30 Changeovers

It’s changeover weekend — the 30th anniversary of my arrival on Martha’s Vineyard to take a year off. Ha ha ha. I’d saved enough money to live for a year and to buy my first PC — a Leading Edge Model D, in case you’re wondering, with a 10 MB hard drive, an Epson LX-80 dot-matrix printer, and a copy of WordPerfect 4.1.

Changeover is, or used to be, the midsummer transition that marked the departure of the July people and the arrival of the August people. Do we still have changeovers? For that matter, do we still have July people and August people? July people and August people were said to be distinct subspecies of “summer people.” August people were said to be richer and more, uh, demanding than July people.

When the summer people cleared out that first year, I was on my own. I knew exactly one year-round resident. I didn’t know all that many summer people either, and most of those I did know were connected in some way to Tisbury Great Pond. For most of the previous decade, I’d been up to my eyeballs in D.C.’s feminist community. For a week in mid-spring and two or three weeks in late summer, I’d run away to my family’s camp on Deep Bottom Cove. What I wanted was solitude, not society.

That first winter I mostly did what I’d come here to do: write. But slowly I started poking around, learning the ropes, finding jobs . . . That year stretched into two, then three. I started putting down roots: Wintertide Coffeehouse, the Martha’s Vineyard Times, the island theater scene, and a women’s group that met every couple of weeks.

Me wearing vintage (ca. 1977) Secede Now T-shirt

Me wearing vintage (ca. 1977) Secede Now T-shirt

Pretty soon nearly all the people I knew and hung out with lived here year-round. Quite a few hadn’t been here much longer than I had. We were free agents at the same time, so we fell easily into each other’s orbits. Eventually we’d settle into our various networks, based on work, or interests, or town, or some combination thereof, but we’d remain part of the same cohort, shaped by whatever was going on island-wise when we were new and impressionable.

If a fortune-teller had told me 30 years ago that I’d still be here 30 years later, I would have laughed. Or maybe I would have run. I used to say (ad nauseam) that I didn’t know if moving here was the smartest thing I’d ever done or the stupidest. Then I decided that yeah, moving here was pretty smart and pretty brave.

Staying here? That I’m not sure about. I think I’d be writing more and probably better if I lived among people to whom writing really mattered, as I did in my D.C. days. But I know this place better than I’ve ever known or ever will know anywhere else. My feet are in the mud of this place and that’s where my words come from.

So the jury’s still out on that one. At the moment I have nowhere to go, no money to get there, and a great reluctance to start over again anywhere. And I’m still here.


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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11 Responses to 30 Changeovers

  1. Eileen says:

    Don’t go anywhere. You need to stay here and edit my book when I finally have something to edit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love how you write about the fact that sometimes we arrive almost accidentally somewhere and stay, not exactly knowing why, and realizing years later than this place has become home. There are worst places than Martha Vineyard for sure, but after DC it must have been quite different. I especially like this sentence of yours: “My feet are in the mud of this place and that’s where my words come from.”
    Your island neighbors must be happy that you stayed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many of us who came here from somewhere else arrived by accident. The stories are pretty amazing. What’s funny is that many of the editors I know became editors by accident. I think there’s a book about editing called “The Accidental Profession” or something like that. That’s certainly true for me. I didn’t know what an editor was until I got my first job as one. I thought editing was part of writing!


  3. Albert Fischer says:

    I always look forward to running into you so don’t run away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, it’s the people I run into, the people I sing with, the people in my writers’ group, that keep me here more than anything else. Also I never get tired of finding out who’s related to whom that I didn’t know about. 🙂 I’m glad you’re in the neighborhood!


  4. lloydthayer says:

    Congrats………hope you have many, many more!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nathalie Woodruff says:

    Susanna – you, and other women like you, hopefully, provide inspiration to younger women who struggle to find a place in the world that gives meaning to their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Martha’s Vineyard is home to the most amazing women I’ve ever met. Some women I know elsewhere freak out about turning 50, or even 40. Here? Good heavens. Here women are striking off in new directions in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. They’re inspiring me for sure. I hope I can help pass that on to the next bunch.


  6. Shirley says:

    Glad you’re still here!

    Liked by 1 person

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