Swans a-Swimming

When we drive, walk, or bike past the Mill Pond, most of us slow down and glance sideways to see what’s happening. Something always is, though it’s easy to miss if one cruises through at 35 miles an hour — which is way over the speed limit. The return of the swans promises that spring is here to stay, and reminds us that, as Tennyson wrote, “Tho’ much is taken, much abides.”

Last year Bob and Bobette, as the swans are widely known, raised a family. We watched in fascination. We worried when they vanished to parts unknown (possibly nearby Tisbury Great Pond) and rejoiced when they came back. We grieved when a young swan fell victim to one of the snapping turtles that lives in the pond, despite the heroic efforts of our animal control officer to save it.

These photos of 2013′s swan family were taken by Martina Mastromonaco, Chilmark beach superintendent, dedicated Dumptique volunteer, and a wonderful photographer. She moderates three groups on Facebook: “Martha’s Vineyard where are you,” “Where am I on Martha’s Vineyard,” and “Martha’s Vineyard were was I?” Even if you know the Vineyard well, her photos and those of other regular contributors will show you the island from new angles, in different lights.

State Road passes close to the Mill Pond.

State Road passes close to the Mill Pond.

gliding

taking off

Note Vineyard Transit Authority bus passing in the background.

Bobette and her brood pay less attention to passersby than passersby pay to them.

Bobette and her brood pay less attention to passersby than passersby pay to them.

family

swan & cygs 2

cygnet face

swan head

All photographs © 2014 by Martina Mastromonaco

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Beyond Dredgery

I just posted this in reply to a comment to my most recent post, “To Dredge or Not to Dredge.” In that post I quoted William Blake’s line about “seeing the world in a grain of sand.” When we talk about the Mill Pond, or West Tisbury, or Martha’s Vineyard, we’re talking about other things as well. Here’s some of what this particular grain of sand can tell us about being politically effective in the wider world.

From where I sat, the ATM vote looked less like a vote against dredging and more like a vote of no-confidence in the Mill Pond Committee’s recommendation. The fact that a respected and knowledgeable member of the committee strenuously disagreed with the recommendation was certainly a factor, but it wasn’t the only one.

1. If the MPC’s goal was to encourage further study, then the article was poorly framed, perhaps fatally so. The words “in preparation for dredging” suggested to me and others that dredging was already a foregone conclusion. Had we voted for it, this would have been used as evidence that the town had already taken a step toward dredging, so let’s take another. This is why Kent Healy’s points resonated: he created doubt in our minds that dredging should be a foregone conclusion right now.

2. It’s no secret that some people strongly support dismantling the dam and turning the Mill Pond back into Mill Brook. Others are strenuously opposed to the idea. This is probably why the dam kept coming up in the discussion, even though it wasn’t mentioned in Article 32. The MPC could have acknowledged the issue and made clear that it’s separate from dredging, or preparation for dredging — if indeed it is. They didn’t. I suspect they lost some support as a result.

3. The discussion between Kent and Bob Woodruff wasn’t especially productive, but it was informative. It informed many of us that those closest to the issue didn’t agree on what should be done. That’s important information. It’s not a good sign when the committee that brings a warrant article to town meeting is so deeply divided.

4. Town meeting floor is not the best place to work out serious differences. This is related to (3). One citizen commented that those working on the town hall renovation and the library expansion had raised the benchmark for town boards and committees. I agree. The consensus that emerged on those projects didn’t come out of nowhere. Those people worked their butts off. The library trustees and friends in particular continually solicited feedback during the planning process. The plans evolved as a result. People who had reservations at the beginning came on board, or at least didn’t get in the way. The MPC can profit from these examples.

