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…

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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…

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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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My First Visit to Pathways

Early on New Year’s Eve, I made my way up-island to Pathways, a winter happening at the Chilmark Tavern. Pathways is now, I’m told, in its sixth year, but this was my first visit.

My Martha's Vineyard

My Martha’s Vineyard

Chilmark and, beyond it, Aquinnah aren’t on my psychic map. On my psychic map, Martha’s Vineyard dwindles and disappears soon after you cross the West Tisbury town line.

When a place isn’t on your psychic map, there’s no way to get from here to there. There’s no there there anyway, so why bother?

In the afternoons Pathways is a drop-in space. On occasional evenings it hosts performances musical, literary, dramatic, terpsichorean (sorry about that — I couldn’t come up for a shorter adjective for “dance”), dramatic, and multimedia, usually by island-based musicians, writers, dancers, and artists. To my mind this is about as close to heaven as it gets, so why did it take me five years to get there?

Long story. When Pathways started, my novel, The Mud of the Place, had sunk without trace on its home turf. Writing and performing were barely on my psychic map. I was looking for other ways to make my life meaningful, or at least bearable.

On top of that, the whole idea of Pathways reminded me of Wintertide Coffeehouse, in which I was heavily involved as all-round volunteer and occasional performer from the mid-1980s to the mid-’90s. Wintertide’s long dwindling and eventual closing left a huge gap not only in the Vineyard’s life but in my own. One of my life’s little ironies is that Wintertide’s closing freed up time and energy to write my novel, then its absence made it next to impossible for my novel to find a local audience — and for me to believe that a local audience existed anymore.

So Pathways sounded too good to be true, and too good to last. Best not to get involved — it would just go belly-up and leave me bereft again.

What put Pathways on my psychic map was a chance encounter at the post-Thanksgiving Artisans’ Festival. I was selling Mud of the Place alongside my writer buddies Shirley Mayhew, Lynn Christoffers, and Cynthia Riggs. Keren Tonnesen stopped by our table, introduced herself, and asked if I was interested in having copies of Mud for sale at Pathways. Well, yeah, said I. I hadn’t realized that Pathways sold stuff.

This led to an email exchange, which eventually led to my venturing over the town line and making my way up-island all the way to Beetlebung Corner. It was dark. I wasn’t sure where the Chilmark Tavern was, exactly — what if I passed it and found myself at the Gay Head Cliffs?

Note to off-islanders: There aren’t all that many paved roads in Chilmark. Getting lost on the unpaved roads is easy. Getting lost on the paved ones is almost impossible.

George Davis on guitar, Mait Edey on piano. Pathways, December 31, 2014.

George Davis on guitar, Mait Edey on piano. Pathways, December 31, 2014.

What I discovered is that Pathways is too good to be true. The music was fine. George Davis and Mait Edey were followed by David Stanwood on piano, who was followed by singer-songwriter Kim Hilliard and her guitar.

Books by other island writers, including Cynthia and Lynn, were for sale. So was artwork by island artists. Evidence of island creativity was everywhere. I picked up a brochure for Fae Kontje-Gibbs’s “Words and Pictures” workshops.

In exchange for selling books, Pathways keeps 30 percent of the retail price and returns 70 percent to the writer. This is a much better deal than you’ll get in a bookstore. And both the wine and the coffee were free. Was I hallucinating or what?

When Thomas the Rhymer returned from a place like this, he discovered that seven years had passed and everyone thought he was dead.

When I got back to West Tisbury, it was still 2014 but 2015 was already off to a good start.


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Year-end License Plate Report

When summer ends and the year wanes, the license plate pickings dwindle to almost nothing. One year I spotted my last new plate in July.

So I was pretty thrilled to spot Mississippi — one of the perennial hard-to-get states — in September. As fall wore on, I became more and more certain that this was it for 2014. A pretty good year, as years go.

So this past Monday I drove to Oak Bluffs in search of groceries, beer, and a copy of Lisa Bibko-Vanderhoop’s 2015 Vineyard Seadogs calendar. I parked on Circuit Ave., pretty close to Good Dog Goods, and what should I spot right in front of the shop but Nebraska.

Nebraska, another hard-to-get state, on the 29th of December.

I walked around the car, a smallish black sedan, to check that it was Nebraska fore and aft. It was.

So the tally for 2014 stands at 47, out of 51. (I count D.C. because after Massachusetts I’ve lived there longer than I’ve lived anywhere else.) Missing were Montana, Iowa, South Dakota, and (big surprise) North Dakota.

