Chambermaid Follies

My computer files and folders are pretty well organized. My paper files are a mess. Once the folders get into the file drawers, they’re out of sight, out of mind, but plenty of stuff never gets there. Folders and unsorted papers are piled in a semi-permanent holding pattern on two of the file cabinets. A couple of days ago I was frantically excavating the piles in search of my most recent lease or a utility bill that had my street address on it.

Why was this so urgent? Because I’d finally jumped through all the required hoops to get re-enrolled in my state-subsidized health insurance plan — except one: I had to prove that I live at the address I’ve lived at for going on eight years. The Massachusetts Health Connector needed written evidence of what the town of West Tisbury, the state Office of Jury Commissioners, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles already know.

Well, I found what I was looking for — I have never been so glad to find my Comcast bill — and I also found something else. In a thin folder whose label had faded to near-illegibility, I found a document with this heading:

LCI lyrics head

From left: Ann Dunkley, me, and Maggie MacCarty, ca. 1990, on the front steps of the Lambert's Cove Inn. Ann was the office manager. She pinch-hit as a chambermaid as needed. Maggie doubled as a waitress. I was just a chambermaid, but I was pretty good at laundry.

From left: Ann Dunkley, me, and Maggie MacCarty, ca. 1990, on the front steps of the Lambert’s Cove Inn. Ann was the office manager. She pinch-hit as a chambermaid as needed. Maggie doubled as a waitress. I was just a chambermaid, but I was pretty good at laundry.

Oh boy, did that take me back! In the late 1980s and very early 1990s, I was a chambermaid at the Lambert’s Cove Inn in West Tisbury. The chambermaids were a wonderful crew, headed by our intrepid innkeeper, Marie Burnett. Every year Marie threw a Christmas party, and one year Maggie MacCarty and I wrote some songs for it. Our performance was a big hit. What I had found were the lyrics. They hold up pretty well after almost 25 years, so here they are.

A couple of notes: “Redo” was what we did to a room after guests had been there two nights. It was a full-bore cleaning and included changing the sheets. After one night what they got was a “freshen.” About “LCI – West Tisbury”: In Massachusetts, prisons are customarily referred to as MCI — for Massachusetts Correctional Institution — followed by a place-name. MCI – Framingham, MCI – Walpole, etc. LCI – West Tisbury was a natural.

P.S. With some effort, I’ve managed to remember the names of 14 of the Lambert’s Cove Inn’s 15 rooms as they were “back in the day.” The one I’m missing was on the second floor of the Barn, next to Loft. If you can jog my memory, please comment on this post!

(Tune: “Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho”)

Redo, redo,
That’s all we ever do —
Twelve rooms today
We’ll earn our pay —
It’s three o’clock,
We’re halfway through
Redo, redo . . . (etc.)

Our Favorite Things (A Few of Them Anyway)
(Tune: “My Favorite Things”)

Bras on the doorknob
And shorts on the lampshade,
Socks in the toilet
And condoms in ashtrays,
Wine bottles scattered all over the floor:
That’s what we find
When we open the door.

Hairdryers, toothpaste,
Some razors and brushes,
Toilet bowl leaking
From too many flushes,
Hair wads congealing in shower and sink
Trash in the brown bag
Is starting to stink.

BUT with our DuMaid
And our Soft-Scrub,
Rags and Lysol spray,
We spritz and we dust and we vac and we mop —
And pray that they go away!

Brunch in the Orchard
(Tune: “Jingle Bells”)

Jingle bells, burning smells,
Bread crumbs on the floor:
Brunch for 99 today,
No lunch for us till four.
Gather chairs, extension cords,
Buckets full of ice:
It’s hot and clear this morning,
Wouldn’t brunch outside be nice?

Dashing cross the lawn
With a platter full of eggs,
Dodging doggie poop
And models’ skinny legs,
Apples from the trees
Are falling in the juice,
Bumble bees have stung that man,
His face is turning puce, OH!

