I write to make sense of the world. I generally don’t write for money. If someone wants to pay me for what I’ve written, hey, fine, no problem, but I don’t write for hire.
There are a couple of reasons for this. I’m not a fast writer, for one thing. The late Gerry Kelly, my colleague in my Martha’s Vineyard Times days, cranked out prose like yard goods. Being able to call on Gerry when a stringer finked out or an unexpected hole appeared in the Calendar section — this was wonderful. But I’ve never been able to do it myself.
The other thing is that writing engages head, heart, and soul in a way that editing does not. My time and my editorial expertise are for sale. My head, heart, and soul are not.
A couple of weeks ago, however, I was contacted by The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), a conservation group that has a presence on the Vineyard. Would I be interested in writing a 500-word story for their newsletter about the restoration work under way at their Menemsha Hills property?
I thought about it. Read their descriptive materials, interview the director, maybe pay a visit to the place and see for myself? The pay seemed commensurate with the time it was likely to take, and 500 words isn’t a lot. OK, sure, I said. Send me a copy of the newsletter so I can get a feel for your style.
So yesterday, not long before sundown on yet another sweltering hot day, Travvy and I headed up the North Road into Chilmark. As always seems to happen when I don’t know where I’m going in Chilmark, there was a hulking SUV on my tail as I drove along, looking for the Menemsha Hills sign. When I spotted it, the hulk was so close it would have been in my cargo bay if I’d braked suddenly, so I pulled over, pulled a U-turn, and followed the dirt road to the trailhead.
After Trav had a good sniff around the parking lot, we headed down the trail. Almost immediately we came to a sign: NO DOGS OR HORSES PAST THIS POINT.
We went to Waskosim’s Rock instead. Waskosim’s is a Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank property. The Land Bank has hands-down the best public access policies of any conservation-type organization on the Vineyard. This is because it’s a public agency. It was established by state law in 1986, it’s funded by a 2% tax on most real estate transactions, and it’s overseen by a commission to which each town elects one member and the seventh is appointed by the state secretary of environmental affairs. I love the Land Bank.
Dogs have to be leashed at Waskosim’s Rock these days, and with good reason: not only is there livestock on abutting properties, there are goats grazing in a fenced enclosure on the reservation itself. Some dogs, I’m sure, could be trusted off-leash around the goats, but Travvy is not one of them. Travvy was so excited that I wished I had his walking harness in addition to his limited-slip collar. I did have string cheese, however. That helped a lot.
So we had our walk. It was almost pitch-dark by the time we rejoined Malvina Forester at the trailhead and headed home on the North Road.
By the time I made the left turn on State Road, I knew I had to back out of the writing assignment. I’m not going to do PR for a property that doesn’t allow dogs, not unless I’m financially desperate — and though it was indeed a lean spring, desperate I am not.