Authors Posts by Holly Nadler

Holly Nadler


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The Nutcracker will screen at the Film Center December 21. —Photo courtesy M.V. Film Center

Last winter, Richard Paradise, executive director and cinema wunderkind of the three-year-old Film Center in the Tisbury Marketplace (and the 12 year-old Martha’s Vineyard Film Society), sent an email to his more than 5,000 followers, and asked if any were interested in filmed performances of operas from around the world.

Heck yeah, was the (obviously simplified) response from several hundred audience members. Mr. Paradise proceeded to put together an opera series culminating in a July evening of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, with a live intro by opera director Wendy Taucher and her Three Ladies from The Magic Flute.

Now, a second series is afoot. It’s lead event was offered this past Saturday, Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi, which first opened to an ecstatic audience in Rome in January of 1853. Verdi’s masterpiece has proved a popular success ever since; not a critical success, mind you, which shows how completely fun and enchanting it is.

Mr. Paradise is confident that opera lovers will fill many of his seats during the series, but he also hopes the cinema version will entice a new crowd of those who’ve long considered themselves opera-phobic (we know who we are).

“A lot of people think opera is for snobbish, ultra-cultured folks,” Mr. Paradise said before last Saturday’s screening. “Now they’ll find out they don’t need to dress up, they get to sit in the dark in comfy chairs. And none of the operas we choose are over two-and-a-half hours long.”

Without a classical music background of his own, Mr. Paradise relies on a few aficionados to steer him in the right direction. “Doug Cramer of M.V. and New York is my main go-to guy,” he said.

Not only the fear of elitism drives so many away. For some, a single evening trapped before an incomprehensible opera can remain a “never again” proposition. My own opera panic occurred on a summer evening in 1971 at the old, gorgeous Paris Opera House, with Chagall murals, and steps so narrow and high they could give Edmund Hillary vertigo. The featured opera was Tristan Und Isolde by the daunting Wagner, and the entire second act devolved into an endless duet between a hefty soprano and an ungainly tenor seated on a bench, never rising, only singing, in German, naturally, for the whole seven hours (or so it seemed), in the dark. Never again, indeed.

Richard Paradise believes opera has been transformed and opened up to the untutored with its use of subtitles — now on display in opera houses themselves — but delivered by rote in  movies. Before the era of subtitles, unless one had boned up in advance on the plot, the whole mess looked like people with exquisite voices falling all over each other, wailing in Italian or German or French a version of “Wah wah wah!” and it was anybody’s guess what had upset them so. Three hours of this can be torture.

But here’s how Il Trovatore played itself out last Saturday afternoon: From the Berlin’s Straatsoper Unter der Linden, red velvet curtains parted to reveal a stage so wide and shimmering that one’s suspension of disbelief transformed it to one’s own stage set before us. Costumes were straight out of 1853 fantasyland, with balletic soldiers in shiny black boots and uniforms, a gypsy crew looking more colorfully magical than homeless, and Placido Domingo as the evil Count di Luna. And, of course, the close-up galore allow for exponentially expanded intimacy with story and characters.

It would take a Joseph Campbell to unravel all the nuances and mythologies of the story, but in broad strokes, the count’s father had once had two little sons, one of whom got sick, a gypsy sorceress was blamed and put to the stake…. Best to stop here; it must be seen to be at least partially digested. Let’s just say that the grown surviving count’s son loves the royal lady Leonora, who loves the soulful Rumi of a troubadour (the English word for Trovatore), who happens to be the grandson of the enflamed witch, but also possibly the brother of the present count.

Trovatore has everything, including luscious costuming, modern effects with video projections, choruses, duets and arias that you’ll recognize because they’re famous, and they’re famous because they’re splendid. You’ll also see the best example of that operatic trope of a character taking 20 minutes to die during which she collapses multiple times, then rises to sing with bravura abandon that brings the house down.

The point here is that an opera-phobe will arrive at a venue such as this with the intent of slipping away under cover of darkness after only an hour, and will instead sit, as Mr. Paradise has promised, in the dark in comfy seats, enrapt for the full intermission-free two-and-a-half hours.

On November 30, the film center will screen Ballanchine’s Millepied (note that the opera program includes two ballet performances).

            And here’s the remainder of the schedule for this fall / winter / spring series:

            The Nutcracker from Austria’s Mariinsky Theater, November 30.

            La Cenerentola by Rossini, January 11.

            La Forza by Kuse, February 15.

            Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci by Castiglione, March 15.

           L’Elisir D’Amore by Villazon, April 12

            Rigoletto by Viziola, May 10.

For more information and for booking tickets, log on to

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Eleanor Hubbard shows off a chicken purse next to a portrait of Nancy Luce at the M.V. Museum. —Photo by Angelina Godbout

The Island is known to produce rugged individualists, but in its centuries of storied characters, none has proved more individual than Nancy Luce, born in 1814. Her parents, Philip and Anna, ran a bustling farm in the Tiah’s Cove area of West Tisbury, yet they bred only one daughter at a time when rural families whelped litters of children. Some unknown illness enfeebled the Luces, and from an early age, a strapping young Nancy ran the farm as best she could.

She was also an entrepreneur. She and neighboring farm women knit wool mittens prized by seamen due to ship out under cold skies. Over nine miles of rough road lay Edgartown, the urban center of Martha’s Vineyard. There, Nancy sold the mittens to a tradesman and he in turn, at wholesale prices, plied Nancy with such coveted items as rice, indigo, coffee, and spices, which Nancy retailed back in her home territory up Island. She performed this feat on horseback, to and fro. In her young years, she loved to ride — to gallop, in fact. These were Nancy’s happiest days, in effect her only happy days.