That was thunder,
Here comes rain:
Take your plates and run!
Brunch is over for this week,
And didn’t we have fun??

Owed to Marie
(Tune: “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”)

Marie, our washer’s broken
And the dryer’s on the fritz,
There’s ants in East and Greenhouse
And the guests are having fits!
The well went dry this morning
And the wedding starts at three —
Two hundred guests expected —
Marie, where will they pee?

The chef’s locked in the walk-in
And the power lines are down,
The cat puked on the rag doll
And the lawn is turning brown.
These things might seem disastrous
And drive us to suicide,
But Marie said fall is coming
And Marie has never lied!

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Blaze Orange

Deer Week every year starts the Monday after Thanksgiving. “Deer Week” these days lasts almost two weeks (no hunting on Sundays), and it’s not the only time hunters can hunt deer, but it’s the only time hunters can hunt deer with shotguns. The 2014 archery season ran from October 20 through November 29 — the Saturday before shotgun deer season began. The “primitive firearms season” begins the Monday after shotgun season ends, on December 15, and runs until December 31.

hunters signImplicit here is the message that archers and black-powder riflemen don’t especially want to be out in the woods during shotgun season. Neither does anyone else who isn’t carrying a gun and decked out in blaze orange.

I’m chronically blasé about archers and black-powder shooters, and about hunters in search of rabbits, squirrels, game birds, and waterfowl. So blasé that I just had to look up the scheduled seasons for the small critters. As a horseback rider, I regularly rode into the woods at any time of year — except during “Deer Week.” As a walker and occasional off-road biker, I do likewise.

The bow, black-powder, and small-game hunters I encounter pay more attention to their surroundings than I do. Their number is not great, and neither is the range of their weaponry. I do not worry about being shot accidentally (or on purpose either, come to think of it).

20141206 bike path

The bike path. Danger — the state forest — on the left. Safety on the right.

Shotgun deer season is different. It has a certain mystique, an aura of danger. Yes, I have seen empty beer cans and bottles near the places where shotgun hunters park their cars and (more commonly) pickups.  When Vineyarders whisper about such empty cans and bottles — as we do, especially before and during shotgun season — the unspoken assumption is that when the hunters went into the woods, more than their guns were loaded.

We also whisper about “off-island hunters,” who are said to be more numerous during shotgun season. Off-island hunters are said to be less competent, less conscientious, and less sober than island hunters. Off-island hunters, it is said, are so clueless about their surroundings that they don’t know when they’re within 500 feet of an inhabited dwelling, so they might take out your porch light while trying to hit a deer.

As with so many things, we tend to exaggerate the danger in order to justify our caution or inaction. Truth to tell, I do not know if the beer was consumed before the hunters went into the woods or after they came out.

Guess which one doesn't belong?

Guess which one doesn’t belong?

So on the first day of shotgun season a friend gave me a blaze orange vest that she had lying around. Despite all my forays into the woods over the years, I had never owned a piece of blaze orange clothing. When hunters were about, I’d make some effort to wear something that didn’t blend in with the season, but often I’d forget — and every single time, I’d walk, ride, or bike out of the woods unscathed.

Me in my blaze orange vest

Me in my blaze orange vest

To hear some people talk, my number should have come up long ago. “Better safe than sorry” is not a mantra that appeals to me. Quite the contrary: it’s a platitude that often conceals our inability or unwillingness to acknowledge that perfect safety is impossible and great mischief is committed in the attempt to achieve it. But free clothing is free clothing, and this blaze orange vest was made of fleece, had an L.L. Bean label, and looked like it had never been worn.

I open my vest to reveal my malamute-puppy sweater. The grown-up malamute is standing by.

I open my vest to reveal my malamute-puppy sweater. The grown-up malamute is standing by. Note nose and ear in lower-left corner.

