Riggs, who lives a couple of miles up the road, had to cancel her annual Groundhog Day party for the first time in about 25 years because there was nowhere to park, not in the driveway, not in the back field, and not on the shoulder of the Edgartown Road, because the snow lay deep on all of it.

Anyway, the January haul was about par for the course: 19 states put in an appearance. None of them were as exciting as the Louisiana plate I spotted on January 2 of last year, but the West Coast is solid and we’ve even got some color in the Midwest.

2015 jan license map

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Cheap Gas

gas receiptThe day before yesterday I filled Malvina Forester’s tank for less than $40. If you live off-island but somewhere in the continental U.S., this will not seem worth a mention, never mind a blog post, but bear with me. In recent years my fill-her-up receipts have usually been in the 50s or very high 40s.

Where I live, the per-gallon price for regular usually has a 4 to the left of the decimal point. On Wednesday it had a 2. True, the numbers to the right of the decimal point were all 9s, but still . . .

Malvina’s tank holds 15.9 gallons. My fill-up was 12.922. On the three remaining gallons, I could have driven from Vineyard Haven to Aquinnah, and then returned to Aquinnah. There’s no gas station in Aquinnah, and no grocery store either. The view from the cliffs is stunning, but Aquinnah is a lousy place to run out of gas.

The price of gas has to be one of the most bitched-about topics on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s right up there with ferry fares. The per-gallon price of gas on Martha’s Vineyard is generally 70–75 cents more than the price across the water in Falmouth. To get to the cheap(er) gas in Falmouth, you have to take your vehicle across on one of the Steamship Authority (SSA) ferries. Even with the Islander Preferred discount, this is not cheap: $61 round-trip when the car, the dog, and I went off last October.

Taking the car off-island is not something you do on the spur of the moment or whenever you need gas. But when Vineyarders know we’re going off-island, we let the gas tank get as low as we dare and then gas up on the other side. On a 13-gallon fill I save less than 10 bucks, but I always feel as though I’m putting one over on The System. My frugal New England ancestors would be proud.

The flip side of high gas prices is that we live on an island. A fairly large island as islands go — about a hundred square miles, many of which have no roads on them — but an island nonetheless. Drive more than 20 miles in any direction and you will end up in the water. Some people drive a lot more than others, often as part of their jobs, but no one commutes 50 miles to work and 50 miles back. (People who work off-island or travel frequently often have a car on “the other side.”)

I don’t commute at all. As a freelance editor, I work from home. I can walk to the post office and the nearest grocery store in less than 20 minutes. I do this two or three times a week. My regular grocery store, Reliable, is about 10 miles away. I go there every week or two, and I usually combine my grocery-shopping trips with other down-island errands. This saves time as well as gas money.

In the almost five years I’ve had Malvina, my 2008 Subaru Forester, I’ve driven an average of less than 5,500 miles a year. That boils down to roughly a tank and a half of gas each month. Gas is expensive on Martha’s Vineyard, but I don’t need all that much of it.

This has as much to do with the nature of the Vineyard as with my frugality, homebody habits, and modest income. The Vineyard was settled by humans long before gas prices were an issue — long before the internal-combustion engine. People traveled mostly on foot or on horseback, by horse- or ox-drawn conveyance or by boat. Whatever necessities they couldn’t make or grow at home could generally be found in the nearest town, which unless you were in Aquinnah or the nether reaches of Chilmark was not too far away, even if you were on foot.

Well into the twentieth century, I’m told, Gay Headers often did their shopping in New Bedford. It was easier to get to New Bedford by boat than to Vineyard Haven or Edgartown by car, the roads were that bad.

In my city days, many neighborhoods worked the same way. You could walk to a grocery store and a laundromat and whatever else you needed on a regular basis. If you needed to go farther, you could walk to a bus or subway stop. I got my driver’s license as soon as I was old enough — what suburban kid didn’t? — but when I moved to Martha’s Vineyard, at age 34, I’d never owned a motor vehicle.

Cheap gas changed everything. The U.S. interstate highway system is predicated on cheap gas. So is the country’s decades-long inattention to public transportation. Cities sprawled into suburbs and exurbs where you needed to get in the car to buy a gallon of milk. Suburbs and exurbs spawned shopping malls, where people swarmed in great numbers but no trace of community could be found. Jobs left the city for malls and industrial parks on the outskirts, leaving city folk without cars stranded.

Then it turned out that gas wasn’t so cheap after all. Millions upon millions of motorists driving here, there, and everywhere snarled the roads and polluted the air. The supply of fossil fuels has turned out — surprise, surprise — to be finite. And the nation’s passion for and dependence on cheap oil led it into a series of Faustian bargains that have been coming due for some time now.