Nancy Luce buried her chicken friends with marble tombstones. —Photo by Anna Carringer
Nancy Luce buried her chicken friends with marble tombstones. —Photo by Anna Carringer

In 1840 when Nancy was 36, some illness — we can only wonder if it was related to her parents’ years of invalidism — knocked her sideways as well. There would be no more horseback riding. She could still milk the cow, something her father could no longer manage. Nancy found his inattention to hygiene deplorable, but the necessity to care for her sick parents, plus to struggle with the farm, made life unbearable.

Her parents died in due course, and soon afterward some of the abutting neighbors — perhaps coveting her fields — and with the help of townsfolk and selectman, filed a petition to assign a guardian to Nancy Luce on the grounds of “insanity and imbecility.” The family doctor, Willian Luce, who was kind and attentive to Nancy for the rest of her life, wrote to the presiding judge attesting to his patient’s viability as a property owner.

And now Nancy came into her own. Her great passion in life was her attachment to her chickens. Indeed she loved all animals, including her favorite cow, Susannah Allen, who lived in the back room of an admittedly rustic farmhouse, and a pet goat whose death circa 1840 may have triggered a grief so profound that Nancy’s illness spun off from that. In the excellent biography Consider Poor I, The Life And Works of Nancy Luce, first published in 1984, and recently reprinted by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, author Walter Magnes Teller suggests she may have suffered from what, a couple of decades later, a 19th century doctor George M. Beard termed “neurasthenia.”

Mr. Teller writes, “Overworked women were a commonplace of the social and cultural environment then and later… exhausted, nervous, half-crazed, women like her were legion and for the most part, silent. What distinguishes Nancy is that she spoke out in her writing.” She wrote letters on chicken care to the local papers, plaintive, self-pitying, supplicating letters to Dr. Luce, and she began to compose poems about her beloved chickens.

Oh how I long to see my poor little Beauty Linna live and well,

You know not the company she was for me.

Yes, her poetry was, frankly, mediocre, but she had excellent calligraphy, and she drew block letters with decorative flourish. Her paintings, sadly, are lost to time. Being ever the businesswoman, she cobbled together her first collection of poems, Poor Little Hearts, about her profoundly lamented deceased hens, found a publisher in New Bedford, and sold countless booklets to tourists who flocked to visit her.

How to explain the fame part of the Nancy Luce saga? Following the Civil War, the Methodist campground, with its adorable gingerbread cottages shaking their heads above tent platforms like new hydrangea blossoms, attracted huge numbers of summer visitors, essentially America’s first vacationers. On their itinerary was the day-long wagon-ride to the Gay Head Cliffs. A good half-way pit stop was the farm property of the Island’s most colorful madwoman, the one with the marble headstones for three of her dear “friends,” Ada Queetie, Beauty Linna, and Poor Tweedle Dedel.

Nancy Luce sold portraits of herself with her chickens to tourists. —Photo courtesy of the M.V. Museum
Nancy Luce sold portraits of herself with her chickens to tourists. —Photo courtesy of the M.V. Museum

Nancy Luce was admired (and with that admiration came a dash of pity) by many, and jeered at by rude boys who learned she hated loud noises; during the Ag Fair, they organized parties to bang pots outside her windows. But lots of people bought her little books, and later the photographs she was canny enough to commission of herself and her hens.

Her legend lives on: no one visits the Island for longer than a few days without coming across an account of her. And now the Nancy Luce story, with a great number of artifacts, has been artfully assembled at the museum on School Street in Edgartown.

The first sight one comes upon is the iconic gold-and-sepia toned photograph of Nancy, her long, sad face enveloped in a scarf, as she sits on a rocker with a chicken in each hand. A painting of her farmhouse by an unknown artist gives us a sense of where her life played itself out from birth to death, in 1890. Samples of writing in the poet’s hand are on display, as well as the exquisite marble hen headstones. Artist Caryn King contributed a Nancy Luce doll in her headscarf, her long, emaciated frame in a white work-apron and blue farm dress. If this doll could be mass-produced, the museum would sell out as quickly as Nancy Luce found takers for her poetry.

The exhibit will be on display until the end of January, 2015, every week running Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. “Consider Poor I” is on sale in the gift shop and also at Island bookstores.

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—Photo by Alan Brigish

Renowned photographer Alan Brigish of West Tisbury and beloved storyteller Susan Klein of Oak Bluffs have teamed up for a mixed-media event, on tap this Saturday, October 26, at 3:30 at the M.V. Film Center.

To discuss what precisely this dynamic duo has wrought this time around, the MV Times met up with Brigish at his home studio. We sat in his conservatory, windows open on all three sides, as the slanting rays of autumn dappled the woods, and gusts of wind drowned out all birdsong.

Brigish has recently returned from a Buddhist retreat in California. “For the first three days I hated it,” he said about the regimen of day-long meditation. “On the third day, all I could think about was escaping into town and devouring a cheeseburger. And then it hit me. I was completely caught up in it.” The glow continued, and he plans to attend a new retreat in Barre.

Brigish, now 72, developed an interest in meditation and Buddhist philosophy in 2006 when he found himself on a photographic sojourn, first to India which was swelteringly hot and physically injurious, followed by a touch-down in Bhutan. “When I woke up in the morning, the air was cool [about 50 degrees cooler], it was fragrant, quiet, I heard cow bells in the distance, I looked out the window and saw Swiss-style chalets,” Mr. Brigish said of Bhutan. “I thought I must have died. This was Heaven. And then I learned about this country’s concept of Gross National Happiness. There was a whole lot of Buddhism going on.”

—Photo by Alan Brigish
—Photo by Alan Brigish

Brigish, born, raised, and married to Joyce in South Africa, has lived in the U.K. and the U.S. since 1964. The Brigishes started coming to the Vineyard in 1979 when their son, Sy, attended Camp Jabberwocky. Alan and Joyce fell in love with the Island. They have two other kids, Hal and Jackie, and three grandchildren. They moved here year-round from Connecticut in 2005.

