We’re in the middle of one. Locally the term is often pronounced “no’theastah,” but I’m one of those rhotic New Englanders (meaning I pronounce my r’s, most of them), so I’ll spell it the way I say it. They’re also called “three-day blows,” with good reason.

Thursday morning I went out without longjohns, with my fleece vest hanging open over a sweatshirt, thinking, Guess March isn’t coming in like a lion this year.

Turns out the lion was just sleeping late. By Thursday evening, the wind was coming up, and yesterday was wild. Pouring down rain all day and wild, wild wind. Trav and I cut our morning walk a little short. Walking into the wind was hard work. He was drenched when we got home and I was pretty damp. (My slicker and rain pants are near the end of their useful life, and one of my boots leaks.)

Before sunset (sun? what sun?) we set out again. Trav thought I was nuts. I thought he’d need to pee. Plus I just wanted to check out the neighborhood.

Especially the Dr. Fisher Road. No, this is not typical of the Vineyard’s many dirt roads, but this particular stretch of it takes a good photograph.

The bare trees were swaying back and forth, limbs cross-crossing in an intense danse macabre, but I didn’t feel threatened. “Awed” was more like it.

Most of the fallen branches I saw were modest in size, till we got to the trail that strikes off from the Dr. Fisher Road and leads behind the West Tisbury School to Halcyon Way, the road I live on. There it looked like a full-size tree had maybe fallen across the road and been cut up already. Vineyarders tend to be handy with things like chainsaws.

That particular trail goes underwater with less rain than this, but there was enough high ground on either side that my leaky boot could stay out of the worst of it. (Those boots really do need to be replaced.)

If you want to see what yesterday looked like along the north shore, including the harbor towns of Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, check out the Martha’s Vineyard Times website. At least a couple of moored sailboats blew onto the beach. Not good at all.

The M.V. Times office is a stone’s throw from Five Corners, which regularly goes underwater when heavy rain and high tide converge. I was the Times features editor when the paper moved from high ground (behind Woodland Market, in the old Spaghetti Pot building that no longer exists) to low. Scheduled moving day happened to coincide with the No-Name Nor’easter of October 1991. The floor had just been laid, the ground floor flooded, the floor had to be relaid, and moving day was postponed. Wisely, the electrical outlets were all positioned at least a foot above the floor.

After a few flickers and a less-than-five-minute interruption in phone and internet service, the power went out a little after 8. I lit a couple of candles and kept working on my laptop. Kore’s screen is bright enough, of course, but it doesn’t illuminate the keyboard, so I strapped on the battery-powered headlamp I use for walking at night. That helped, but without the stimulation of artificial light I was soon ready for bed. I have immense respect for anyone who in the pre-electric age managed to stay up studying or writing long after the sun went down.

The lights came back around 1:45 a.m. That’s a guess. I’d forgotten to flick the light switch off before climbing into bed, and I’m pretty sure the returning lights woke me up.

Things have settled down some. The wind’s still pretty strong, but the rain has stopped. Trav and I are going out to inspect the damage. The boats still aren’t running. We’re happy to be on the home side of Vineyard Sound.

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February License Plate Report

February’s short, but it wasn’t a bad month: Indiana, South Carolina, Arizona, and Virginia are now on the map. (IIRC I first spotted Virginia before South Carolina, but I didn’t write it down.)

Montana spotted in West Tisbury! Photo by Tom Hodgson

My neighbor from up the road, Tom of the TomPostPile, spotted Montana in town and posted a photo on Facebook. Now I know what to look for, and it’s a good thing: I’m not sure I would have recognized that as Montana unless I saw it close-up in a parking lot.

Makes me wonder how law enforcement recognizes some of these plates at high speed on the highway in the dark.

Meanwhile, I get by with a little help from my friends . . .

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Ice Diskery 2018

As 2017 turned into 2018, the weather stayed so cold for so long that I accumulated 15 ice disks on my little deck, breaking the previous record of 13, set in February 2015.

Ice disks? you ask. What are ice disks? For an intro to ice disks, see “Ice in August.” The short version is that in January 2012 I discovered that, when unmolded, the ice that formed in Travvy’s outside water dish was rather pretty. It wasn’t till the following fall that I got serious about it. It’s been a major winter amusement of mine ever since.

Here is what 15 ice disks look like. As you can tell, the temperature was rising and indeed by the end of the afternoon the collection was much diminished. Still, 15 is 15. (I did count the broken disk at the far left, but not the remnants in the foreground.)