So though I bitch about the high price of gas along with everyone else, I’m also glad to live in a place where I don’t have to travel far to get what I need, and where I’ll run into people I know when I get there. The Vineyard’s literal insularity has protected it from some of the short-sighted foolishness of the cheap-gas era. What we have to offer the world as a result may be more important than pretty beaches.

20140616 clean malvina 2

Malvina Forester after a bath (June 2014)




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So Much Depends on a Little Red Cart.

Susanna J. Sturgis:

The other day my fellow blogger from up the road blogged about my favorite grocery store. Here it is. There’s a lot going on in the TomPostPile: music, gardening, grandkids, forays off-island . . . Check it out.

Originally posted on thetompostpile:

Here on Martha’s Vineyard, the town of Oak Bluffs has a rare jewel.

A family-owned supermarket on its Main Street.

The “Reliable Self-Service Market”.

The market is of a type that was once common, the centrally-located town market. In most parts of the United States, the chain supermarkets and big box stores have killed off stores like Reliable.

I stopped at Reliable not long ago to buy a few items.

Right now it’s mid-winter, and there are few tourists. Almost every car you see has Massachusetts license plates. With patience, you might see some vehicles from the New England states. On this trip downisland I saw vehicles from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, plus one from New York and another from …… Alabama?

There’s a story there, but I didn’t stop to learn what it was.

The real story was inside the supermarket. The story is about a mother and her…

View original 122 more words

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New House: Lot Clearing

Several new houses have gone up in my neighborhood in the last year or two. What do I consider “my neighborhood”? Mostly it’s the area within about a half mile of my apartment that Travvy walk through at least once and often two or three times a day, where I recognize the vehicles and the people even if I don’t know all their names — where they recognize me and Travvy, even if they don’t know who we are or exactly where we live.

On the map, my neighborhood is bounded by Old County Road on the (more or less) east, the West Tisbury dump and the Island Farms subdivision on the west, and the Dr. Fisher Road and Pine Hill Road on the other two sides. Old County Road is a sort of straight line. It’s paved. Dr. Fisher and Pine Hill are neither straight nor paved. I can’t tell you what direction they run in or what shape my neighborhood resembles if viewed from the sky. Maybe a scone?

Overdevelopment is a matter of some concern around here. So is the housing crisis. Overdevelopment and the housing crisis are both abstract concepts. The houses being built around me aren’t abstract at all. Most of the people who build them and buy them live and work here year-round. At least two of the houses were built with affordable housing restrictions on who could buy them.

So my little digital point-and-shoot and I have been keeping our eyes on a house being built close by. As a person with no useful skills whatsoever, I’m fascinated by (and somewhat jealous of) what people can do with their hands and their machines.

You probably figured this out from my October post about the installation of my neighbors’ new septic system, right?

The other thing is that two of the characters in what will probably be my third novel, The Squatters’ Speakeasy, are carpenters. I have some idea of what they do all day when they aren’t playing music or, in one case, drinking, but my muses love detail and the more I can visualize, the better.

The house is now framed and enclosed. As of yesterday, the doors were cut but not the windows. But I’m going to start at the beginning and document the building in several installments. As a matter of fact, I mentioned the very beginning in “Little Changes,” an end-of-last-summer post about changes in my neighborhood. Here’s a recap.

The first sign appeared in July 2013. A well-digger appeared and put in a well. Travvy, my constant companion on these forays, wooed at it.

travvy woos

truck lifts

Travvy has a thing for machines, from ATVs to tractors to humongous well-diggers.

Nothing happened for over a year. As the summer of 2014 came to an end, the owner started clearing the lot the old-fashioned way. Well, not quite the old-fashioned way, but his chainsaw was hand-held and he worked bloody hard.

A driveway appeared. With use it got wider and flatter.

20140928 driveway

Then at the very end of September the Cats appeared.

20140928 cats in clearing

The dog was quite taken with them.

20140928 trav & bucket20140928 dog & cat
At the end of the day a couple of days later, we had a big hole.20141002 hole & stick

All that dirt had to go somewhere. Travvy thought it was great fun.

20141012 hill 1

20141012 hill 2

20141012 hill 3

20141012 hill 4

Next step: the foundation. Stay tuned.

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My Martha’s Vineyard

Susanna J. Sturgis:

This is one of my earliest posts to this blog, and one I think about often. I live in a town with fewer than 3,000 residents and on an island with an estimated 15,000 year-round residents. I’ve lived here nearly 30 years and I have a hard time making generalizations about either this town or this island. Yet some people apparently have no trouble making generalizations about Muslims, a group that includes hundreds of millions of people and about which they know much, much less than I know about West Tisbury or Martha’s Vineyard. What’s going on here?

Originally posted on From the Seasonally Occupied Territories . . .:

Which Martha’s Vineyard do you live on?