On the first Monday morning of shotgun season, I saw 10 or 12 hunters along Pine Hill. I exchanged greetings with several of them. They admired Travvy. A couple mentioned their own dogs. One of them had a Siberian husky. They were all wearing blaze orange. Maybe I should be too.

So on the second morning of shotgun season I donned the blaze orange vest, put dog biscuits in one pocket and a tube of string cheese in the other, and set out with Trav for our morning walk.

I felt like a complete doofus.

In the somber late-fall landscape, I stood out like, well, a sore thumb.

As long as I didn’t run into anybody, I was OK. But a couple of people told me how smart I was to be wearing the vest. They were commending me for being overcautious, which is not something I want to be commended for. I felt, deep down, as if I was being commended for helping to turn Martha’s Vineyard into the sanitized suburb that it is slowly but steadily becoming.

My rational mind assured me that suburbanization will continue to progress whether I wear blaze orange or not. Besides, the hunters wear blaze orange, so it must be OK.

So I’ll continue to wear blaze orange when I go into the woods during 2014 shotgun season. Not today, however. Today is Sunday, and there’s no hunting on Sunday.


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November License Plate Report

Nothing new, nothing new . . .

WordPress just informed me that this is the 400th post to From the Seasonally Occupied Territories. I guess that’s something!

2014 sept license plate

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A Saner Way to Shop

A Vineyard Haven retailer’s announcement that her store would open at 5 a.m. on “Black Friday” elicited some groans and eye-rolling on Facebook and elsewhere. Martha’s Vineyard is more like the world across the water than some people like to admit, but it’s still hard to imagine such an announcement eliciting anything more than a yawn Over There.

Behind the groans and the eye-rolling (I confess, I did some of both) is concern that Over There is making inroads Over Here. It is, but this isn’t exactly news. It’s been going on at least since the English set up housekeeping Over Here in the mid seventeenth century. Nevertheless, I turned to Google for some assurance that things Over Here are not all that bad compared to what’s going on Over There.

This was not hard to find. Near the top of Google’s hit list was “17 Black Friday Stories That Will Make You Lose Faith in Humanity.” Subtitle (which I’m pretty sure was intended somewhat tongue-in-cheekily): “The crushing forces of reckless capitalism can force people to become monsters, especially when there are discounted electronics at stake.”

Why, I wondered, would anyone read a story that promised to make them lose faith in humanity?

Because gloom-and-doomery is as compelling to some humans as discounted electronics are to others. But of course. I’m pleased that I only got through two of the stories; however, I couldn’t help noting that the Vineyard Haven retailer who opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday deals in electronics.

The Ag Hall, site of the post-Thanksgiving Artisans' Fair.

The Ag Hall, site of the post-Thanksgiving Artisans’ Fair.

All of this is by way of prologue. As you could surmise from my last post, I spent Black Friday and the Saturday that followed — which has a name of its own: Small Business Saturday — at the Artisans’ Fair. “Crushing forces” and “monsters” were nowhere in sight. Most of the crafts and artworks for sale used technology that was well established long before the twentieth century. Which is not to say that their creator-vendors were stuck in the past: the regulars all use electronics — tablets, smart phones, credit-card verification gizmos — to facilitate sales.

It’s hard to imagine customers and vendors at the Thanksgiving Artisans’ Festival getting into a slugfest over discounted electronics or anything else. They’re too busy appreciating each other’s creations and catching up on the news. To tend a booth at the fair is like sitting in front of the West Tisbury post office for six hours: you see people you haven’t seen in weeks, if not months, and they’re often accompanied by people you don’t know or can’t remember, to whom you will shortly be (re)introduced.

The Hirsel's display. My slippers are just like the brown ones in the middle of the bottom row.

The Hirsel’s display. My slippers are just like the brown ones in the middle of the bottom row.

One of my missions was to get my favorite slipper repaired. Leatherworker Tom Barrett of The Hirsel repairs anything he sells — for free. I gave him the slipper Friday; he brought it back to me Saturday morning.