The Bhutan trip inspired a new photographic hegira, this one with a book in mind. With a UNESCO guide and translator, Brigish followed in the footsteps of the Buddha from Laos to Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. His impressions and inquiries on the nature of happiness and suffering, and on the paradox of happiness achieved even in the midst of what to the western eye would appear to be appalling poverty, are captured in the 2008 photographic masterpiece, Breathing In The Buddha.

One day, as he displayed his books at the Artisans Fair in West Tisbury, a woman told Mr. Brigish crisply, “You should do a book about the Vineyard.” The woman was Ann Nelson, founder of the iconic Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven. And right on the synchronistic dot, a short time later he bumped into Susan Klein, storyteller and Oak Bluffs native. They got to talking, and Brigish mentioned Ann Nelson’s call for a new kind of photographic survey of the Island, with text that digs deeper into times past and present. Klein said in her inimitably cut-to-the-chase way, “I’ve been telling those stories for years.”

The collaboration is the incandescent 2010 release Now And Zen, still available at Island bookstores, and very likely resting on your own bookshelves.

—Photo by Alan Brigish
—Photo by Alan Brigish

Klein and Brigish went on to produce the luscious Bountiful, text and photos an homage to local farms, sponsored by the Agricultural Society. You’ve seen its striking reds-golds-and-green cover of vegetables-being-gorgeous.

The latest venture utilizes Klein’s eye rather than her written or spoken word. “Just as she’s a great editor of writing, she has the same brilliance with visual imagery,” Brigish said.

Together, Klein and Brigish poured over countless photos of flowers. “I have over 110,000 photographs in my computer,” he said cheerfully; this artist will never be caught short of material. At last they assembled a ten-minute meditation on color, form, and the eternal now.

In Breathing In The Buddha, Brigish muses, “we find safety and comfort in trying to make permanent that which is impermanent. We are addicted.” Along the lines on this reflection, this new DVD is entitled Impermanence, a vital construct of the Buddha’s teachings.

West Tisbury musician Ed Merck, also a writer (Sailing The Mystery) and a Buddhist,, provided an exquisite recorder soundtrack to the images. Mr. Merck said, “my challenge was how to portray that musically. I found, of all my recorders, the bass caught the mood irresistibly.”

Brigish explained that the seamless shifting of photographs involved two seconds of stasis with nine seconds transition. The effect is mesmerizing, one set of flowers morphing into another before the brain has time to register a pattern or the eye has time to blink.

—Photo by Alan Brigish
—Photo by Alan Brigish

The event on Sunday will unpack itself in five parts: cocktails in the lobby and an exhibition of Alan Brigish photographs. Also in the lobby, an overhead screen will play the Brigish/Klein DVD Vineyard Zen, once silent, now accompanied by Falmouth pianist Gary Girouard.

Once guests are seated in the theater, Susan Klein will provide a five-minute narrative about taking time and stopping time to kick off the debut of the ten-minute Impermanence on the silver screen, with Merck’s spellbinding music emanating from Dolby speakers. The final treat will be a pre-screening of a documentary, Monk With A Camera about New York photographer Nicky Vreeland, who turned his back on the glittery haute monde to become an ordained monk in South Asia, only to be tapped by the Dalai Lama to once again strap on his camera and photograph surrounding monasteries.

The official release will take place in New York in November so, as often happens on the Vineyard, we’ll be given a first look at something artsy, crafty, boho, or anyhoo. We’d be fools to miss this.

For more information, visit

Walter Wlodyka and I alongside his skunkmobile, at the end of a successful, but stinky, day. —Photo by Michael Cummo

It was July of 1989 in East Chop when my five-year-old son Charlie woke me up with the question, “What’s that smell?”

If you’ve never had a skunk blast off in your crawl space which, in turn, floods through your duct system because this stuff aerosolizes like chemical weaponry, then you have no idea of how a single wild animal can cause such olfactory terror.

In our panic, we learned right away that “who ya gonna call?” was Walter Wlodyka of Chilmark.

Last week, on a new Mission Impossible for this paper, I made a date to assist Mr. Wlodyka on a day of trapping skunks and “squirrels, moles, voles and more,” as Walter says in his phone greeting. Of course it’s skunks that cause folks to place that first hysterical plea for help, such as I did 25 years ago when a family of four black-and-white ghoulies lurked under our cottage. During the siege, when Walter collected a skunk a day, he urged me to calm down: “If you keep thinking about it, pretty soon it’s gonna make you neurotic.”

Neurotic? Me?

Last week Walter rolled up in his white VW Golf. I’d expected a banged-up old Island truck, but Walter needs a frugal gas tank because mostly he drives around all day, seven days a week, checking his traps. At the back of the Golf was a compact trailer bearing two stacks of traps, eight in total. The inside of the car, packed with shuffled-off papers, coffee mugs, and other assorted domestic gear, teemed with a faint eau de skunk that comes with the territory.

Walter wore sunglasses, a white canvas jacket over a tee-shirt and jeans. We drove slowly; the trapper takes his time with everything; a true connoisseur of the moment.

“I’m a disabled war veteran,” he said without emotion, and yet, it turned out to be the key to everything.

Our first stop was a billionaire’s spread, untold acres rearing high above the northwest shores of the Island. Here moles and voles ran amok and, for these crits, the goal would be dissuasion. Walter squeezes a noxious mixture into the ground, a pale bluish-grey fluid that flows into the little beasties’ tunnels.

Walter said, “They eat it and it makes them sick.” So sick, they decamp to another billionaire’s yummy property. And it just goes to show how smart these moles and voles must be, attributing a bad day of the runs to a particular parcel of land, just the way we humans avoid the restaurant that sold the bad batch of mussels.

So far I had no trouble with this job, much as I’d dreaded it going in. My fear, of course, was of being deluged with skunk oobleck. I’d even considered leaving a bathrobe and an industrial-sized bottle of laundry detergent in my absent neighbor’s outdoor shower. But then I recalled Walter’s long-ago advice about not being neurotic, and I decided to boldly go forth, come what may.