5. The MPC majority kept crying “Emergency! Emergency!” without providing convincing evidence that an emergency exists. Kent Healy’s comments strongly suggested that it doesn’t — that we don’t have to act in haste in order to head off calamity. From the local level to the national, “Emergency! Emergency!” is used to head off, curtail, and even stifle discussion. I’m deeply suspicious of anyone who uses it, no matter what their motives, and when they haven’t got the facts to back up their fearmongering — forget it. I’m proud of the ATM for resisting the urge to stampede, but somewhat dismayed that the vote was so close.

The Mill Pond

The Mill Pond

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To Dredge or Not to Dredge

2014 ATM audience

The townsfolk assembled in the West Tisbury School gym. Town officials sat onstage.

Neither dogs nor marijuana was on the warrant for West Tisbury’s annual town meeting last night, so most of the meeting was pretty dull. Most of the 42 articles passed either by unanimous voice vote or by a vocal majority so obvious that no hand count was necessary. We moved money around. We authorized the town’s contribution to constructing a new Little League field in Oak Bluffs, furthering an affordable-housing project in Tisbury, upgrading the electrical system of the county courthouse in Edgartown, and supporting Aquinnah’s efforts to acquire, restore, and relocate the Gay Head light, which is in danger of falling off a cliff.

The heading on West Tisbury is sometimes called the Athens of Martha's Vineyard. This may explain why we're not so adept with Latin.

The heading on two pages in the town report honoring residents who died in 2013. West Tisbury is sometimes called the Athens of Martha’s Vineyard. This may explain why we’re not so adept with Latin.

We took the penultimate step toward making the town treasurer an appointed rather than elected position, this with the hearty support of the town’s current (elected) treasurer. The idea is to open the field to qualified candidates who don’t live in town. The final step is approval in tomorrow’s town election.

Article 4, authorizing funds for a new police cruiser, was postponed indefinitely because the cruiser slated for retirement is still working fine and “you know how Skipper drives.” Skipper Manter is both a police officer and a selectman. Everybody laughed.

Article 21 wanted to see if the town would appropriate $75,000 to replace the fence around the town cemetery. One resident said that her forebears, who are buried in the cemetery, would not approve spending that much money to fix the fence. Another, an abutter, noted that cemetery visitors were sometimes accompanied by loose dogs; she wanted a sound fence between the dogs and her chickens. A third asked who the fence was trying to keep in. We laughed at that too. The voice vote was ambiguous, and for good reason: by hand count the vote was 108–102 in favor of the new fence.

Moderator Pat Gregory reads a warrant article.

Moderator Pat Gregory reads a warrant article.

Even the last three articles on the warrant, 41 through 43, passed handily, though they all dealt with rules and regulations and so were scarily long. Article 41, adding “General Requirements for All Solar Energy Systems” to the zoning bylaws, passed unanimously. Article 42, a string of amendments to the zoning bylaws, prompted some discussion but passed by a lopsided voice vote. “150 to 4,” ruled the moderator. Article 43, proposed by the board of health to regulate “the content and application of fertilizer for turf,” also passed unanimously.

Moderator Pat gives instructions to the volunteers who are about to count our raised hands.

Moderator Pat gives instructions to the volunteers who are about to count our raised hands.

As expected, the most contentious article on the warrant was #32. This asked the town to appropriate $30,000 “for design and permitting for dredging to preserve the Mill Pond,” with funding contingent upon the commitment of another $20,000 from private sources. Discussion took up the better part of an hour — the whole meeting was done in about three — and if it wasn’t quite as heated as recent years’ debates about marijuana dispensaries in town or dogs on Lambert’s Cove Beach, it came pretty close.

Why, you ask, did we wrangle so long over $30,000 when in the course of the evening we approved a town budget of close to $16 million? Is this yet another instance of the length of debate being inversely proportional to the importance of the issue? Yes, but it also illustrates William Blake’s line about seeing “the world in a grain of sand.” Big-picture politics can be downright baffling unless you pay close attention to how we act and interact at the most local level.

People on all sides of the issue were sporting the same button.

People on all sides of the issue were sporting the same button.