Dan Waters, poet and printmaker among other things (he was just elected West Tisbury’s town moderator), makes the world’s best greeting cards. His booth was right next to “writers’ row,” where I and my sister writers — Shirley Mayhew, Lynn Christoffers, and Cynthia Riggs — held court. So of course I stocked up on cards. Linda Alley of New Lane Sundries traded me two jars of her cranberry conserve for one copy of my Mud of the Place. Very good deal.

A fiddler strolled up and down the aisles, entertaining us with her music. (Name TK.)

Mary Wolverton strolled up and down the aisles, entertaining us with Celtic fiddle music.

I also scored two pairs of earrings from Cecilia Designs and would have scored more from her and other jewelers (I have a weakness for earrings) had price been no object. Next to all the meet-and-greeting that goes on at the Artisans’ Fair is the pleasure of appreciating all the colorful creativity and craftsmanship on display, and chatting with the people who did the creating and crafting. You don’t have to spend any money at all — though of course the vendors will appreciate it if you do.

I don’t believe this happens at the typical Black Friday event. If it did, probably shoppers would be less likely to turn into adrenaline-crazed monsters. Being serenaded by lively fiddle music couldn’t hurt either.

Andrea Rogers at her booth

Andrea Rogers at her booth

The Vineyard Artisans’ Festival season kicks off every year on Memorial Day weekend. Fairs are held on the big holiday weekends. From early June to early October, there’s one every Sunday, and in July and August there’s also one every Thursday. Founder and organizer Andrea Rogers not only oversees all this; she manages to sell products she makes from the lavender she grows.

The last fair of the 2014 season is a one-day holiday festival: Saturday, December 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury.

Some color from the Thanksgiving fair:


Woven goods by Richard and Carol Tripp.



Pillows by Sylvie Farrington of SylvieBags. Her handbags were also on display.



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Artisans’ Fair 2014

All you Vineyard people, and anyone who’s here for the weekend — several of us West Tisbury writers are selling our very Vineyard books at the Artisans’ Fair, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and tomorrow, November 28 and 29, at the Ag Hall. Come say hi!

You’ll find copies of Cynthia Riggs’s brand-new Murder on C-Dock, the start of a new mystery series set on the Washington, D.C., waterfront. All of Cynthia’s Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries, featuring the intrepid 92-year-old sleuth Victoria Trumbull, are on display too.


Lynn Christoffers is there with her Cats of Martha’s Vineyard, along with matching cat calendars and cat notecards.

vineyard cats sm

Shirley Mayhew is selling and signing copies of her wonderful Looking Back: My Long Life on Martha’s Vineyard, an aptly named collection of personal essays. Also available are 2015 bird calendars by Shirley’s photographer daughter Sarah.

cover scan sm

And I’ve got my novel, The Mud of the Place, which isn’t new but is still pretty good.

mud cover2

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Susanna J. Sturgis:

Heads up, mystery fans — Cynthia Riggs’s newest mystery will make its debut at the Artisans’ Fair this weekend: Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ag Hall in West Tisbury. Murder on C-Dock is the start of a new series, set not on Martha’s Vineyard but on the D.C. waterfront, where Cynthia lived on a houseboat for 12 years while running a ferry boat company on Chesapeake Bay. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I edited the book.)

Shirley Mayhew and I are sharing a table at the Artisans’ Fair. She’ll be selling copies of her wonderful Looking Back: My Long Life on Martha’s Vineyard as well as daughter Sarah Mayhew’s gorgeous 2015 bird calendar. (Trust me, you want both the book and the calendar, and you can probably think of a few friends who would appreciate one or the other or both.) I’ll have copies of my novel, The Mud of the Place, which isn’t exactly new but holds up pretty well. At the next table you’ll find Cynthia and her books and also Lynn Christoffers and her Cats of Martha’s Vineyard. Do drop by!