We checked more estates in Lambert’s Cove and West Chop. Everywhere we roamed, the properties were devoid of owners, but filled with work details — contractors, gardeners. Gol-LY, it takes a lot to run these Vineyard villas. Everyone looked happy to see Walter with his skunk patrol sign on each side of his VW. “Come and get these varmints!” they seemed to say.

And then on a property off North Pines Road we did. Get a varmint, that is.

A skunk squatted in one of two traps set the day before. Walter indicated the closed door. Here’s how it works: Walter attracts the effluvious creature with peanut butter, concentrated peanut oil, and skunk pheromones dabbed along the bottom of the trap. Once the doomed crit enters, it steps on a plate, a rod snaps down, and the door slams shuts.

I made the nearly fatal mistake of approaching the oblong trap from the skunk’s behind. I saw the raised bushy tail. Walter said gently, “Come around to this end.”

I stared at an adorable being with big round glittering onyx black eyes; cute enough for a Disney film. Walter lifted the cage and set it on the trailer, the critter’s face pointed away, the back end firmly sealed with metal cladding.

As we drove to the links of the Vineyard Golf Club, Walter removed his shades. His grey-green eyes were sad, soulful.

“It’s my soldier background that trained me for this work. I have to dispose of these animals. It’s the law [he’s licensed by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife]. I take them to a special location. I shoot them behind the head with a twenty-two caliber pistol. They go into a hole covered over with two layers of plywood. The spot is closed off by a fence with warning signs.”

It was a lot to think about.

At the golf club, we drove over hill and dale, even as white balls whizzed past. On hole number three Walter checked four traps. One of them held another prisoner. This time I decided not to look and risk forming an attachment.

For the remainder of our time together, Walter told me several times how little he liked the shooting part. I believed him. And yet I understood the necessity. I recalled the sense of defilement to our house in East Chop. Our clothes, our furniture, even our dishes, reeked for weeks. (Unitarian minister Bill Clark tells of a skunk detonation that made its way even into the bills inside his wallet). I too would have put “a cap in the hat” to each of the four stinkers in our crawl space, not so much for revenge, although that was part of it, but how could we in good faith set these creatures loose to ravage another family’s home?

On the road through the links, we hit a bump. Bang! One of the skunks shot off a stink bomb. A sickening miasma surrounded the car, then osmosed into it, attaching to clothing, skin, and hair.

Back home I showered, using up an entire bottle of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo, alleged to be good for skunk gook. (I keep it under the sink in case my dog is slimed). I dumped my clothes, including the canvas shoes I wore especially for the day’s work, into the washing machine with a big helping of detergent and Parson’s Ammonia.

So far no one has said, “You smell a little funky.” But people never tell you that, do they?

Feel free.

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From left, Niki Patton, Tony Omer, Leslie J Baker and John Ortman read “W. Shakespeare, Diagnosis: Paranoid Schizophrenia.” —Photo by Tanya Augoustinos

Gwyn McAllister, writer, reporter, and impresario-in-spite-of-herself, is a positive Merlin at pulling things together. Give her a Victorian porch (which she owns in Oak Bluffs), a rack of vintage clothes, and a Tarot card reader, and she’ll host an impromptu yard sale. Last Saturday night she enlarged her scope and helped to transform The A Gallery on Uncas Avenue in Oak Bluffs into a mixed media event or, as Ms. McAllister called it, “a cabaret with fabulous art all around it.”

A Gallery owner Tanya Augoustinos has long been open to play readings and musicales in her space with its high rafters, concrete floors, and vast walls. Last winter, McAllister, in mover-and-shaker mode, convinced Ms. Augoustinos to put together a night debuting McAllister’s half-hour play, a spoof on A Christmas Carol starring a Bernie Madoff type as Scrooge. Along with some great contemporary art on the walls, Christmas lights, snacks, and grog, the evening was an unqualified success.

In the past month, McAllister felt drawn to mount a new show, and she and Ms. Augoustinos marked their calendars for Columbus Day Weekend. To a packed house of 60-plus people, the following performers held sway:

Milo Silva played the Mongolian horsehair fiddle. —Photo by Tanya Augoustinos
Milo Silva played the Mongolian horsehair fiddle. —Photo by Tanya Augoustinos

Young Milo Silva of Oak Bluffs mesmerized the audience with a Mongolian horsehair fiddle, the size of a long and sinewy mandolin, known to Russians as a morin khuur. Mr. Silva, tall, with a mane and beard of ginger-brown hair, studied at the University of Mongolia, and returned with an utter mastery of this distinctly unusual instrument. He set about playing a composition of his own, “Horses Having Sex,” followed by a short piece from Tchaikovsky.

Next, poet Donald Nitchie of Chilmark, also Island-reared, read several poems bespeaking Vineyard settings. One of them described a long-ago football skirmish between our home team and Nantucket’s: “Not much between us. / Their two hundred pound linemen, / our tailback like a greased pig. / Their winters even longer than ours.” And then the mood darkens as Nitchie describes the players: “same solitude we thought was all ours. / Some stick around, some go long, and don’t look back. / Some stumble into trouble and break free, some / don’t. Like fraternal twins separated at birth.”

Teen poet Claudia Taylor was among the mixed-media performers. —Photo by Tanya Augoustinos
Teen poet Claudia Taylor was among the mixed-media performers. —Photo by Tanya Augoustinos

Next on deck was 18 year-old Claudia Taylor of Chilmark, who in the past couple of years has enchanted audiences with her precocious talent for poetry. This night she read three untitled compositions with riveting lines such as: “I carve a door in you, and enter / the cathedral of your ribcage.” . . . “And now my eyes, too, / are full of blood-rivers, / small and far away / as those on a map.” . . . “Stars rot like berries. / I pick them. I eat them. They taste / like you, serpent girl.”