Consider: The Mill Pond is, as several speakers pointed out in various ways, the symbolic heart of the town. Virtually everyone in West Tisbury, and many people from other towns, passes it several times a week. We watch for the swans and the ducks, we note the changing of the seasons, we love to see kids standing with their fishing rods at the water’s edge. Everybody wants to save the Mill Pond.

Several speakers on both sides of the issue waxed rhapsodic and at some length about the beauty of the Mill Pond and its historic significance. In this case, however, the devil was definitely in the details — on which the rhapsodies were rather short. Everyone was on board with the rhapsodies. What we disagreed on was whether there was a problem and, if so, what should be done about it now.

After all, we’d already voted unanimously, and with minimal discussion, to add $15,000 to the $15,030 appropriated at last year’s ATM for a study of the Mill Brook watershed. The Mill Brook flows through the Mill Pond; hence an understanding of what’s going on in its watershed is helpful in figuring out what’s best for the pond. Quite a few townsfolk wondered why we should prepare for dredging before we knew whether dredging was necessary. Others were certain that without dredging the pond was in great danger.

At last one citizen noted that we were all looking at the same data but disagreeing on what they meant. This, he suggested, indicated that we weren’t ready to act yet.

And when the question was finally called, that is how we voted, but the vote was close: 119 to 110, announced the moderator, after the vote counters finished counting and reported their results.

Hard facts, multiple interpretations, appeals to history that didn’t have all that much to do with either the facts or the question of what to do about them, invocations of posterity that didn’t either, hints that if we didn’t act now bad things would surely come to pass, and general agreement that saving the Mill Pond was a good idea — it was all there. Substitute “the commonwealth,” “the United States,” or “the planet” for “the Mill Pond” and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what goes on in Boston, Washington, and the rest of the country.

The difference, maybe, is that we were all talking to each other as we filed out of the gym after the 2014 annual town meeting was adjourned, no matter how we voted.

What all the fuss was about

What all the fuss was about

Oh yeah, and these guys

Oh yeah, and these guys

These guys too

These guys too

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Is Springing

20140402 fire lane

View from the bike path

Last ice disks of the season, gone now.

Last ice disks of the season (?), gone now.

There’s been no ice in Travvy’s outside water dish for days now.

No need for my trusty Yaktrax. I just put them in the cold-weather drawer to slumber spring away with my fleece hood, scarf, and most of my gloves and mittens. They’ll go into deep storage when I make the winter-summer switch around Memorial Day.

I haven’t turned my winter lights on since the end of last week. With the sky still light past seven o’clock, I don’t need to brighten the night. Time to put them away too.

The sun has moved far enough north that if I don’t draw the shade in the morning, I can barely see my laptop for the light streaming through the window.

So many signs of early spring are negative. How to photograph things that aren’t there? How to photograph the smell of thawing earth, the feel of the wind? See? says the experienced writer to the novice photographer. Words can do some things that pictures can’t.

rhododendronThe last couple of days I’ve been looking for things I could see.

The rhodrodendrons have been hunkered down all winter, their leaves drab and droopy. The green is returning. The leaves are opening up to the sun.

new leavesMy neighborhood is short on floral color at the moment, so I trespassed into the yard of a summer resident, where something’s always flowering. No flowers yet, but I did find a jolly big shrub with what looked like new leaves on top.

leaf budsBuds really are appearing on twigs, but you have to look close to see them. I haven’t figured out how to do good close-ups with my new camera yet, so this will have to do.

I found some color at one corner of the West Tisbury School. The crocuses are up. The daffodil buds are getting fatter.

crocus school

The scene along the bike path still looks wintry, but the thawing earth smells of spring. It gives under my boots. And do you see any snow in this photo? I don’t either.

bike path

contrailAbove me a plane drew an ephemeral path across the sky. It could see more than I could, and at the same time not as much.

Back home, my next-door neighbor said, yes indeed, there were crocuses up by the fire pit.crocus home

 

Sure enough, there they were.