Originally posted on Martha's Vineyard Mysteries:

MURDER ON C-DOCK cover mock up 2

Illustrations by Elizabeth Whelan

It was, quite literally, a dark and stormy night, when MURDER ON C-DOCK, my latest mystery, was conceived. At the time I wrote it, I was living on a houseboat in Washington, D.C., only a short walk from the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, where I worked. Living on a houseboat had been a childhood fantasy of mine, so after my divorce, I bought a 44-foot houseboat and lived aboard for the following twelve years

“What’s it like in the winter?” was one of the most common questions we liveaboards were asked.

“You want to be careful of your footing on the icy dock,” we’d respond. “The water is cold.”

But our boats were well insulated and warm, and on dark and stormy nights, dock people would gather on a neighbor’s boat with a jug or two of wine and talk river talk.

This particular night…

View original 1,347 more words

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Of Ice Disks and Statistics

Winter made a brief appearance this past weekend. When I got up, it was minus 6 Celsius, aka 21 Fahrenheit. (For a few months now, I’ve had a desktop widget that tells me the temperature in Celsius. I can now tell from a Celsius number whether it’s frigid, cold, cool, warm, hot, or unbearable. I can’t do conversions in my head, but I can do them with a calculator. This is progress.)

I was ready. There was water in Travvy’s outside water dish. It froze. Here’s what it looked like the morning of November 16:

20141116 close up20141116 disk one

By early afternoon the temp had been in the mid-40s (F; around 7 C) long enough that the disk had turned into a puddle under the chair. Sic semper gloria mundi, etc., etc.

Almost everyone around me was bitching about the cold, as though they didn’t live in New England and it wasn’t mid-November. Maybe the ice disk season was starting early this year?

Since I had a complete record for last year, I could look it up. Somewhat to my surprise, the first ice disk of the 2013/14 cold season appeared on November 20, 2013. I didn’t get going on ice-diskery till January of that year, so I can’t tell you about November 2012.

Four days earlier is four days earlier. Hardly enough to hang grand generalizations about the weather on. Yes, I could Google back a few years and ascertain the official November temperatures for Martha’s Vineyard, but (1) that wouldn’t give me the temperature for my deck, or tell me the water in an outside water dish would have frozen hard enough to make a disk, and (2) I’ve already made my point.

And my point is . . . ?

That facts come in handy. String enough numerical facts together and you’ve got statistics. Yes, I’ve grown up with the phrase “lies, damn lies, and statistics.” I’ve heard it attributed to Twain, Disraeli, and W. H. Auden, among others. Does it matter who said it first? I think not. Most of us know that statistics can be manipulated every which way, and that if what they sometimes do isn’t exactly lying, still it’s a far cry from the whole truth.

But statistics can keep us grounded in the day-to-day world, especially if we know what they mean — especially if we collect them ourselves. Our memories are creative. On one hand, that’s the wonderful thing about memory. On the other — well, we’re always saying things like “This has to be the coldest (hottest/wettest/driest) winter (summer/spring/fall) on record.” And it hardly ever is.

I know a few people on Martha’s Vineyard who’ve been keeping detailed records for years, decades even, about the weather, about particular ponds, about the produce of their gardens, and all sorts of other interesting things.  When controversy gets heated about one of those subjects — like the Mill Pond in my town of West Tisbury — the records become important.

So do the record keepers. The record keepers are often the ones who’ve been paying the closest attention, through all the years that for most people the subject was ho-hum and nothing to get excited about.

I can’t tell you much about Vineyard weather, never mind about climate change, but I can say with confidence that for eight consecutive days last February, the temperature on my deck didn’t get high enough to melt ice disks. And I’ve got a photo to prove it.

20140213 eight and co.

If I’d realized the string of sub-freezing days was going to go on so long, I wouldn’t have lined the disks up on the short side of the deck. Taken February 13, 2014.