Ms. Taylor graduated from MVRHS last June and is taking a gap year while she decides what comes next. Her sister Paige, also in attendance, also writes poetry, and has joined a poetry group in her last year of high school.

Meanwhile, Ms. McAllister’s players took their places, and suddenly this reporter was aware of the surrounding beauty of the art making up a sort of unplanned proscenium: Deep blue tints of an oil painting by Christopher Wright, “Moonstones,” a huge oil canvas by Rez Williams of a boat at harbor, “Dawn Arrival New Bedford,” five canvases creating an effect of “Bright Blue Waves”by John Redick and, perfectly albeit unintentionally placed behind the live entertainment, an enormous bronze bas relief, “Emerging,” of a girl and a bouquet of flowers pressed against a gate, by Ilka List.

And so, the play being the thing, according to Hamlet, Ms. McAllister trotted out a sublimely clever quarter-hour one-act called W. Shakespeare, Diagnosis: Paranoid Schizophrenia (or Get Thee To A Psychopharmacologist).

Ms. McAllister poses an Elizabethan-themed world in which poor Will (read by Tony Omer, already adorned with a bardly salt-and-pepper beard), with a string of hits at the Globe behind him, has gone nuts — or perhaps was already innately nuts — as he racks his brain for new material. His maid (Niki Patton with a sublime cockney accent), his physician (John Ortman), his agent (Lesley J. Stark), and wife Anne Hathaway (Niki Patton again, this time with a more refined London-town accent — or is it Stratford-on-Avon?) all try to assuage the tormented soul with potions, naps, and even scoldings such as the hilarious, “don’t be so dramatic!”

Heather Goff sketched Milo Silva's performance from the audience on Saturday night. —Sketch by Heather Goff
Heather Goff sketched Milo Silva’s performance from the audience on Saturday night. —Sketch by Heather Goff

Through it all, Will comes up with snatches of ideas, “Hmm, a potion to make me appear dead,“ and “two brothers with the same name,” and “slain and baked into a pie” while the others look on approvingly. “He writes some of his best lines when he’s delusional,” says his doc. “He makes up words, it’s part of his disease.”

Does the play end with Shakespeare all set with a new blockbuster hit? Maybe not, but Ms. McAllister has definitely polished her own play to a fare-thee-well and a hey-nonny-nonny.

The evening wrapped up with two more Mongolian fiddle pieces from the brilliant Mr. Silva, traditional folk songs evoking a mystery that carried us to past centuries over bare Mongolian steppes (or at least one presumes they’re bare: the melodies suggest a stark landscape.)

Ms. Augoustinos plans more of what she calls “multi-performing events,” but first she’s redefining the gallery design. In an email to The Times, she wrote, “I’ve acquired an additional room in the building to set up a sizable storage area. The part of the gallery that presently serves as a storage area I can reclaim for more exhibition space.”

Stay tuned for the next theater and music evening; a wonderful way to come in from the cold and have all the senses dazzled.

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Mares eat oats and does eat oats and goats eat grass at the library.

Four-month-old goat Hazel, a Goatscape Scapegoater munches leaves during a brief demonstration at the Oak Bluffs library. –Photos by Michael Cummo

Last Saturday morning, outside the Oak Bluffs Library, three goats on leashes demonstrated to the large turnout of grown-ups and (mostly) little kids that these long-necked, silky-haired creatures are super-friendly. One in particular, a 4-month-old goat-doll named Hazel, made a dash toward this reporter as if we’d known each other forever. On the other hand, she may have mistaken my notepad for a sandwich.

Because, boy, oh boy, do these critters love to eat!

Seven-year-old Dillon Fondren pets Jane, one of the Scapegoats goats.
Seven-year-old Dillon Fontren pets Jane, one of the Scapegoats goats.

“He’s like a personal vacuum,” said Tisbury second grader Dillon Fontren about a horned white goat named Billy, who never for a moment stopped crunching grass, twigs, and leaves, even setting his hooves high on his handler’s chest to access tendrils up on trees.

And that’s the whole point of the business called Scapegoats Goatscaping, owned by Joe van Nes and Kristine Patnugot of West Tisbury, both in their late 20s: For anyone who needs land cleared of unwanted shrubs such as bittersweet and poison ivy, and of volunteer tree sprigs such as black locust and Russian olive, selected goats from the Scapegoats herd of 15, at the rate of $20 per day per herbivore, can be dispatched to munch till they drop  — which they don’t, apparently.

Kristine Patnugot, left, and Joe van Nes show off and explain their business, Scapegoats Goatscaping, operating out of West Tisbury.
Kristine Patnugot, left, and Joe van Nes show off and explain their business, Scapegoats Goatscaping, operating out of West Tisbury.

Mother Nature intended for goats to eat endless field greens: They possess four stomachs, each with its own capacity to digest food and send it along to the next part of the processing. They also, like cows, regurgitate and chew again, so that very little escapes a goat’s ability to break it down and run it through the intestinal tract.

A man with a baby girl on his shoulders asked, “Is there anything goats won’t eat?”

Van Nes explained, “They don’t eat leafy evergreens such as rhododendrons, but other than that, they’re pretty omnivorous, as long as it’s plant-based.”

Van Nes also related the long-term effects of several seasons of goatscaping. “Plants grow back, including poison ivy, but over a few treatments, the goats change the terrain. They trample, leave manure, work in the manure, then trample some more. Eventually they build up a super mulch and also block photosynthesis for such plants as poison ivy, until it finally stops growing in that soil.”

Billy the goat jumps on Joe van Nes as Scapegoats Goatscaping co-owner Kristine Patnugot looks on.
Billy the goat jumps on Joe van Nes as Scapegoats Goatscaping co-owner Kristine Patnugot looks on.