Up on my deck, I sat in a chair and took my boots and socks off. They spent the rest of the day on the railing while I padded around the apartment in my bare feet, rather than the brown sheepskin slippers I’ve been wearing since mid-fall.

My feet notice that the floor’s a little gritty. With light streaming through the windows, it’s obvious that the windows need cleaning and dusting is long overdue. They don’t call it spring cleaning for nothing.

Sure — after I get my taxes done. I downloaded the forms and instructions last night. I never start procrastinating before April Fool’s Day.

Boots in waiting

Boots in waiting

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March License Plate Report

2014 mar license plate

The monthly update everyone’s been waiting for — ta-dah!

Not a big month — we spent a lot of March hunkered down avoiding snow and/or cold — but Colorado, Minnesota, and D.C. are now on the map. I must have spotted D.C. earlier but not colored it in. I’ve also got a sneaking suspicion that I’ve seen Wyoming and Utah but thought I had them already. When I think I’ve already spotted a state, I’m a little lax about verification.

What I am sure of is that Louisiana is all over the place. I’ve seen at least three different vehicles with Louisiana plates. Possibly four. Not a huge number, but Louisiana is supposed to be rare.

 

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First Visit to the New Library

This past Saturday, a week after its grand reopening, I paid a visit to the West Tisbury Free Public Library. Wow. Not to worry: I’ve got pictures. Scroll on down; have a look.

I didn’t get to the grand opening, despite my best intentions. That morning my old digital camera died. How could I possibly blog about the grand opening without pictures? I spent the morning web-researching digital cameras. Multitudinous options do a time sink make, even though I knew what I wanted: something like my old Canon PowerShot A590, only newer.

No sooner had I ordered a PowerShot A4000 from Newegg.com and — this is the key — bleated my triumph on Facebook than a friend in Vineyard Haven posted a comment: “Wait! Wait!” She had a barely used PowerShot A2400 she wanted to sell. So instead of going to the opening, I researched cameras and visited with my friend. A week later, the new camera and I finally got to the library.

Ceremonial hardhats at the groundbreaking party, December 2012.

Ceremonial hardhats at the groundbreaking party, December 2012.

Nearly everybody in town is a little goofy about the West Tisbury library. That includes me. Stock words like “wow” and “awesome” and “amazing” come out of our normally articulate mouths. On December 12, 2012, what seemed like half the town turned out for the groundbreaking ceremony. (West Tisbury is the kind of town that parties outside in mid-December.)

The groundbreaking itself was the culmination of a years-long effort: planning, designing, applying for grants, raising private funds . . . The library staff, the library trustees, and the library’s “friends” group did a stellar job of soliciting feedback and keeping the town informed every step of the way, which is why in April 2012 at annual town meeting we voted 300+ to 6 to fund the town’s share of construction costs — and cheered heartily afterwards. (For a bit more background, see the Vineyard Gazette story about the reopening.)

At first glance the new façade doesn’t look all that different from the old. The shingles are new, the entrance has moved to the left, and the porch is wider and deeper. Now you can return books after hours without getting soaked.

facadeThe walkway that bisects the parking lot and the area at the foot of the steps are studded with commemorative bricks. For a donation of $125 you could say whatever you wanted — within reason, of course — on a brick.

bricksOnce through the front door I knew for absolute certain I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

card catalogueIn the center is what I still sometimes call the card catalogue. From those terminals you can locate any book, DVD, journal, etc., etc., in the CLAMS (Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing) network, to which the West Tisbury library belongs. See those names up above? OK, it’s hard to tell that they’re names, a whole square of them. The names of contributors, year-round and seasonal residents, from West Tisbury and the other island towns. Instead of one megabucks donor’s name on the outside, we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of names on the wall and on the bricks.

Through the door to the left is the children’s section. The door on the right opens into the new program room.