After a day’s worth of thawing, it looked like this. Some of the 15 did survive, including the one in which one of Travvy’s marrow bones served as a red-pencil holder.

Since that early-winter cold spell, the temperature has ricocheted between cold and the sort of barely above freezing temps more typical of mid-March. As a result the ice disks have been few and ephemeral. We’ve had a few light snowfalls but never enough to do more than dust the ice disks. February is often our coldest, snowiest month, but this February is half over and so far it’s been rather tame.

Nevertheless, here’s a sampling from the post-15 ice disk collection.

One night I had the bright idea of putting a few dog biscuits in the dish before the water froze.

Trav thought this was a great idea. The disk was sturdy enough to survive considerable gnawing and scraping. The dog biscuits weren’t.

During the long cold spell, I started adding garnish to the water before it froze. The additions survive longer if they aren’t edible. The item on the right that looks like a stainless steel bra is actually a giant tea strainer.

On January 8, there were 10 disks, some of them survivors from the cold spell.

Then warmer weather cleared the deck quite literally.

It wasn’t till the 14th that another disk took its place along the railing.

By the 17th they were a trio. Backlit by winter lights, ice disks take on a new ambiance.

And a dusting of snow adds even more character.

Ice disks have character when they break apart . . .

. . . and when they’re melting. This and the one just above are both from February 4. The broken one above is the one on the right in the photo below, which was taken that morning. By nightfall the one on the left was a mere dampness on the deck.

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Women’s Winter Film Series

I could fill a month’s worth of blog posts with reasonsexcuses why I haven’t blogged muchat all in the last six weeks or so, but here’s one of them: the Women’s Winter Film Series. It’s a project of the Women’s Committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos (WST/ETJ), of which I’m a part, and would never have happened without the support of the island’s libraries.

The second film in the series, Frida, will be shown at 6 p.m. tonight, February 6, at the Edgartown library. Virginia Munro, the library’s program director, has always got her own film series going: I’ve learned that if she schedules it, it’s worth driving across the island to see it. (West Tisbury people tend to kvetch about how far away Edgartown and Oak Bluffs are.)

She chose Frida for the Women’s Winter Film Series before star Salma Hayek went public in the New York Times about her harassment by the disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein. In her art, and often in self-portraits, Frida Kahlo explored the intersecting influences of sex, class, colonialism, and more in the mid–twentieth century. So the film is timely on several levels.

Here’s the beautiful poster designed by Max King for the Women’s Winter Film Series, complete with schedule. There’s more about the series and the Women’s Committee on our very own website. Check us out!


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Writing Postcards to Voters

Back in mid-December 2017, in “Neighbors,” I mentioned writing postcards to Alabama Democrats to help get out the vote for Doug Jones. Doug Jones beat the odds and persistent attempts at voter suppression and is now a U.S. senator. Last I heard, his opponent, Roy Moore, was still refusing to concede — but I digress.

Doug Jones’s race for the U.S. Senate was the 32nd campaign of the nationwide, all-volunteer outfit Postcards to Voters (PTV). It was also the biggest undertaken so far by PTV, most of whose efforts have been devoted to campaigns for state legislative seats. 347,709 postcards were written to Alabama voters by 6,376 volunteers. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.

The short version is that I’m now on my 7th campaign, for Conor Lamb, Democratic candidate for Congress in the March 13 special election to determine who will represent Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. This special election was called because the previous incumbent resigned: a vociferously anti-choice congressman, he nevertheless tried to pressure his pregnant girlfriend to have an abortion. Once that hit the news, he was outta there.

PTV started small not quite a year ago. According to the PTV website:

“What started on March 11, 2017 with sharing 5 addresses apiece to 5 volunteers on Facebook so that they could mail postcards to voters in Jon Ossoff’s race [in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District] grew in one month to 1,200+ volunteers nationwide and over 51,000 postcards mailed.

“Now, we consist of over 10,000 volunteers in every state (including Alaska and Hawaii) who have written over 500,000 postcards to voters in dozens of key, close elections.”

They’ve now logged 51 campaigns. I’m totally hooked on Postcards to Voters. It’s effective, it’s fun, and it’s educational.

  • For each campaign I participate in, I learn something about the district. So far I’ve written for candidates in Alabama, Iowa, Pennsylvania (2), Wisconsin, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
  • I’m awed by the caliber of the candidates. The statistics alone are impressive, of how many Democrats, especially women, have taken up the challenge of running for public office. Learning about some of the individual candidates adds depth to the statistics. They’re a pretty amazing bunch.
  • I never realized how many special elections take place around the country between one November and the next.
  • I’m now paying more attention to state legislative and other “down-ballot” races than I was before.