All the road maps and atlases agree that there’s just one Martha’s Vineyard, but none of us live on those maps. I’m talking about the map that lives in each of our heads. Call it our psychic map. No two psychic maps are exactly the same, though you’ll almost certainly find the Steamship Authority dock in Vineyard Haven on just about everyone’s map, be they day-tripper, summer visitor, recent arrival, longtime year-rounder, or island native.

For many summer people, the island winks into existence in late spring and winks out again around Columbus Day. For year-rounders there’s no winking in and out, but some parts of the Vineyard are much realer than others, and some don’t exist at all. Here is the Martha’s Vineyard I live on:

On my Martha’s Vineyard, State Road ends at my friend Cris’s road, across from what is…

View original 504 more words

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Je ne suis pas Charlie

Three gunmen attacked the editorial offices of the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday. When they left, 12 were dead and 11 injured. In the days since, at least five more have died: four hostages and a police officer. Two of the Charlie Hebdo suspects — two brothers with links to jihadist groups — and a third jihadist have been killed in shoot-outs with police.

I deplore the act and grieve for the victims, but I am not Charlie.

It’s not because I can’t imagine being targeted because of what I do or where I work. When I worked for the Martha’s Vineyard Times, we gathered like clockwork every Thursday morning to critique the issue just published and start planning for next week’s edition. Any passerby could see us through the office’s big front window. If someone had chosen to take violent exception to one of us, to something in the paper, or to the paper itself, we would have been sitting ducks.

Of course no one ever did. It wasn’t all that uncommon for an aggrieved reader to storm in, berate one of the editors or reporters for something that had or hadn’t appeared in the paper, and then storm out again. But no one ever came in shooting or tossed a bomb or booby-trapped a car in the parking lot.

The possibility never crossed our minds.

Celebrating Lammas's anniversary, ca. 1984. From left: owner-manager Mary Farmer, yours truly, and Tina Lunson, printer.

Celebrating Lammas’s anniversary, ca. 1984. From left: owner-manager Mary Farmer, yours truly, and Tina Lunson, the community’s favorite printer.

Before I moved to Martha’s Vineyard, I worked at Lammas, D.C.’s feminist bookstore. Lammas was a highly visible center of the feminist, lesbian, and gay communities. We were quite aware of the rhetoric directed against feminists, lesbians, and gay men. There was some risk involved in being so publicly, visibly “out” in an easy-to-find place. We did it anyway.

Across the country and around the world men and women were taking similar risks for similar reasons: staffing bookstores, publishing books, editing magazines and newspapers, producing concerts, making record albums, hosting radio shows, all to make visible and audible the voices that the mainstream media weren’t interested in.

To listen to the mainstream media now, you’d think that the US of A was a veritable hotbed of free and unfettered speech. Ha ha ha. As A. J. Liebling famously said long ago, “freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” The same is true of the other much-ballyhooed U.S. freedoms. This is what we were doing with our bookstores and publications and record companies: fighting for our freedoms.

Je ne suis pas Charlie, mais j’étais off our backs.

As a college junior, in the fall of 1971, I spent more than a week in Lawrence County, Mississippi, as a poll watcher for Charles Evers, the first black candidate to run for statewide office in Mississippi since Reconstruction. We poll watchers, both black and white, were potential targets. We knew it. Sometimes we were uneasy, and a couple of times I was downright scared.

But after the election we got to go back to being college students in Washington, D.C. The Mississippians who hosted us, fed us, trained us, and worked with us remained behind, visible, vulnerable — and working for justice. Day in, day out, they were risking their lives, safety, and livelihoods for the right to vote and the right to have someone worthwhile to vote for.  They were some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.

The terrorists in those days were white Christians. This may be why the mainstream media doesn’t call them terrorists.

Image attributed to Lucille Clerc

Image attributed to Lucille Clerc

It’s a platitude among the privileged that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” In a widely circulated image, apparently by illustrator Lucille Clerc, the pen is a red pencil.

At first glance the image unsettled me. The sharpened fragment looked like a missile chasing the other fragment. It made me think of impending rape. The analytical side of my brain got the point, so to speak. The artist was not thinking of missiles or rape, but there it is.

The pen, or the pencil, may be mightier than the sword, but only if the words and images created with it are heard and seen in the wider world. If the words and images are dissed or ignored, or if they remain in the creator’s head, they don’t have much power at all. Back in the day we created bookstores and publications and distribution networks to get our words out. It was hard work. We did it because we hoped and had faith that it would make a difference.

Lacking that hope, that faith, that belief, and seeing that the pens and pencils are often pointed at us — well, the sword might look like a better option.

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Just a Dusting

20150106 night busTuesday afternoon and evening it snowed and snowed and snowed, but it was snow-globe snow. When Trav and I walked past the school in the dark, we heard the scraping of what sounded like a plow. There was nowhere near enough snow to plow. The only vehicle moving in the parking lot was a well-lit pickup.