I’ve been in love with the program room since I first saw it in the plans and computer simulations. In the old library, readings, lectures, concerts, and workshops were held in the periodical room. Tables had to be moved to set up chairs. The audience was fragmented by shelving. The backdrop for every singer and speaker was floor-to-ceiling magazine shelves. Maybe three players could occupy the “stage” at any one time.

The new dedicated program room is ready for almost anything. And it’s beautiful.

program roomThe new library has lots and lots of wall space to hang artwork on. Currently featured are the tapestries of West Tisbury artist Julia Mitchell. I doubt the chairs were chosen to coordinate with the tapestries, but it sure looks like it, doesn’t it?

art & chairsreading roomThe main floor reading area is big, but it’s been arranged in nooks so it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

From the light streaming in the windows and glowing on the hardwood floors, you’d never know that Saturday afternoon was overcast and rainy.

In the old library, the staff had no office space to call its own. They worked behind the circulation desk. Now they’ve got room to work and store stuff in. The new offices have plate-glass windows on the inside so the staffers aren’t cut off from the life of the library. There are also a couple of small conference rooms, suitable for classes, meetings, or, well, conferences.

stacks

Of course the new library has rows upon rows of bookshelves. The new shelves are purple, as are some of the floors. Guess what the Vineyard’s team colors are? White and . . . ? You got it.

When I arrived, a woman and her two small children were leaving. We exchanged a few words about the wonder of it all. “The kids were ready to leave,” she said. “I could have stayed all day, looking around, looking at the art.”

Same here. I did look up a few titles in the “card catalogue,” but mostly I wandered around and gawked. I’m especially taken with this staircase. (There’s also an elevator, of course.)

stairs

And here it is again, with a Julia Mitchell tapestry at the top. That’s the young adult room in the back, a cozy, secluded place for reading, studying, or just hanging out.

stairs 2West Tisbury’s library has long been a bustling place — the heart of the community, some say, and with good reason. As plans for the renovation and expansion got under way, some townsfolk expressed apprehension that the small-town community feeling would get lost in the shuffle. I wondered too, but I also had fantasies of what could happen in the new program room that couldn’t have fit in the old library. Strolling around the new library, I glimpsed possibilities everywhere.

The new library really is awesome.

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Signs on Trees

drinking water 1

Sign no. 1

I walk or drive past this tree two or three or four times most days. The sign appeared about a week ago. It bugs me.

How does it bug me? Let me count the ways . . .

Forget about counting. I just want to blog about it.

In the sign’s defense, or in defense of whoever put it there, I must admit that it is not located in one of those pristine places where I can harbor the illusion that I’m almost the only one who ever goes there. When I first noticed the sign, I was standing on asphalt. Through the trees dead ahead I could see a playing field and the high metal fences of the tennis and basketball courts. Just beyond them is the West Tisbury School. I could almost see that. Much closer and off to the left is a nursery school. The fence around its outdoor play area is weathered wood, but the playground equipment is so brightly colored it has to be plastic.

I even like the blue of the sign. I’d wear that blue. I’d drive it. Maybe I’d paint a door that color.

But the sign bugs me. What’s it doing there?

Did this just become a “drinking water supply area”? I doubt it. Nothing’s been built at this end of the road since I moved to the other end of it seven years ago. If a well-digger’s been around, it must have been both silent and invisible; otherwise I would have noticed.

More to the point, has anyone been doing anything to compromise the drinking water supply? I haven’t noticed that either. Even more to the point, what actions or inactions might compromise the drinking water supply? In other words, the sign tells me to protect the drinking water supply, but it doesn’t tell me what I can do.

The sign doesn’t tell me who put it there either. It’s not like the plain paper signs that used to grace the bulk bins at the grocery store, which said something like “No hands inside the bins per order of the board of health.” In a single glance you could pretty much guess that the signs weren’t the store’s idea. Now most of the bulk bins work by gravity: you put your produce bag under the spout and let the grain or whatever flow into it. Your hands never touch the food. The food supply is, presumably, protected.