2014 dec license map

And here’s what the map looked like when 2013 came to a close. 2014 was better — but I still remember the thrill of spotting West Virginia in November 2013.

2013 nov license plate

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Dear Senator Warren

Dear Senator Warren:

A lot of people I know want you to run for president. I don’t. I really hope you won’t.

The bottom-line reason is that you’re too valuable a U.S. senator to be wasted on the White House.

I live in the 9th Massachusetts Congressional District, in the town of West Tisbury, on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, in the County of Dukes County. (That really is its official name.) When it was the 10th Congressional District, we were represented in the House by the late Gerry Studds. He came as close to the ideal representative as I could imagine. I contributed my bit to his campaigns. His bumper sticker was on my pickup.

He eventually left office. That pickup died. I swore I’d never put another candidate’s sticker on my vehicle until someone came along that I could support at least as wholeheartedly as I supported Gerry Studds. Someone that I could be genuinely for.

That's my campaign hat. I really did wear it in public.

That’s my campaign hat. I really did wear it in public.

And I didn’t. Not until you threw your hat in the ring. And then — oh dear. Not only did I put your sticker on my car, I signed up to make a monthly contribution to your campaign. I went to a fundraiser for you at the Old Whaling Church. I heard you speak at a rally behind the West Tisbury library. I even have the T-shirt.

I voted for you, of course, and you won. That was exhilarating, but it’s not why I’m writing this letter. I’m writing this letter because I still have your bumper sticker on my car. Your bumper sticker is still on my car because I have no regrets about supporting you. This is unusual. (I had no regrets about supporting Gerry Studds either, but he was a several-term incumbent when I moved into his district, so I knew what to expect.)

I’ve followed your progress since you took office. I’ve watched videos of several committee hearings in which you asked questions of various officials. You’re wonderfully articulate, well prepared, and courageous. What strikes me hardest about those hearings, though, is how poorly prepared and flustered so many of those witnesses have been. You know what this says to me? It says they didn’t expect tough questions — because in the past those questions weren’t asked.

You’re turning out to be a better senator than I ever dreamed possible. You’ve exceeded all my expectations, but truth to tell, my expectations weren’t all that high.

That’s one reason I want you to stay in the Senate. We the People need to raise our expectations of our elected officials. We expect too little. When those low expectations aren’t met, do we hold the culprits’ feet to the fire? No. Usually we just grumble and bitch and lower our expectations further — and maybe fall for the next fresh-faced candidate who promises to clean up the mess.

The Senate has 100 members. The House of Representatives has 435 (plus 6 who can’t vote). As in every other conglomeration of humans, those people are continually watching each other for cues on how to behave: What’s possible? What isn’t? What can I get by with? What can I get away with? And so on and on and on.

In her brilliant “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying,” the feminist poet-essayist Adrienne Rich wrote: “When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.” This is true for men as well as women. It’s true for senators and representatives and all of us humans in our various conglomerations.

The reverse is also true: When we lie, evade, obfuscate, and get by with as little work as possible, we make it easier for those around us to do likewise.

By asking hard questions and remaining true to the promise of your campaign, you are making it possible for other legislators to do likewise. It’s happening already, and you haven’t been in the Senate two years yet. But this is a long-term project, and one for which senators, with their six-year terms, might be particularly well suited.

You’ve proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that you’re well suited to it. The pool of those similarly suited is growing, but it’s still small. To me it’s a no-brainer: You belong in the U.S. Senate, doing the work that only you can do.

And yet the voices calling for you to run for president are loud and getting louder, and the people those voices belong to aren’t stupid. I’m trying to make sense of it, but I’m having a hard time.

Do these people think the White House is just a prize for outstanding legislators?

Do they not realize that the skills required of a legislator and the skills required of an executive are not the same — and that your superb skills would be largely wasted in the White House?

Have they not noticed the unbelievable crap that President Obama has had to put up with in order to accomplish anything? Are they seriously wishing all that crap on you?

I honor these “Draft Warren” people for recognizing your importance on the national scene, but at the same time I believe that the “Draft Warren” movement is a symptom of the deep malaise that’s affecting the country north and south, east and west, right, left, and center. These people are looking for a savior. People look for saviors when they’ve lost hope that they can bring about the changes they long for.

But saviors have a short shelf life. No surprise there: no savior can possibly live up to the expectations of those who cast him or her in the role. When this becomes apparent, as it inevitably does before much time has passed, the trashing begins — and, of course, the search for a new savior.

Please don’t run for president, Senator Warren. Massachusetts and the rest of the country need you in the Senate.

Your supporter and constituent,

Susanna J. Sturgis

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