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Pretty Good Day

Woke up this morning with Travvy curled up next to me and all sorts of wonderful novel-related stuff fermenting in my head.

Got up, fed Trav, brushed my teeth, zapped the last of yesterday’s tea, put the kettle on for a fresh pot, and settled into my blue chair to write all that wonderful novel-related stuff down.

Played Tom Waits’ “Get Behind the Mule” about 10 times while I was doing it. Here’s a link. You can play it too. Great song, and if there’s a definitive version this has to be it.

It was a misty but not moisty morning.

20141111 misty morning

Headed off to the laundromat with Trav riding shotgun. While the clothes washed, we strolled around the airport. Trav made friends with a taxi driver.

On the clothesline, long pants (4) outnumber shorts (2). Turtlenecks (5) outnumber T-shirts (3), and all the T-shirts are long-sleeved. The presence of shorts and the absence of long underwear say that it’s still mid-fall.

20141111 midfall

Decided that if I got any (paid) work done today, it was going to be an accident. Goofed off online instead, updated my bookshelf on Goodreads, and spent a couple more hours teaching myself Dreamweaver.

Travvy jumps.

Travvy jumps.

Packed Trav in the car and went off to play on the tennis court. After a long layoff, like 18 months’ worth, we’re again practicing Rally Obedience in a semi-systematic way. Trav loves to jump, and in between practice sessions I kick a soccer ball and he chases it.

Stopped for gas on the way home. Price per gallon: $3.799!!! Filled the tank for less than $50!!!! ($45.75!)

Stopped for milk at up-island Cronig’s. Travvy made more friends. Ready to drive off — was surprised when a white Toyota pickup stopped right in front of me and didn’t move. Guy got out of the pickup’s passenger side, scooped my wallet off the hood of my car, and brought it round to my window. I’d left it there while Trav was making friends.

Drove off thinking that the world was a pretty OK place.

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Swans Got Your Goat?

I. Goats

On our morning walk the other day, Travvy and I left the bike path, heading toward the West Tisbury School. Immediately I caught a metallic glint from the little meadow up ahead. We walk past that meadow almost every day. This was new. A little closer and it looked as though someone had scattered several big white rocks across the scrubby grass.

Travvy caught on before I did: goats. Goats are the newest rage of the organic, environmentally friendly agriculture crowd. Goats eat everything, including brambles and poison ivy. There are now at least three enterprises renting out goats to help with, as one company calls it, “goatscaping.”

Travvy wasn’t impressed. He bucked and plunged and howled like a banshee. With me holding tight to his lead, we made our way along the path till Old County Road was just a few yards away. Between us and it, however, was a problem: the electric fence — the glinting metal I’d glimpsed from the bike path — came right up to the path on one side. On the other side was brambly, wooded scrub. The path itself was less than a foot wide.

If Travvy hit the fence, so much the better. I just didn’t want him to push me into it.

Travvy got shocked, my left thumb got wrenched, but we made it through. When we got home, I was too ripped to call and complain: You bloody idiots, what were you thinking to bring the fence so close to the trail? I’d wait till tomorrow.

By the next day, however, the fence had been moved back from the path.

In the days since, Travvy has learned to keep his brain in gear while walking near the goats. An unwelcome intrusion has turned into a teaching opportunity.

Travvy checks out the neighbors.

Travvy checks out the new neighbors.

II. Politics

Elections don’t  bring out the best in me or my fellow USians. Regional and national ones are by far the worst. The 24/7 fearmongering and lies that precede them, the handwringing and gloating that come afterward — understandably we come to dread elections worse than visiting the dentist (which I did yesterday, so it’s on my mind).

donkeyLocal elections aren’t nearly as bad. Campaigning is minimal, it doesn’t go on long, and the chances are good that you know at least something about most of the candidates. Unfamiliar names you can learn more about by asking whichever friends, neighbors, and acquaintances you run into at the post office or grocery store. Infallible this method is not, but it has to be more reliable than TV advertising and robocalls.