The other day some of us were talking about the new “graphic” warning signs on cigarette packs and promotional materials. The old warnings weren’t doing the trick, so it seems, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires that warnings include pictures as well as words. Will the new warnings be any more effective? It’s doubtful. The FDA’s FAQs are quite clear about the hazards of smoking and the health costs thereof, but when it comes to the scientific rationale for the new warnings, they fudge all over the place. Note how often words like “indicate” and “estimate” and “increase the likelihood” appear.

drinking water 2

Sign no. 2

At least the “Drinking Water Supply Area” signs don’t include graphic images of the effects of drinking unprotected water. For that I am grateful.

But still — the signs bug me. The reason the signs bug me is that either they’re calling attention to a problem that doesn’t exist or they’re calling attention to a problem that does exist without giving us a clue what to do about it. My strong hunch is that the real purpose of the signs, as with so many other signs of this ilk, is to make the sign posters feel virtuous, as if they’re doing something. In this case, protecting the environment.

Which they aren’t. And that bugs me.

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Blizzard

After being briefly upstaged by missing-plane porn and Crimea porn, weather porn staged a comeback. It was no ordinary storm incoming, it was worst storm ever and it was heading straight for us.

Well, OK, not straight for Martha’s Vineyard, but the maps showed it aiming for the coastal areas of the Northeast, and that includes us.

They didn’t say “worst storm ever” either. They just predicted “snow” and “blizzard conditions” and “winds over 50 miles per hour” in that tried-and-true broadcaster’s tone that says You’ll be lucky to get out of this alive.

That’s what makes it porn. It’s not that missing planes, the Russian annexation of the Crimea, and big winter storms aren’t serious business for the people affected by them. The porn part kicks in when people get buzzed with adrenaline over things that don’t affect them at all and over which they have no control — or things that haven’t happened yet and might not happen at all.

Yeah, I know that no one’s an island and we’re all affected by everything that happens anywhere, but there’s more buzzworthy stuff happening in our own backyards. Porn tends to make real life look pale and even inauthentic.

But I digress. I threw up my barriers against the incoming-blizzard-we’re-all-gonna-die porn — come on, people, it’s still March and we’re still in New England, right? — but some of it got through. When I woke up this morning, true, I heard the wind blowing and saw tree limbs waving impressively outside the skylight. But the dusting of snow on my little deck was so pathetic, I thought, rather snarkily, “False alarm, nyah, nyah, nyah.”

My front door, however, wouldn’t open till I pushed really hard. So that’s where the snow was.

door

Kong stands guard over snowy disk.

Kong stands guard over snowy dish.

Note the two ice disks leaning against the railing. I had high hopes that they’d be joined by a snowy third, but the water in the water dish sloshed a little when I picked it up. It wasn’t frozen solid, and it turned to slush in the unmolding. Windy it is. Cold it is not.

While I wrote, Travvy the snow dog went back to bed. Around 9:30 I donned my warm, wind-breaking old parka and pulled on my boots. My going-out sounds roused Trav from his slumber, but when I opened the front door (pushing more snow out of the way) and the wind whistled in, he gave me A Look. The look said, roughly translated, Are you kidding?

No, Travvy Snow Dog, I am not kidding. Out we went.

The walking was easy. In some places the ground was nearly bare; in others the snow was four inches deep. The wind was blowing all right. Yes, I know a limb could snap and fall on my head. The weather pornographers want me to believe this is a common occurrence. It’s not, but I did watch for nearly severed branches and listen for the sounds of cracking wood. Nothing. There wasn’t much debris on the ground either. We’ve had enough high winds this winter that whatever’s going to fall has mostly fallen.

Travvy had a good time in spite of himself. However, when we turned off the bike path to follow the long side of the field at Misty Meadows — into the wind — I got another version of The Look. He trotted along with hunkered-down determination till we were back in the woods.