While Van Nes answered questions, he held the leashes for chewing machine Billy and the milder Jane, the latter revealing no particular cute personality quirks. Hazel, meanwhile, was ever alert to Patnugot when she pulled banana slices and papaya chunks out of a plastic bag. It was then that Hazel gently smooched it from her keeper’s palm, much like a puppy dog would have done.

The Scapegoat couple also work the female part of the herd for goat milk. Each day’s yield of anywhere from a quart to a gallon and a half reveals flavors from whatever field had been worked over by that goat the day before. Van Nes recommends the healing effects of this leaves-to-milk equation: “I used to landscape, and I got horrific bouts of poison ivy all over my arms and legs. When I started to drink goat’s milk, which, of course, contains filtered amounts of poison ivy, I stopped having bad effects from it.”

Van Nes and Patnugot routinely offer property owners the day’s output in milk from goats working their garden. “It’s delicious!” maintains Van Nes. “And it’s fun for people to learn what their own yard tastes like!”

Billy the goat eats leaves as Jane watches the crowd in front of them.
Billy the goat eats leaves as Jane watches the crowd in front of them.

Van Nes and his parents, Rosemary and Nick, with three acres of land in West Tisbury, have always harbored an interest in livestock. In 2013, son Joe was offered eight goats for free, provided he had no intention of eating them. He took the goats, and found that one was pregnant, thus raising his initial herd to 10. Now that he has 15 goats, he and his father have built a large pen on the latter’s land.

Meanwhile, back in 2011, Van Nes met Patnugot in a grocery store in Brooklyn. The young woman had grown up in Michigan, and pursued filmmaking and photography in L.A., D.C., and N.Y.C. “I guess I like places with initials for names!” she said cheerfully. Once happily ensconced with Van Nes on the Island, her boyfriend invited her to join him in the goat business this past year. “I take care of all the media work,” she added.

The two of them have quickly made a sustainable business of goat tending, with enough income left over for winter feed and vet bills.

A woman in the crowd asked Patnugot if goats were as friendly and affectionate as dogs. The answer was an emphatic, “Yes! Especially if you raise them to trust you and like you, and if you treat them with respect.”

One look in Hazel’s pale gold eyes, and a time-out with her when she let herself be stroked up and down her long thin neck with an oak twig, made it crystal-clear that these animals are hands-down favorites of the barnyard set.

For more information about Scapegoats Goatscaping, contact Joe and Kristine for a consultation at

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It's wedding season, a time for love stories on Martha's Vineyard.

“A Martha’s Vineyard Love Story,” by Kathleen McGhee-Anderson and Skip Finley. $19.95 at Howasswee Shop, Aquinnah; Edgartown Books, Edgartown; and book-signing events.

“Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present,” by Ann Vincola Votta. Paperback, 242 pages. $11.62 from,, and appearing soon in Island bookstores.  

A whole bunch of famous, colossally successful writers have never been able to write great characters of the opposite gender. For instance (let’s just say it without getting into a fistfight), Hemingway, Robert B. Parker, and, oh dear, we need a woman — shall we put forward Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, or is Frankenstein perhaps the best male character of all time?

Closer to home, Vineyard and Venice (California) screenwriter Kathleen McGhee-Anderson had an idea for a love story set over the past 50-odd summers amid the elite African-American community of Oak Bluffs. She knew she could bring to life the female protagonist without a hitch, but decided to go for the gold of the male point of view, and asked her friend Skip Finley, writer and media exec, summer visitor to the Island since 1955 and year-round Oak Bluffs resident since 1999, to tell it like it is for the young man of the saga.

Thus was a great collaboration born.

The story begins in the iconic Summer of Love of 1967 when the Four Tops sang, “I’m standing in the shadows of love, I’m getting ready for the heartaches to come.” Dale Eden, student radical, is dragged kicking and screaming to Martha’s Vineyard for the valid purpose — or so say her parents — of extracting her from the perils of “the Movement.” But there’s a major glitch to her parents’ plans: Kaylan Warner, bad boy extraordinaire, a cocky New Yorker with Island roots, is no one’s idea of a good match for the gorgeous and good Dale.

Nor are the fates so hot on the idea.

As much as Dale and Kaylan share a deep-down-to-the-bone passion for each other, other attachments, and family pressure, and life itself — that thing that famously happens when we’re making other plans — all combine to throw a spanner into the works. Through ’72, when the Temptations have “sunshine on a cloudy day,” all the way through the Stylistics’ “Betcha by golly, wow!” of the early 2000s, the reader is rooting for these two star-crossed lovers to put on their aprons and start acting like Donna Reed and Robert Young setting up house together, only with both of them bearing briefcases.

It fell to McGhee-Anderson originally to sketch out the clever plot. Both writers provide vivid characters and winning descriptions of the Vineyard: “It was already warm that morning, you could smell the hot sun on the tar, the gentle salty breeze coming off the Nantucket Sound, the newly cut grass and something indefinable, maybe the wild roses that were starting to bud on the trellis outside.” (McGhee-Anderson). “Most of the Gold Coast neighborhood houses (the Cottage City part of town) had been built in the late 1800s. None had air conditioning but with the windows open on a hot night you could catch enough of a breeze for them to be tolerable.” (Finley).

Not surprisingly, the lady author sets the tone for romance while the gentleman, whom most of us know from his irreproachable Oak Bluffs town column for the Gazette, unleashes a new hot rapper side to his writing, with sizzling language for the libidinous Kaylan. When his co-author asked for male input, she got it in spades.

You can buy copies of “A Martha’s Vineyard Love Story” at Edgartown Books while supplies last. Over the course of the past summer, Mr. Finley and Ms. McGhee-Anderson held several book signings at Cousen Rose Gallery in Oak Bluffs. Watch for it next summer, when a second printing will deliver the best beach read to be set on these shores in a long time.


There’s a second tale of romance, this one a memoir, entitled “Reunited: When the Past Becomes a Present” by Ann Vincola Votta, about two kids turning to grownups, also with summer ties to the Vineyard, who meet and greet over and over again until at last all roadblocks are cleared and these original high school sweethearts are, well, as the title says, reunited.

