At Large: On quilters and weather weenies

And that’s that

Roger Wey, the former Oak Bluffs selectman whose management of the financial affairs of the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging is under a cloud, gets an endorsement this week from Glenna Barkan, writing in the Letters to the Editor columns this week for the Oak Bluffs Quilters. No one could ask for or imagine a cleaner, plainer, less ambiguous, utterly authentic message of support and statement of the circumstances. I refer you to Ms. Barkan’s letter.

In this tortured and relentlessly communicative age, most of the incoming is self-aggrandizing, vicious, promotional, and manipulative. What ought to be simple explanations are most often cast as driveby hits against the other side — think Congressional Republicans speaking about Congressional Democrats, or the other way around, or Fox News vs. MSNBC. By contrast, Ms. Barkan writes with no veiled intentions, no effort to disguise or beguile, not even a nod to the deplorable modern strategies of rhetorical persuasion. She delivers the unalloyed understanding that she knows, unarguable, the straight dope. Utterly refreshing.

Winter

When I was a kid, the horn at the fire barn signaled a snow day. The AM radio station, if the early morning country music DJ Cuzzin Dave was paying attention, or if he was across the street from the station getting a quick breakfast and a smoke while the stack on the turntable worked its way down to dead air, would catch on and Dave would give the weather, “It’s snowing pretty good, looks like a blizzard, no school today.”

For several weeks, it’s been a chilly, snowy, now icy misery much of the time. The best you can say is that there is sledding, and there is ice skating, the latter only if the snow would stop.

I found Abigail Higgins’s Garden Notes particularly heartening this week and perfectly on point, delivered with Abigail’s standard Barkan-like directness.

“I risk provoking ire when I mutter ‘weather weenies,’ but let’s get a grip: we used to have winters like this every winter. Snow: we get it, we get rid of it — and then we get some more. From the gardener’s viewpoint snow is a good thing. ‘Poor man’s fertilizer’ and an insulating layer are two benefits, and the accompanying cold is welcome as a disinfecting control for soil-borne and insect organisms.

“Islanders are eager for spring, the above notwithstanding. Pre-breeding season birdsong has begun; the woods, otherwise quiet and shrouded in cold and snow, are full of it. It is an early sign, as is the flowing of springs and streams, freed from the stasis of winter, and the coloring of twig tips.”

I don’t think Abigail was at all daunted by the risk she assumed.

In a long ago farming life of mine, in the farm pond down the steep, grassy slope below the house, the farm-raised ducklings trailed obediently behind their mother as she passed from shore to shore. It was not much of a pond, more of a West Tisbury kettle hole scooped out of the marshy boundary between pastures.

Waste from the cattle pens drained into it, as did water from the more extensive marshes north across the large field. A sheltering cluster of beetlebung trees, a few locust and black cherry, and one overhanging oak sheltered the western side. Grass ran to the water’s edge everywhere else around the circumference.

Springs fed the marshes from the higher elevations, so the pond was never low, not even in the driest summers. In the winter, because it was low and protected all around, the pond formed ice that hardened and thickened quickly. Winters without skating were rare, as were winters without ice choking Vineyard Haven Harbor and Nantucket Sound.

One of those long ago winter mornings, I recall cold, thick fog, drizzle, and bits of ice floating in Vineyard Sound between West Chop and the Woods Hole entrance buoy — in other words, standard February weather for this sea-girt paradise.

We were on the Islander bound for Woods Hole, hurrying to Boston to catch a plane to Florida, but the current-driven ice had rearranged the buoys in the Woods Hole Passage. We lay outside the Hole, waiting for the visibility to improve, so the Islander’s captain could navigate to the dock safely, no matter where the buoys had got to. We missed the plane.

That’s the sort of winter weather that makes us happy and the pond water solid. Happy in the congratulatory sense that we’re built tough and equipped for this sort of thing. That’s the sort of winter that makes skating and ice boating on Squibnocket Pond possible, or skating parties on moonlit evenings at Old House Pond or Parsonage Pond, or Sunday pond hockey at Uncle Seth’s. Those were the sorts of winters that put this one in its historic place, as just another like the others. Winter being winter, I suppose.



Comments

  1. jonathan larche says:

    Just read Ms. Barkan’s letter. It begs the question so sincerely, how and why did this happen, when all common sense would lead the first inquiry to her?