PTV has compiled an impressive win-loss record, but in most cases it’s a win even when the candidate loses: more blue voters turn out in red districts than ever before, and people realize that voting and even running for office in these places is not an exercise in futility.

My biggest thrill so far (after Doug Jones in Alabama) was Patty Schachtner’s upset win in Wisconsin’s state senate district 10. This district was presumed so safely red that Patty’s win made the national news.

The text of my postcard for Patty Schachtner. You’ll see I’ve gone a little loopy with highlighters. I’ve since added five glitter pens to my arsenal.

Check out the Postcards to Voters website and you’ll see how creative and individual these postcards are. Being more literary than artistic, I’ve taken to buying Avery postcard stock at EduComp then designing a postcard for each campaign from the hundreds of templates on

On the flip side goes my handwritten message and the voter’s address. For each campaign PTV provides three “required bits”: these generally include the candidate’s name, the office sought, the date of the election, the word “Democrat”, and a campaign theme or slogan. Then you can pick and choose among the optional bits, which include some of the candidate’s positions; the campaign’s website, Facebook page, and/or Twitter hashtag; and general encouragement to vote.

The addresses come without names, so for the addressee we use something generic. My current faves are Most Valuable Voter, Esteemed Voter, and Very Important Voter. We sign with first name or initials only. Often the postmark will suggest where the card came from. In the Postcards to Voters Facebook group I ran into someone who’d received one of my postcards in Wisconsin’s state senate district 10. People who’ve received postcards sometimes wind up writing postcards for other candidates.

It’s pretty cool. PTV’s FB group is hands-down the friendliest, most supportive political group I’ve found online. We share pictures of our cards and tips on supplies and techniques and generally encourage each other. On each election day there’s a thread started so we can follow the results, cheer when our candidate wins, and encourage each other when they lose.

As an antidote to the alternating rage and depression afflicting so many of us in these outrageous and depressing times, I highly recommend writing postcards to Democratic voters. You can write postcards at home or on the road or even at work if you’re lucky (and discreet). Postcard parties make it even more fun, and are a great way to bring in new volunteers.

Here are my other four postcards:





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January 2018 License Plate Report

In the license plate game the turn of the year brings a shot of adrenaline. The waning months of the old year are, in a word, boring. Dispiriting even. Island traffic is way down from its summer peak, though not as “way down” as it used to be. The last holdouts aren’t likely to be spotted on autumn roads — though, true, a couple of years ago it was a thrill to spot Nebraska at the very end of December.

I spotted a respectable though not remarkable 20 in January 2018. In order: Massachusetts (big surprise: on most mornings I see four Mass. plates before I get out of the driveway I share with my neighbors), Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Texas, Rhode Island, Oregon, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Florida, Maryland, Colorado, California, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Nevada, Kentucky, and Illinois.

Nevada? Nevada eluded me all of last year, but there it was, in January, in the rutted dirt parking lot next to Veterans Park in Vineyard Haven. I’d parked there to participate in a well-attended rally at Five Corners, one of the many Women’s March actions that took place across the country on January 20. A great day all around. Here’s the sign I made for it.

Kentucky is a pretty rare bird in January, but nowhere near as rare as Nevada.

The Northeast is predictably solid: the only one missing is Delaware, which is always relatively hard to get, and I’m not sure it qualifies as “Northeast” anyway.

Here for comparison is what the map looked like at the end of January 2017. Iowa and Arizona were the most exotic sightings that month, and neither one is exotic compared to Nevada. I’ve been thinking a lot about the changes the last year has wrought, but I’ll save that for another post.

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2017 Year-End License Plate Report

As you’ve probably guessed, 2017 closed with the map looking exactly as it did at the end of September. It wasn’t a bad year at all. I spotted plates from 45 different states. AWOL at the end were Alaska, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Mississippi, and the perennial holdout, North Dakota.

I heard secondhand reports of Nevada, Utah, and North Dakota (no kidding), but if I don’t see it, it don’t count.

At the West Tisbury post office a few weeks ago I was comparing notes with someone else who plays the game — in fact, it was her husband who got me started about 30 years ago. She’s been having friendly weekly competitions with friends: whoever spots the most in a week wins. I like this idea. It would make the later part of the year, when whole weeks and even months go by with no new sightings, more fun. The yearly tally would continue, of course, but each week would bring a new start.

