Bemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Interested in Nicole’s take on your messy Vineyard-centric ethics or etiquette question? Confidentiality ensured. Send your question to OnIsland@mvtimes.com
In the winter my dog and I like to stroll around a certain beach. The signs saying, “Keep out of this area, plovers nesting,” have just been put up, but I know this beach very well. I’ve been combing it for years, and I know that there aren’t actually any plovers here yet. My dog is obedient and sticks beside me; even if there were nests, he wouldn’t be disturbing them. But there aren’t nests yet. The other day I caught hell from some other beach-combers for being on that part of the beach. Wouldn’t you say it’s okay for me to be in the dunes until I see plovers start to nest? Isn’t this a little like hanging out on a private beach in the off-season?
Curious on the Shore
NO, IT’S NOT. If the signs are up, GET OUT OF THERE. Of course the plovers haven’t started to nest— the area is being regularly disturbed by human and canine presence. I’m not an ornithologist but I doubt the birds will casually return to a place where they sense the intrusion of Man, and certainly of Dog.
Let me give you the benefit of the doubt for a moment. I’m going to presume that you and your dog do this every year, and that every year, despite your presence, the plovers return, and as soon as they do, you leave. Let’s say that you know the timing even better than do the naturalists who are responsible for posting the signs. In fact, I’ll go even farther: let’s say you and your dog have a special mystical relationship with the plovers and they actually consider you a part of their tribe. They have asked you, during a vision-quest, to please walk around the dunes with your dog at the start of their nesting season.
Even then: don’t do it. Respect those signs. They are not put up there as a dare to you; they are an invocation to the entire community to collectively respect the seasonal rhythms of our ecosystem. To disregard the signs is to say that not only do you not consider yourself a member of the community, you don’t consider yourself a member of the ecosystem.
You yourself might know how to finesse the use-of-dunes, but other beach-walkers might see you — confident in your certainty that it’s okay to be there — and assume it’s okay for them to disregard the signs as well, even if they weren’t invited in by the plovers. You’re setting a terrible example. Please don’t do that. I’m sure if you explain it to the plovers, they’ll understand.
That’s my take.
I was recently at the MV hospital for a procedure, the nature of which I’d prefer not to mention. While I was at the hospital, I ran into four people I know. Each of them, without fail, asked me if I was okay and why I was at the hospital. I don’t like to lie, but my procedure is my business. I know people will be even more curious if I say I’d rather not tell them why I was there, so I told them I was there to visit a friend who is sick, but each of them, without fail, asked me who my friend was. So I panicked and blurted out my neighbor’s name. Nicole, what should I do? Do I need to tell my neighbor about this?
Dear Oak Bluffs:
Oh my God, they don’t pay me enough to answer these questions.
That’s my take.