The story behind the Vincola/Votta nuptials was juicy enough to make it into the wedding-announcements section of the New York Times. Ann and Alan met in 1956 as 7th  graders in Yonkers, N.Y. They were popular kids with a promising future ahead of them; Ann — for reasons having something to do with a cute boy in her freshman class at college — broke it off with Alan in 1961. That would have been the end of that, had they not rediscovered each other, thanks to the sleuthing wonders of Facebook. As they hooked up again decades later, they found themselves more in love than ever. They triangulated this love on a Charleston to Martha’s Vineyard to Sarasota loop, and tied the knot, which should have been wound up tight back in the ’60s, in March 2010.

At the very least, “Reunited” is a morality tale about sticking with the one you love back in the day. Alan, shaken and stirred by Ann’s sudden breakup, made a pair of disastrous choices in the marriage department. Ann’s one marriage was less than amiable. Both have children, with greater and lesser degrees of parenting success, and family mismanagement runs strong in both their stories. On a more favorable front, both made gains in their professional lives, Ann with a master’s in administration, and with an antiques store on M.V. called Tisbury, and Alan as a franchise owner and a naval officer.

For everyone who enjoys happy endings (and that category may consist of the whole of the human race), “Reunited” is a memoir to take on vacation when the weather forecast is none too bright and you neglected to pack your full-spectrum lamp; that’s how much it might cheer you up.

For two car-deficient broads to burn rubber on Beach Road?

Holly Nadler with her son Charlie, standing; Trina Mascott (Holly's mom) behind the wheel of the Fiat Cinquecento. (Photos by Michael Cummo)

As a citizen of Martha’s Vineyard, I live car-free. I avoid the term car-less because that implies a lack. Homeless, brainless, like that. Ever since the fall of 2001, when my yellow Dodge Dart died and I put it on the barge of defunct junk that leaves the Packer wharf, I have cycled and ridden the buses, and I walk. I walk a lot.

Holly on the Cinquecento.
Holly on the Cinquecento.

It helps that I don’t go out much. Tell me about a wonderful potluck supper in Chilmark with Venetian maskmakers and Tanzanian giraffe wranglers, and I’ll suddenly recall I’ve got to read Chapter 7 of “The Brothers Karamazov,” a book I’ve been meaning to revisit since my sophomore year in college, and that I’ll probably re-finish during my last gasps at Windemere.

So when my mother comes to stay for her month of sea breezes after the scorched-earth policy of a Palm Desert August, she mostly falls in with my plan of living la vie sans voiture. But alas, this 94-year-old woman still lusts after a car, specifically a car with herself in the driver’s seat, so she can chew up the macadam like the little old lady from Pasadena — cue the Beach Boys: She drives real fast and she drives real hard, she’s the terror of Colorado Boulevard.

The only reason she’s spared speeding tickets is that cops are beguiled by the date of birth itemized on her license. “This can’t be your age!” they guffaw, forgetting she just whizzed through a stop sign, and moreover, clunked it hard enough to turn it the wrong way.

During our first few summers together, my mom begged, borrowed, and even rented cars from people hoping to sell but willing instead to take the short money.

Surviving the drive, near the Inkwell.
Surviving the drive, near the Inkwell.

But now that I live smack in the middle of Oak Bluffs, it’s easy to walk everywhere, and to catch the bus below Ocean Park, and be driven to worlds beyond worlds. For a while now my mother has bided her vacation time without any car whatsoever, until —

Until last weekend when her grandson Charlie, now living in New York, proposed a 23-hour furlough to come see her. Suddenly we had to rent a car. A car you could hug — my own stipulation — a Smart car, a Mini Cooper, a go-cart. My mom paid a call to that rental place at Five Corners and came up with — ta dah! — a Fiat Cinquecento.

We knew these cars from 1960 when our family lived in Rome and everyone-but-everyone had a Cinquecento. Think of an automobile smaller than a VW Bug. Now picture 9 million of these things buzzing around the Piazza del Popolo at one o’clock in the afternoon. And what happened if you crossed over to the next piazza — the one with the fettucine Alfredo joint? Same thing; another 9 million Cinquecenti.

Once, as we entered a tiny cobbled lane in the ancient city, a gray Cinquecento swooped past us close enough to flatten our toes. My dad lifted his right foot and kicked a hole in the rear flank of the car. The driver screeched to a stop, got out, and made the customary death threats. My dad hustled us into a shop of Florentine leather goods, down the basement steps, up a ladder, and into the safety of an alley with drifts of people’s laundry.

So what did we do this past weekend with this white Cinquecento, with a top that peeled down, insuring a cannoli-sized tan on our heads? Also on the funky side, the drive gear gave us an illusory frisson of wielding a stick shift: As the car rolled, the engine whined like a manual transmission’s, so we tapped the gear. The engine smoothed, until five seconds later it required another tappity-tap-tap. (Later, when Charlie arrived, he demonstrated a place where the drive gear could hang out on full automatic.)

Italian engineering! Cue “Volare”: Nel blu dipinto di blu tap tap!

So what did we do? Errands! A run to the Tisbury Farm Market for Marvin Jones’s guacamole! A dash to the library to return books! Come night, we scanned the paper for a movie: nothing of interest to anyone who’d made it by hook or by crook out of the ninth grade. But what’s this? A Buddhist speaker at the Yoga Barn in Chilmark?!

Off we went. My mom tried to bluster her way out of removing her shoes. I blew my cool by revealing to all and sundry that we decided on this talk for lack of a good movie.

By Day Two, car ownership — however temporary — lost its magic. We drove to Edgartown to dine at the Seafood Shanty, found NOT ONE parking spot, not even way-the-heck down on South Water Street, nor under the shaggy magnolia of an unused church parking lot. Back we circled to the edge of town. We enjoyed a stop ‘n shop at the — golly! what a coincidence — Stop ‘n Shop, before looping up to the airport to collect Charlie (I could swear my mom negotiated the roundabout with her eyes closed).