Speaking of new starts, my 2018 map is now posted on the fridge, but the only states logged so far are Massachusetts (hard to miss because there are four of them in the driveway I share with my neighbors) and Pennsylvania (which isn’t all that common in the #2 spot but it’s no way as unusual as the Louisiana I spotted one year while on my morning walk). It’s been cold as hell lately — the kind of hell a snowball would have a very good chance in — and I haven’t been on the road much.

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Ice Disk Votes Blue

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

What a wild ride it was last night! I bitch about social media at least as much as the next guy, but sometimes it functions as a virtual town square that gives us a sense of our own power and potential. No real-time space is big enough to contain us, to make us visible to each other.

Last night I quickly gave up trying to focus on anything else. On Facebook I flitted from my own timeline to the local Indivisible group to the MV Democrats group to the Stronger United Movement, with occasional detours to bona fide news sites. The gloom-and-doom option was always there, but I never stopped thinking that Doug Jones might, just might, pull it off.

Or thinking that if Roy Moore did win, the Republicans might come to sincerely wish that he hadn’t.

At some point hope coalesced and started to grow, like it really might happen. Nail-biting increased. I popped another beer. Like the vote was tied at 49%/49% and the precincts that hadn’t reported yet were urban and/or mostly African American and/or leaning blue.

And it happened. NowThis live-streamed Jones HQ. People were wired, pumped up, ready — then Doug Jones and family came on stage for a victory speech. All the while comments were pouring in from all over the country and Canada, so fast I could barely read them, never mind “like” the ones I especially liked.

I was part of this national/international celebration. I was whooping and hollering like a nutcase in my studio apartment.

Candidate Elizabeth Warren at the West Tisbury library in August 2012.

The election of 2012 was like this. President Obama was re-elected and Elizabeth Warren reclaimed for the Democrats the late Ted Kennedy’s seat, which was briefly held by Republican Scott Brown. 2016 was something else again: local triumphs coupled with national disaster, and knowing I was not alone was so important.

And now I do believe we’re on a roll. May it continue!

P.S. If you’re new to my cold-weather ice disk obsession, here’s an introduction from exactly four years ago. The mold is my dog’s outside water dish. Once winter gets going, I can have four, six, ten disks lined up in a row. It’s early yet. The most I’ve had so far this year is two, the mid-November weekend of the Indivisible Massachusetts conference in Worcester.


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For more than 40 years I’ve made virtually all my own bread. For the last almost 10, I’ve used sourdough almost exclusively.

Today Alabama voters go to the polls to elect a new U.S. senator.

There’s a connection between these two things. Bear with me: read on.

Before you mix up the batter, pour half the doubled starter back into its jar.

My sourdough starter resides in a mason jar in my fridge. Before I make bread, I double it: pour the contents of the jar into my big bread bowl, whisk in about a cup of warm water and about a cup and a half of unbleached white flour, then leave it out all night to ferment. In the morning, a cup goes back into the mason jar and the rest stays in the bowl to raise the loaves-to-be.

Early last spring I committed a Big Stupid: I started adding ingredients to the starter before I’d doubled it. (You can read about it here.) In other words, my starter was now batter and I needed a new starter. I’d started starter from scratch before so I knew I could do it, but it takes several days even if it works the first time, and it takes new starter a while to become as tangy as the old.

New starter, direct descendant of old starter

Last month I did it again, but this time was different. Between Big Stupid #1 and Big Stupid #2, I’d doubled my starter and given a cup to each of two neighbors. Wonder of wonders, both of them had kept it going, and were using it in ways I hadn’t imagined (sourdough focaccia!).

Both offered to double it and give me a cup back. I took David up on his offer because Trav and I walk by his house at least once a day, whereas Tom lives maybe three miles up the road, which would have meant getting in the car.

At the moment I can’t think of a better example of “giving is receiving.” Moral of story: If you’ve got a sourdough starter going and you haven’t done it already, offer a cup to a bread-baking neighbor.

Now back to the Alabama U.S. Senate election. On November 12, six Vineyard women, including me, headed off to the statewide Indivisible Massachusetts conference in Worcester. It was wonderful: inspiring, energizing, and practical. Five of us car-pooled together, so the trip to and from was filled with great conversation and lots of laughter.

The Vineyard contingent. From left: Lorraine Parish, Holly MacKenzie, me, Margaret Emerson, and Kathy Laskowski. Missing: Carla Cooper, who had to leave early because she didn’t have a ferry reservation.

A few days later the bunch of us got together to write postcards to Alabama Democrats supporting Doug Jones for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when its previous occupant was appointed U.S. attorney general.

