Special, it is


To the Editor:

Your invitation in the October 17 At Large column [At Large: How shall we describe ourselves? Officially.] was too much to resist. Here’s one idea in story form.

How shall we describe ourselves?

I suppose the task could be undertaken given the assumption that if we at least get to know ourselves, our neighbors, and the ways we inhabit this Island we call home, we may, through customary struggle and debate, determine the adjective that describes it best.

So, who are we as Islanders, anyway? Informal inquiry, group-therapy style, revealed the following points of view.

Just to mention, this focus group, barely a cross-section of the Island population, was fortunately available on short notice due in part to the recent government shutdown and post Columbus Day weekend — the last of the profit-producing weekends here in the foreseeable future. Among the group are creative minds, a moderator, and the media.

Now, to the question.

The Island EMTs, first responders as usual, spoke for the year-round residents. “Typically, we are hardworking bunch, and anyone who makes it through the kind of summer schedules that we routinely bear deserves an Vineyard Medal for Merit.”

The group broke into applause, with nods and smiles shared around the room.

A builder spoke up. “And I think whether we rent or own, we are interested in how land is being used, by residents and businesses alike.”

“Summer residents and visitors have an impact, too,” a naturalist noted about the Island’s migratory community. “Our population is diverse as Island birdlife.”

“Yes, from seagulls to peacocks, we come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, whether lone bird or part of a flock,” a poet mused.

“Yeah, well fan your tail feathers in some other bird’s direction,” came a surprising remark from another poet. “Let me soar in peace.”

“Soar? You haven’t gotten off the ground, my unpublished chick,” chirped the first poet. “How quickly your feathers ruffle.”

“Why do you two always have something to squawk about?” said a third poet. “Aren’t we poets for peace? Some of us prance. Some of us soar. Some of us never leave the nest. Aren’t we all trying to spread our wings, catch a meal, and teach our young how to fly?”

“Hmm,” said one Island filmmaker to another. They scratched their heads, considering Island versions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Alfred Hitchcock, and Angry Birds.

“Forget the bird talk,” growled a man, a fishing enthusiast. “If it weren’t for the fish, there would be no industry here. ‘Jaws’ put us on the map, and so did the Monster Shark tourney, until you environmentalists and townies started crowing about the crowds.”

“Wait, stop. Please,” pleaded the interviewer. “Where did the moderator go?”

“She’s brewing in the other room,” murmured a pajama-clad resident wearing a ‘Fashion is for the Fussy’ button on her tee-shirt.

“Brewing?” asked the interviewer.

“You know, make coffee, not war,” she said wryly, shifting her bare feet from floor to the back rung of a worn, wooden chair.

“Oh, good, here she comes now,” sighed the interviewer.

In cheerleader form, the moderator lifted her coffee cup as if she were holding a pompom, “Individuals and Islanders we are, and all together we care. Just about different things. That’s what we have in common. Now, let’s hear from the Edgartown contingent.”

A selectman stood and faced the group with an earnest expression. “I think our town is the most beautiful on the Island. Visitors to Martha’s Vineyard deserve a beautiful, well kept view of every town. Which is why I’m urging Vineyard Haven to design and build a better Water Street and traffic system at Five Corners. And since the Roundabout worked out so well in Oak Bluffs…”

“Enough, already,” interrupted a shopkeeper from Water Street. “At least we have two-way in our town. Look, white picket fences may suit Edgartown and a Roundabout for Oak Bluffs, but we’re downtown Vineyard Haven.”

Okay, guys, I think we get the picture,” said the moderator, arms now akimbo. Let’s shift our discussion to brainstorming, gathering ideas for defining Martha’s Vineyard. Based on who we are as Islanders here, can anyone define Martha’s Vineyard in just one adjective?”

“Diverse,” the shopkeeper shouted.

“Quarrelsome,” shouted back the selectman with a withering glance for the shopkeeper.

“Elysian,” said a real estate agent, who lately joined the group.

“Not if a tick bites you,” retorted the naturalist. “How about ‘pestiferous?'”

“It’s spirited, like this discussion,” said pajama mama.

“Let’s make up an adjective,” the third poet offered. “How about Marthavelous or Vineyarrific? Or perhaps include an oft-used phrase, like ‘all set.’ Martha’s Vineyard, we’re all set.”

“I like the phrase ‘gritty elegance’,” said the real estate agent. “It covers everything.”

“Naw, too close to shabby chic,” said the shopkeeper. “You missed way too much from the first half of the meeting.”

“This is crazy. Why are we wasting our time describing Martha’s Vineyard,” said the filmmaker. “Everybody has his or her own idea. The Island is unique to everyone in different ways. I think ‘special’ really says it all. That’s my vote. Special,” repeated the filmmaker.

“I like special,” said a wandering second grader, running out of the room.

Who is going to break that to Doug Cabral?

Amy Williams


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