At Old County Road, we had to wait for an approaching car, the only car I’d seen on the road. A Subaru Forester — why am I not surprised? I looked at the driver. The driver was looking at me. He waved. I waved back. Ah, the camaraderie of people crazy enough to be out in a storm!

We got home safely. I went in to get my camera so I could take a photo of Travvy Snow Dog with snow on his face. Travvy gave me The Look.

snowy face

 

Posted in home, Martha's Vineyard, outdoors | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

My Morning

The last couple of weeks I’ve been too obsessed with impending deadlines to have adventures or blog about the adventures I wasn’t having. This morning I had a little adventure in spite of myself.

Malvina Forester

Malvina Forester

Usually I write for an hour or two before Travvy and I go for a long walk. This morning I skipped writing so Trav and I could get our walk in before I delivered Malvina Forester to Courtesy Motors at 8 a.m. to have her rear shocks replaced. Larry asked if I needed a ride home. Nah, said I, patting Hekate O’Dell, who was slung over my shoulder in her brown messenger bag. I’ll set up my office at the Black Dog Café. I’ve got enough work to keep me busy all day.

Larry didn’t think it would take all day. Early afternoon, he thought; earlier if two of the guys could work on it.

Fine, said I, and headed down the road.

The Black Dog Café is a short walk from my mechanic’s shop. I like their breakfast burritos. They have wall sockets to plug Hekate into — Hekate’s battery is in desperate need of replacement — and free wi-fi.

This morning the free wi-fi was crucial because I had a big job due in New York this morning. My plan was to finish my second pass through (very messy) endnotes, clean up my style sheet, and send it off. Piece of cake.

Except the wi-fi wasn’t working.

It still wasn’t working after I finished the endnotes and cleaned up the style sheet. And it was only 10 a.m. Too early to go bug the mechanics. So I packed Hekate back into her bag and hitchhiked home. Two rides, one to Old County, the other to the West Tisbury School. Not bad. I hiked across the playing field, through the woods, and up the road to home. Travvy roused himself from his nap to ask where his cookie was.

I set Hekate up on my lapdesk, plugged her in, and called Larry to say I was at home and he could just call me when his guys were done with Malvina.

His guys were already done with Malvina. They’d just backed her out into the parking area. Larry was all apologetic that I’d hitchhiked home, it being so cold out. (It was in the mid-teens earlier in the morning, and it hadn’t gotten much warmer.) I assured him that this was no big deal.

His son and colleague, Jesse, was out road-testing a car that had been overheating. Jesse, said Larry, could pick me up.

After a little back-and-forthing on the phone, I walked back across the playing field and met Jesse on Old County Road.

Pretty soon I was driving Malvina off the lot. Sure enough, the clunking sounds I’d been blaming on Vineyard roads were gone. The new shocks were doing their job. My credit card mitigated the shock to my budget.

It was noon before I finally sent off the job I’d promised to send “first thing in the morning,” but it’s gone.

deadline miracle

 

 

 

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Trustafarianism

Rumor has it that a photographer well known on Martha’s Vineyard coined the term “trustafarian.” This fellow comes from money and has ties to Jamaica, so the rumor may well be true.

“Trustafarian” appears in various online dictionaries, like the Urban Dictionary and the The Free Dictionary. The gist is that a trustafarian is someone from a wealthy background whose inherited money, invested in some sort of trust fund, enables him or her to not work for a living and thus avoid the obligations, lessons, limitations, and perils that come therewith.

Trustafarians don’t necessarily have any affinity for Jamaican music, food, or culture. They are, however, generally hip in their political and musical tastes. They experiment with various spiritual paths and alternative medical practices. They buy organic, fair trade, and all that scrupulously prepared stuff. If they vote, it’s almost certainly for Democrats or third-party candidates.

Martha’s Vineyard seems to have a relatively high percentage of trustafarians, but it’s hard to tell. Trustafarians blend in with the general population. One definition asserts that trustafarians eschew “conventional attitudes to work, dress, drug taking, etc.” On the Vineyard such eschewing is endemic. The observer who suspects that all such eschewers are trustafarians will be wrong most of the time.