The impetus came from Indivisible. The nationwide postcard-writing campaign was organized by Postcards to Voters, an outfit that I was previously unaware of and am now seriously impressed by. Doug Jones’s was their 32nd campaign, and probably one of their largest. (They’re now up to 34.)

The Jones campaign provided key talking points that had to be incorporated into each postcard (Doug Jones is running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate, the election is on Tuesday, Dec. 12, and Doug has devoted his life to fighting for liberty and justice for all). Then you could pick and choose from various options, such as Jones’s support for health care access and quality education.

First time volunteers are asked to submit a draft postcard, and when it’s approved, you’re sent as many addresses as you think you can do in three days. Names are not included, so you use a generic addressee. My faves were Most Valuable Voter and Very Important Voter. You don’t sign your own full name either; initials or first-name only is suggested. The idea is to protect both sender and recipient from invasion of privacy.

I got into the postcard thing. After our postcard-writing party, I kept going. By the mail-out deadline a week ago, I’d written and mailed 110 postcards. I bought postcard paper at EduComp and printed my own:

I’ve only passed through Alabama once in my life, in 1971, when I was among hundreds of college students who went to Mississippi as poll watchers for Charles Evers, brother of Medgar and the first black person to run for statewide office since Reconstruction. My main memory is of a postcard in the rack at a bus station titled “Beautiful Negro Homes,” which immediately sold out to the other students on my bus. So my mental map of Alabama was limited to Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham.

Some of my addresses were in Montgomery, but all the rest of the towns I had to look up: Opelika (I had no fewer than 24 addresses in Opelika), which isn’t far from the Georgia line; Florence, in the northern part of the state across the Tennessee River from Muscle Shoals (which I had heard of); Monroeville, between Frisco City and Beatrice on Route 21, where I also had addresses . . . I only had one address in Lower Peach Tree, but I’m still wondering what happened to Upper Peach Tree, which isn’t on the map.

Writing postcards to places I’ve never been and can’t visualize put them on my map. For sure I know Alabama geography better than I did before, and along with hundreds of thousands of others I’m biting my fingernails waiting for today’s election results.

Turns out I’ve got a new neighbor here on the Vineyard too. I knew Lorraine Parish, one of my fellow travelers on the way to the Indivisible conference, by reputation: she’s a fashion designer who runs a highly visible shop on State Road in Vineyard Haven. What I didn’t know is that she grew up in Alabama. One of the many, many people who’ve been fired up politically since the November 2016 election, she returned to Alabama at the end of last week to stay with high school friends and work on the ground the last few days of the Jones campaign.

So I’ve been remembering and relearning that political organizing really is about personal connections, and that passing it on is a good way to get a lot back.

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November License Plate Report

As you can probably guess from the lateness of this report, there were no new sightings in November. Boo-hoo.

However, yesterday on the boat coming home from an eye appointment in Sandwich, Malvina Forester (my trusty 2008 Subaru) happened to be right behind a car with — ta-dah! — Hawaii plates. I am not the kind of person who in ordinary circumstances will walk up to strangers and start a conversation, but my proximity to the driver of a car with a Hawaii plate on it was not an ordinary circumstance. So I knocked on the driver’s-side window.

The driver, a white woman in her maybe early 40s, did not seem alarmed or even especially surprised by the interruption. Nor was I especially surprised by her lack of surprise. On one hand, when you’re sitting in your car on the freight deck of one of the SSA (Steamship Authority) ferries, your options are limited. Your car is hemmed in by other cars, and nothing’s moving till the boat docks on the other side of Vineyard Sound. On the other hand, the worst thing that generally happens on the freight deck is that someone’s car alarm goes off and the noise drives everyone nuts.

Come to think of it, if I were a thriller or horror writer, I might set a suspense scene on the ferry freight deck. An unsuspecting car driver or passenger is as much a sitting duck as, say, the bed-bound woman in Sorry, Wrong Number. Be glad I’m not into horror or suspense.

Anyway, the woman’s story of how she came to be driving the car was a little confusing. I did learn that she now lives on the island and that the Hawaii plates would remain on the car till they expired, whereupon the car (which was definitely not the large SUV with Hawaii plates that I spotted in the hospital parking lot in September) would be reregistered in Massachusetts. Indeed, there are barges that transport motor vehicles between Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast; a quick Google search just turned up the info that it costs “a little over $1,000 to ship an average-sized car” from one place to the other. In other words, this is not something one is likely to do often or lightly.

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