On the national level, campaigns are the distant thundering of gods, demigods, and devils. Sorting out the facts from the distortions from the downright lies is a full-time job. I have no trouble understanding why so many people don’t vote. I’ve sat out a few elections myself. I think compulsory voting is a terrible idea.

“All politics are local,” as the late Tip O’Neill, a brilliant politician from my home state, used to say. Politics are about so much more than elections and politicians. They’re about how people arrive at decisions (or don’t) and implement them (or not). In our workplaces, homes, neighborhoods, organizations, and wherever else we gather, we’re doing this all the time.

III. Swans

So while the rest of the country is freaking out about fracking, climate change, income inequality, and the cost of health care, a big issue in my town is swans on the Mill Pond.

No, that’s not quite right. We’re freaking out about fracking, climate change, income inequality, the cost of health care, and all the rest of it, but we’re also paying attention to the swans on the Mill Pond.

Mama swan with cygnets, April 2014. Photo by Martina Mastromonaco.

Mama swan with cygnets, April 2014. Photo © 2014 by Martina Mastromonaco.

Joannie, our ACO (animal control officer), has long taken a special interest in the Mill Pond swans. This past summer one of the cygnets was badly bit by a snapping turtle. Joannie arranged for the cygnet, now named Rocky, to get veterinary care, and wonder of wonders, Rocky survived, thrived, and is now back on the Mill Pond. Many of us followed the story firsthand, by word-of-mouth, or on Facebook.

The Mill Pond is a scant few feet from the Edgartown Road. The speed limit, 25 mph, has long been ignored, and since the police station moved from next door up to North Tisbury, plenty of people think the speeding has gotten worse. Long story short, some of the cars have taken out swans and ducks trying to cross the road, so last month Joannie asked the board of selectmen if she, with the help of her husband, could put up a gate to discourage the birds from crossing the road.

West Tisbury being West Tisbury, one selectman thought that the town should pay for the gate. The board as a whole believed the proposal should be referred to the conservation commission and the historic district commission for their review. A local naturalist, whose surname, appropriately enough, is Pelikan, questioned the advisibility of encouraging the swans at all. Mute swans — which the Mill Pond swans are — are considered a non-native, invasive species. In Rhode Island, he said, feeding waterfowl is prohibited. He called the feeding and protection of the swans “puzzling” and “misguided.”

How, one might wonder, could so many of West Tisbury’s intelligent, well-informed, environmentally conscientious townsfolk possibly be supporting, actively or tacitly, a practice that Mr. Pelikan all but called irrational?

Interesting question. I’m pretty rational, but I love seeing the swans on the Mill Pond, I followed Rocky’s recovery on Facebook, and I often stick a spare dollar bill or two in the jar at the grocery store devoted to the care and feeding of the swans. As invasive species go, swans do nowhere near as much damage as human beings, but at the same time I suspect Mr. Pelikan has a point.

After every election, including the one just past, you hear plenty of people asking how any sane, intelligent person could vote for those jerks. The obvious implication is that those people are crazy or stupid. They, of course, are saying the same thing about us.

Day in, day out, I get to see firsthand how complex are the interests and emotions and priorities that go into even a very minor issue, like whether swans on the Mill Pond are a good idea. If I had to vote tomorrow, would I vote yes or would I vote no?

Most likely some people would be wondering how a sane, intelligent person could possibly vote the way I did.

Bobette and her brood, April 2014. Photo © 2014 by Martina Mastromonaco.

Bobette and her brood, April 2014. Photo © 2014 by Martina Mastromonaco.


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October License Plate Report

2014 sept license plate

Nothing new to report. The map at the end of October looks exactly like it did at the end of September. Usually the year’s last months are a bust, but having spotted Mississippi in September, I dare to hope that November and December might bring something new. Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, and either one of the Dakotas — where are you?

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