The three school buses were plugged into their chargers, to ensure they’d start in the morning. (At least I think that’s what the cords are about. Maybe the buses have their own electric blankets?)

Total accumulation? About an eighth of an inch.

Not much, but enough to give my morning walk a makeover.

Malvina Forester was decked with bunting on both sides.

20150107 snowy

20150107 framingI like winter. Maybe I even love winter, and not just because it’s not summer. Where I live, the cold is not life-threatening if you’ve got shelter and warm clothing, both of which I do, and because I work at home I don’t have to drive anywhere if I don’t want to.

The guys building the new house nearby worked all day under overcast skies. The wind was blowing, and the temp didn’t get much above 20 degrees F (about –7 C). My fingerless gloves are good down to about 30 F. In the fleece smoker’s mitts I wear below that, it would be hard to wield a hammer. I did not envy them. (More about that house in a future post, or two or three. I’ve been taking pictures.)

The puddle at the end of the driveway has become an ice-shard mosaic with a snowy frame.

20150107 puddle mosaic

The highwayman rode down a ribbon of moonlight. Travvy and I looked down a ribbon of snow, but we went in the other direction.

20150107 white ribbon

That’s Old County Road on the left.

Even a dusting of snow is enough to make the invisible visible. Where did this vehicle come from and what was it doing in the field? A couple of weeks ago there were goats in this part of the field; their keeper came regularly in her pickup to tend them. But the goats have moved on, though some electric fencing remains in the far pasture at Misty Meadows. There’s no obvious reason for anyone to be driving on this particular field.

Trav checks out the tire tracks.

Trav checks out the tire tracks.

The bike path, ordinarily a ribbon of asphalt, was snowy too. Clearly a couple of rabbits, a dog, and a human with smaller feet than mine had already passed this way. I love winter skies.

20150107 skyscape

20150108 zeroTwenty-four hours later . . . Well, here’s what the thermometer on the deck looked like just before the sun sidled above the horizon this morning. The sun is well up now, but the thermometer hasn’t changed much. I’m waiting for my hair to dry before Travvy and I go out.




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Sign of the Salamander

Last May 4 a brushfire burned through a patch of woods that Trav and I often pass on our walks, between Island Children’s School and the school bus parking lot behind the West Tisbury School. Six weeks later, I blogged about how the undergrowth was coming back: “Resilience.”

By fall only the scorched tree trunks and the occasional charred branch or log testified to the passing of fire. I kept an eye on those woods, though, fascinated by how quickly the scrub was reasserting itself.

salamander 3BIn early December, when most of the green was gone from the woods or dulled by approaching winter, I spotted something new: a little red flag. Of course I stomped through the brush and brambles to check it out.

The little red flag was marking a square bit of board with “3B” written on it. What was this? There’s been a lot of new construction in the neighborhood lately, so I wondered if someone was planning to build a house here. Not likely, I thought: there’s no vehicle access except through the school bus parking lot.

Then I noticed other red flags. Each one marked a similar sign but with a different number and letter combination. The numbers went up at least to 8, the letters to G. 1A, 3B, 4D . . . Clearly I was looking at a grid of some kind. What was it for? A school project, perhaps?

The weeks passed. Leaves concealed or half concealed some of the boards, but they were definitely still there.

salamander 5AThis morning Travvy was following some scent and I followed him a few yards into the woods. The first sign I found had a message on it:  “Salamander Survey don’t touch.”

The same message had been printed on nearby signs as well — maybe on all the signs, but I didn’t check them out.

Salamanders are traditionally associated with fire. Could this salamander survey have anything to do with last spring’s fire? Who was conducting it? Were there really salamanders in these woods? Maybe someone was trying to find out.

When I got home, a Google search on “salamander survey” got some 1,700 hits, including several academic papers and news about salamander surveys in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and other places. I love stumbling into worlds I never knew existed, and clearly there was a world out there in which salamanders are surveyed and the surveys are a big deal.

On one website a fellow in Tennessee wrote that he’d come across a story that said that Georgia was #1 in the nation in salamanders. “How,” he wondered, “do they know which state has the most salamanders? Does someone from the federal government go around in each state, looking under rocks and counting them?”

I don’t know either, but I bet it has something to do with 3B, 5A, and the rest of the grid I found in the woods.

Adding “Martha’s Vineyard” to my “salamander survey” search turned up a 2012 Vineyard Gazette mention of a salamander survey at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, off the Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road. No surprise there: if anyone on Martha’s Vineyard knows about salamanders and surveys thereof, they’d have to have some connection to Felix Neck.

Well, now I’m curious. If the information doesn’t come to me, I might have to go out looking for it.

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