Little Changes

Travvy and I walk the same paths and dirt roads regularly so we notice the small changes missed by those who pass less often or at faster speeds. For Travvy the world seems to create itself anew every night. Each shrub and tree trunk and puddle has a new story to tell him. To me they look pretty much like they did yesterday afternoon.

truck lifts

Well digger performs push-up.

Summer has wrought some changes that even I can see. Here are a few of them.

A guy with a chainsaw is clearing himself a house lot across Pine Hill, in the woods that lead down to the big empty pasture. I knew something was coming when the well digger showed up a year ago July.

The real action just started. First blaze orange marks appeared on some trees. The barely perceptible path became more pronounced. Then the chainsawing started. The owner is clearing the lot himself, on weekends and after work. I’ve seen his big SUV parked in the clearing near the well, but I haven’t met him yet. I hear from my neighbors that he’s a nice guy.

Future fuel

Future fuel

He hasn’t cleared nearly enough land for a house, but already he’s stacked enough logs for a heating season. If you look closely at the photo on the right, you’ll see my buddy checking out the wood pile.

private signFurther up Pine Hill a new sign has appeared. Whether there’s any connection between the sign and the construction I don’t know. This particular house is a ways up the road, and because beyond it Pine Hill is barely passable, the only passersby are walkers, horseback riders, and bicyclists. On the whole I prefer “Private” to “Keep Out” and “No Trespassing.”

Trav and I pass the West Tisbury School at least once a day. Sometimes we cross the playing fields. Sometimes we play on the playground: Trav likes to climb and he likes to jump, and he can do both over there.

Buses behind the West Tisbury School

Buses behind the West Tisbury School

School buses park in the big lot behind the school, next to the soccer field. When I was a kid, school buses were big and yellow. They still are. When their lights flash red, everyone behind and in front of them stops to let kids cross the road. They still do. The buses are somewhat sleeker than they used to be, and when they stop these days, a little STOP sign sticks out from the side, but other than that they look pretty much the same. I still remember how we loved to crowd into the furthest-back seat so when the bus hit a pothole we’d fly up in the air.

124 signEach bus has a number. Last year the buses in residence at the West Tisbury School were 117H, 121, 123, and 124. While they were away for the summer, little signs went up at the back of the lot: 117H, 121, 123, 124. There’s plenty of room back there for the buses to park anywhere they want, but someone at the school must like assigned seating. (“BUS” is stenciled on each space, so the buses will know not to park in the car-length spaces nearer the road.)

I thought the signs meant the same buses would be back for the new school year, but I was wrong. The only returnee is 124. Its new companions are 116H, 125, and 126. The other signs have disappeared. Only 124 has a sign. Will the assigned-seating fan requisition some new signs for 116H, 125, and 126? The suspense isn’t quite killing me, but I am curious.

116H busSpeaking of curious, walking past the buses as often as I do, I couldn’t help noticing last year that 117H had a letter but 121, 123, and 124 didn’t. What did it mean? When 116H showed up at the beginning of this month, I figured the H had to mean something. I looked more closely. It does: the H buses have a wheelchair entrance in the back. 116H is a “Handy Bus” — H is for Handy, probably short for Handicapped, but maybe they’re not supposed to say that out loud.

Probably the rest of the town already knows that, but I still feel pretty clever to have figured it out. If I wrote murder mysteries, I could turn it into a clue. To the unwary eye, all school buses look alike, but our intrepid sleuth pays attention to the numbers and knows which one was AWOL when the crime was committed.

For the rest — this September looks pretty much like last. There are fewer joggers, runners, and cyclists on the bike path telling Travvy how handsome he is. The birch leaves seem to have gone yellow earlier, probably because we’ve had so little rain, and the oak leaves, though still deeply green, look dry around the edges. Geese are gathering at Misty Meadows, and their flying formations are more orderly with each passing day.

The winged sumac is reddening into what might be my most favorite color of all. Last fall my favorite stand of winged sumac was cut down at the height of its crimson glory. I know it’s an “invasive species” and ordinarily my sympathy for invaders is not much, but I hope it doesn’t happen again this year. The guy who did the cutting last year left a sweatshirt hanging on a lower limb of a nearby pine. It’s been there ever since.

Winged sumac

Winged sumac


About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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8 Responses to Little Changes

  1. Lovely post about the subtle and less subtle changes that come with fall. I especially like your paragraph about the school buses. In France I rode a bus to go to school but they aren’t yellow and nobody knows they are school buses. So I was surprised to see these big, yellow, old fashioned looking vehicules when I moved. I had no idea about the stop sign until I took my driver license. I am so used to them that I miss them when I go back to France. They symbolize school and their arrival on the roads and streets certainly the arrival of fall. See you soon, Susanna.


    • Merci, Evelyne! A few days later, I spotted a bus waiting in the parking lot with its door open. Open doors are rare, and this bus was #120 — not one of the regulars. So I went to check it out. Turned out the driver was another local writer. (He drives a tour bus in the summer and has even written a book about it.) He was waiting to take the kids on a field trip. We talked about buses. I think I know more school-bus trivia than anyone who doesn’t drive one. 🙂


  2. Helen Green says:

    Good story. I like to notice the little things on my walks with Beckett. He’s checking his “peemail” and I’m trying to notice other changes. Nothing like the ordinary to make life interesting.


    • Then there are the things I’d never notice if Travvy didn’t point them out, like two deer standing stock-still off in the woods, or the turkey looking down at me from a branch overhead. I’m about to excerpt the bit about the buses for Write Through It, my writing & editing blog. That’s the kind of stuff that can sneak into a plot.


  3. Luanne says:

    Your sumac is lovely, Susanna. Thanks for the walk through your town.


    • My father and my grandmother always had field guides around, for wildflowers, trees and shrubs, birds . . .I wish I’d paid more attention. When I discovered winged sumac, it was “where have you been all my life?” A friend up the road who knows everything about Vineyard plants (and a bunch of other stuff) told me what it was. I could and should buy myself a couple of field guides, but I’m lazy: I just ask my friends.


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