We do gossip occasionally about where so-and-so’s money came from, speculate about what we might do if we had that kind of money, and indulge in some schadenfreude when a trustafarian doesn’t turn out so well.

I started off to blog about how the privilege of not having to work for a living has its downsides. These can include a general lassitude that resembles, and may actually be, depression, and total cluelessness about what things cost when you have to have to exchange hours for the money required to buy them. These things are not uncommon on Martha’s Vineyard.

While writing, though, my attention shifted from trustafarians to trustafarianism. Did I make that word up? Maybe yes, maybe no, but either way I’m taking it to mean the assumption that as priorities go, the ability of working people to make a decent living is of secondary importance. This belief is much in evidence on the national level, where many elected officials, business leaders, and policymakers don’t seem all that concerned that a person can work full-time and barely earn enough to feed herself.

It’s also alive and well on Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s subtle. Everyone pays at least lip service to the importance of jobs. But consider, for instance, the much-discussed “affordability gap.” This is the gap between what housing costs (a lot) and what working people can afford (a lot less). Everyone‘s noticed the affordability gap. But when talk turns to closing the gap, the focus is overwhelmingly on lowering the cost of housing, not on increasing the number of better-paying jobs.

Why not? One reason is that we tend to focus on the demands of the seasonal economy, which is pretty much the only economy we have, or can imagine having. Maintaining the scenic vistas, pristine beaches, and all the things that make Martha’s Vineyard attractive to tourists and summer people comes first.

The seasonal economy does, of course, create jobs, lots of jobs. Those jobs tend to be seasonal and relatively low-paying. The better-paying jobs, such as those in the building trades, often help foster the conditions that are making the place unlivable for working people: rising property values and the second-home market, which make affordable year-round housing hard to find.

Conflicts between the workaday Vineyard, where the challenges of making a living are always front and center, and the seasonal economy’s demand for scenic vistas occasionally rise to the surface. Not long ago abutters took exception to the Goodale pit, ostensibly because sand from the pit was blowing on their road but at least as much because they didn’t want to look at it. I think the pit is beautiful. It looks like Lawrence of Arabia meets the industrial revolution. For others, though, it conjures visions of William Blake’s “dark Satanic Mills” out to destroy the Vineyard’s “green and pleasant land.”

Trustafarians make up a small percentage of the island’s population, but they’re not the only year-round residents who aren’t trying to make a living here. Many retirees spent their work lives elsewhere, where there were more job options and the pay was better. Some Vineyarders grow up here, move away, then come back in middle age, sometimes bringing their jobs with them. Some Vineyarders physically commute to off-island jobs.  Others telecommute and don’t have to go anywhere.

For a significant and probably growing number of year-round residents, the income side of the affordability gap is of secondary importance. That’s what I’m calling (for the moment at least) “trustafarianism.”

What does it matter? Maybe it doesn’t. I just heard another recent arrival say, more or less, that if people can’t afford to live here they should go elsewhere. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this. Nowhere close. But at the same time, many of these recent arrivals wax rhapsodic about “the community,” how different it is from other places they’ve lived. Where do they think this community comes from? Who do they think sustains it?

People who both live and work here, that’s who. People who’ve been committed to the Vineyard for decades, maybe their whole lives. They carry the history and customs of the place in their bodies as well as their minds. The intertwining relationships that grow from working together over the decades and even generations are the roots from which community grows. As the workforce becomes less rooted, more transient, what happens to community? I guess we’ll see, won’t we.

Trav and I appreciate beaches and scenic vistas, especially in January. In summer we hide out in the woods.

Trav and I appreciate beaches and scenic vistas, especially in January. In summer we hide out in the woods.

Sunset, Lambert's Cove Beach, January 2014

Sunset, Lambert’s Cove Beach, January 2014

 

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