On the Vineyard, into the light


To the Editor:

In response to “Coping” [At Large, November 27] well, my birthday was on Thanksgiving this year. It passed like any other day without pause for celebration. As a child, I looked forward to the Thanksgiving feast. My mother would prepare a bountiful feast — a Butterball turkey with all the fixin’s and a homemade pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream. I would chop the vegetables for the special salad. And then the leftovers. Serving leftovers to my little brother during school vacation. And snuggling up in a blanket to watch our favorite Christmas movies on TV. It was so much fun.

Getting to the part about “chronic stress,” I have experienced many of the symptoms of chronic stress due to the conditions and circumstances of urban life. City life never agreed with me. It was against my nature. It was a long time in coming, but I finally had a complete breakdown. Unable to eat or sleep. My doctor would often try to encourage me to eat calorie rich foods by saying, “Do you know how lucky you are to eat whatever you want without gaining an ounce?” I had to work really hard to gain an ounce. I was skin and bones. An overactive thyroid.

After the breakdown, I was learning to cope with the circumstances of my life. I began walking into the Vineyard light the winter of 2012. Experiencing the joys of nature. Accepting the cycles of Mother Nature. Sometimes she is kind and gentle and sometimes angry and destructive. I never take her personally. I just keep walking and accept her mood swings. All I need for a day of joy is a well stocked backpack. When I am running low on energy I grab a snack. Or getting cold, I put on another layer. It is that simple. Just walking, experiencing the joy of my body in motion.

So it is really the simple pleasures of life that I enjoy on MV. Just walking in the summer crowds or alone on the beach. My five senses in full bloom. Looking and listening to the calls of nature. The wind singing, the sea roaring, grass blowing in the wind, branches on trees dancing. The symphony of nature. So, the adjective I would select to describe my experience on MV is Simple Pleasures. Just walking. Seeing a running deer or a pheasant on the trail. Watching a bird take flight high into the sky. Or better yet, a formation of birds. Winged migration. Pure beauty. It’s kind of funny. It was the power of technology a long time a go that prolonged my life. It was the artificial life support system that was connected to my tiny body after I was born that kept me alive. Without the power of technology, I wouldn’t be alive to experience these simple things on the Vineyard. Technology saved me, but nature sustains me. Nature is my life force.

It was my good fortune to become friends with a very kind, gentle, firm and patient woman that lives on the Vineyard during my many visits in the off-season. During the summer, she invited me to become a guest for a few days. She shared her family with me. We had a day at the beach. We collected jellyfish in a pail of water and released them into the sea to preserve life. It was so nice to be part of a family. And then we had a barbecue. I was enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

I will never forget the day. I took a very long walk on a very hot day through the wood to the beach. That evening, I experienced my first outdoor shower. Wow. But what I will always remember most about that day is, during the evening, my friend encouraged me to recline in the hammock her son assembled for her granddaughter on the big porch. She gave me a gentle push. There I was, rocking on a swing. And I said, “This must be what it feels like to be a baby wrapped in the comfort of a mother’s arms.” An unforgettable memory.

I am building a sailor’s memory box. New memories. Happy memories on the Vineyard.

This is my third winter on MV, just walking, enjoying the bounty of nature. The simple pleasures of life. Living large on the Vineyard, walking into the light. And now I have a friend to meet for lunch or dinner. Someone to share a meal with. The company of a good friend.

The Simple Pleasures of life that make life worth living. In the spirit of Christmas, I guess you could say, I have been touched by an angel.

Rachel Schmoker


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