On Vineyard time


To the Editor:

A cab was waiting for me in front of the Oak Bluffs ferry station. As we drove up State Road, I settled back in my seat to enjoy the New England charm of the homes and businesses along the tree-lined winding road. Ten minutes into the ride, my driver, a young college student from Purdue University, broke my reverie. He informed me that the ride to Chilmark would cost me $50 in cash. After the initial surprise, I returned to the scenery and soon reached the Pickett House, where I would be staying for the week.

The inn, recommended by Nancy Aronie, teacher and guru of the Chilmark Writing Workshop, was charming. An old 17th century clapboard house and red barn neatly tucked away from the roadside was surrounded by patches of white daisies, black-eyed susans and purple hydrangeas. Elizabeth, the innkeeper, showed me to my century period room on the main floor of the house. Revisiting the Victorian Era, I fingered the intricately carved, dark antique furniture and felt the rustic comfort framed by the wood beamed ceiling and wide oak plank flooring. The green and purple rose patterned quilt covering the bed reflected the beauty of the age. I gently placed my suitcase on the bed and stepped outside to explore.

A dirt, wooded path bordered the inn and Nancy’s home next door. I had reread Nancy’s book, “Writing From the Heart,” many times. I remembered how walking this path brought her both inspiration and peace. Like visiting Thoreau’s Walden Pond, I had to explore Nancy’s woods. Unaware, I started down the path. Ten minutes later, the dinner call went out to swarms of mosquitoes and deer flies. Unfortunately, I was their next meal. Hurrying back to the inn, I went to my room to examine the red welts now covering my arms, legs, neck, and face. A bite in my right eye left it red and tearing.

Resigned to staying inside, I decided to unpack. Grabbing my vanity bag to bring it to my bathroom across the hallway, I reached for the door. The loose doorknob on the old wooden door simply spun around. The more I tried, the faster it spun. Elizabeth lived in the renovated barn next door, and I was the only guest downstairs.  Banging or yelling would be in vain and my cell phone indicated no service. As I sat on the bed, now trapped in my room, I received a text message from a friend in Rhode Island. Surprised that texting worked, I immediately sent her the phone number of the inn and described my dilemma. Elizabeth came to my rescue. I shared with her the calamities I had experienced since my arrival and requested a breakfast muffin to sustain me until the morning. Well past dinner time, Elizabeth offered to drive me to the nearest restaurant.

Kindness and generosity continued to be my experience throughout the week. The next morning in Nancy’s writing class, she created a safe and comfortable writing environment by sharing her stories and speaking to us from her heart. Thirteen writers from Paris, Detroit, and Manhattan to smaller towns across the nation joined with a few Vineyard residents. We found our unique voices with our teacher’s support and encouragement. Nancy found beauty in each piece. As students, we followed her lead highlighting the best from each writer.

After Monday’s class, I returned to the inn, sank into an Adirondack chair among the flowers of the backyard garden and began to write. When I needed a break, I walked to the Chilmark General Store to sample their famous “Island Grown” pizza. Sitting in a rocking chair on the open porch, I began a conversation with a couple in their early twenties that were lunching beside me. I asked for walking directions to Lucy Vincent Beach. They offered me a ride. Sitting on the beach, I drank in the beauty of the most gorgeous beach I had ever seen. Tall clay cliffs bordered the long sandy beach. The sun-kissed water was scattered with large boulders from glaciers of the past.

Fellow writer Bunny described my visit as a fan becoming more beautiful as I opened wider to the spirit of the Island. An outstanding writer with an effervescent personality, Bunny quickly befriended me. Together with Rose, a gifted writer from Detroit, Bunny chauffeured us around the Island showing us its beauty from the eye of a summer resident. Charmed by the Victorian gingerbread houses in Campgrounds of Oak Bluffs and watching the ferries pass by on the sunlit water from her backyard, I relaxed into the Island.

Our adventures included a seaside meal at The Black Dog Restaurant and listening to Chilmark author Kay Goldenstein read from her new book, “Star Child.” Walking past the fishing boats at Menemsha, we watched the fiery sun sink beneath the clouds and paint the sky above in deep pink hues. As our evening conversations ended, my writing continued, enriched by the lives of my Vineyard friends.

When I arrived, late Sunday afternoon, I was so discouraged. Feeling isolated without a car, covered with mosquito bites, and trapped in my room, I wanted to leave. By Sunday night, the warmth and generosity of the Islanders began to open my eyes and my heart to the spirit and beauty of the Island. I saw a sign in one of the shops this week that said “On Vineyard Time”. As I travel home, I will remember what Vineyard residents know so well, to stay “On Vineyard Time.” When life gets hectic again and schedules are tight, I will pause and feel the beauty of this special Island and appreciate the kindness of its people.

Marie Jordan-Whitney

Berlin, Connecticut