The off-season is for trespassing.

Something like 60 percent of the island’s houses are vacant for 8 or 10 months of the year. There’s no one around to yell at you if you cut through their backyard on the way to wherever you’re going.

For several of my early Vineyard years, in the late 1980s and very early ’90s, I lived where it’s West Tisbury on one side of the road and Chilmark on the other. (The West Tisbury side is State Road. The Chilmark side is South Road. Go figure.) I often rambled back in the woods, where the King’s Highway, an ancient way, follows the ridge line.

One particular house backed almost right up to the path. It was a saltbox, a common construction on Martha’s Vineyard as elsewhere in New England in which the long side of the roof slopes to within a few feet of the ground.

In this case, within maybe eight feet of the ground. And there was a good-sized boulder not far from the edge.

I have never in my life, not then, not now, been what anyone would call athletic, but I knew I could do this. I stood on the boulder. I jumped. I scrambled on to the roof.

And I climbed, using hands as well as feet, like a monkey, to the roofline.

Over the trees I could see the Atlantic Ocean. In assessors’ parlance I don’t believe that a view of the Atlantic from the top of the roof qualifies as a “waterview,” but don’t quote me on that.

Carefully I maneuvered my way down the short side of the roof to the skylights. I could see down into the summer people’s living space. It was an open floor plan with, as I remember, cozy furniture and at least one oriental rug.

Power is about access. People with more power have access to those with less, but those with less do not have access to them.

All the same, I was gazing into the living room of these summer people who didn’t know I was there, would never know I’d been there — unless I landed wrong jumping off the roof and broke my leg, which I didn’t.

When Trav and I went out this morning, it was snowing mightily. Hardly anything was moving on the roads. No people anywhere. I cut across the field and then the lawn of a house I usually take the long way around.

True, if you trespass when there’s 8 or 10 inches of snow on the ground, you leave tracks — the tracks of someone wearing size 10 boots with Yaktrax on. I’m betting that either the tracks will be snowed under or, more likely, melted away before anyone sees them. Here’s what I saw:

20160208 deck furniture

A breakfast or lunch or cocktail party called on account of snow. Waiting for spring.

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 Trespassing

  1. Cnawan Fahey says:

    Wow! Clambering upon someone else’s roof – that is gutsy. And sounds fun!


  2. Lynne Fraker says:

    A friend of mine told me about an idea she had for a book. She would go to all these homes, in the snow, and take a picture of herself sitting on the decks holding up a glass of wine, with the captions “do you know where I am?”. I thought it was a great idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the idea! I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is on trespassing, though, and my guess is that any publisher’s legal department would blow a gasket at the mere thought. OTOH, if the homeowners gave permission . . . ? There are (at last count) three Facebook groups devoted to “where am I” Vineyard photos. Some of them are easy, some are hard, and some are surprising — as when you know the place well, but you’ve never seen it from that angle.


  3. Wendy Palmer says:

    All time favorite winter activity on the island. I recommend the road that runs from Great Rock Bight over the cliff.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. tompostpile says:

    I know that house…it’s less than a half mile from mine.

    Liked by 1 person

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