It was, admittedly, a treat to drive to Vineyard Haven for our last-ever dinner at the soon-to-be-closing Le Grenier. The next morning we “wasted” our car by walking to breakfast at Beetlebung in Oak Bluffs. After that we drove Signore CinqueC. to East Chop to pay respects to our past which includes, over the fence from our old house, the burial spot for our old trusty cocker spaniel.

We dropped Charlie at the ferry, where I restrained myself from wrapping my arms around his ankle as he shuffled off to the boat.

Our final pilgrimage took us to the sweeping view beyond the West Chop Lighthouse where my mom and dad, when they used to visit in the fall, renting both a Tashmoo condo and some clunker car, came to sit and stare at the Sound, the whole time discussing what they’d have for lunch.

Was it worth it? The use of a car that enabled us to do a gazillion things in 48 hours? You bet! But once the novelty wore off, the nuisance factor kicked in: parking, gas, traffic, parking. Two days of driving every 12 months is really all you need to feel truly alive.

Now where did I put “The Brothers Karamazov”?

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The green table came from a friend's storage unit, which Holly then, "painted, stenciled, sanded and left outside for two years; [the] chairs I set out for free in front of A Gallery, painted and put new cushions on them." — Michael Cummo

For those of us who’ve lived a thousand lives in this single lifetime, moved a thousand times, identified more with Bedouin wanderers than, let’s just say, my Grandma Olga who never moved from her house at 12 DuMerle Street in Lowell, we discover that each new abode means empty rooms. And chances are, because we nomads give away more stuff than we ever take in (how else to stay mobile?), each new domicile means we’ll be begging, buying, and borrowing new household gear.

Holly's bedroom, composed mostly of an antique bedframe, a refurbished dresser and a carpet from the Campground flea market.
Holly’s bedroom, composed mostly of an antique bedframe, a refurbished dresser and a carpet from the Campground flea market.

This peripatetic lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with a tight budget. Super-rich people may travel far and wide on their private jets, but they also own property, and whether or not this includes a villa in Antigua, an apartment at One Hyde Square, and a castle in the Inner Hebrides, this real estate is a fancy ball-and-chain. No way can a person in this position feel the sheer wanderlust of the holy fool who starts fresh with each new home.

And that’s where thrift shops, with all their offshoots — yard sales, friends-and-family giveaways, free stuff dumped at the side of the road — come into play.

If you’ve lived in the same place for more than seven years, if you collect and collect and rarely unload any of your domestic goods, and if, moreover, you’ve got forgotten junk in storage (and part of a nomad’s credo is that every item of any value should be used by someone and never tucked away to gather dust), or if — in the most extreme cases — you’re one of those bona fide hoarders, then you’ll fail to grasp how those of us caught up in a migratory lifestyle can sell for cheap or give away our goods like passing out bags of Oysterettes at a clam chowder festival.

But that’s what we do.

The green table came from a friend's storage unit, which Holly then, "painted, stenciled, sanded and left outside for two years; [the] chairs I set out for free in front of A Gallery, painted and put new cushions on them."
The green table came from a friend’s storage unit, which Holly then, “painted, stenciled, sanded and left outside for two years; [the] chairs I set out for free in front of A Gallery, painted and put new cushions on them.”
Here are a few of the scores of articles that over the decades I’ve relinquished:

— My great-Aunt Bertha’s monstrously heavy wooden box of silver wear. The year was 1974, I was leaving New York to return to L.A. to live with a boyfriend, a Beverly Hills lawyer, with whom I’d last for one measly month. I was romantic enough to stash all my belongings inside a wooden trunk. This came in handy when the guy sent me and my Siamese cat packing from his über-conventional ranch house in the Valley.

— An upright Wurlitzer piano bought for $1,800 from a dealer in Falmouth who shipped it to us in East Chop. When my son’s piano lessons ended as he left for college, and the buyers of our house offered a chiseling $400 for the Wurlitzer, I donated it to a Brazilian pastor. He and two parishioners loaded it into a station wagon, which sagged heavily as it bumped from our driveway.

— A queen bed given to me by an heiress girlfriend, with the best mattress I’ve ever slept on, and a princess-y frame of porcelain-and-brass. I donated it to friends who bought a vast Victorian manor, as I set off to a tiny apartment over my bookstore where the bedroom could fit a double bed at best.

— A Picasso ceramic pitcher acquired in ’71 from the master’s studio in St. Paul du Vence. A few years back I sold it on eBay for $1,000 — I needed the do-re-mi.

Get the idea? “You can’t take it with you!” ain’t just for the journey beyond the grave; for the authentic nomad it applies to each and every move that he or she makes.

Mother Nature created a small percentage of us this way. This nutty. This carpe diem-y.

So here are some of the thrift store — and cousins-of-thrift-store — finds I’ve cobbled together for my current apartment in the old deconsecrated Oak Bluffs library, with mansard ceilings and a loft-like ambience, with windows framing gingerbread cottages and luscious gardens. Two steps lead down to an ample bedroom and a dormer bumped out to support high, south-facing windows:

— A pale green dining table with stenciled pink flowers, distressed to a fare-thee-well, its antique French provincial quality cultivated by leaving it outdoors for two years.

— A small table painted with a pastoral scene of sheep, farmhouse, and the ocean, with decorative curly-cue clouds; this precious item picked up for $25 at the Vineyard Haven Thrift Shop, may God bless it for all time.

— A small, sea-foam-green breakfront with glass doors in which only one pane is missing: I sweet-talked it away from a friend in the midst of de-clutttering his Chappy farmhouse.

— An antique scroll-bed bought from a collectibles dealer who decamped before I realized the frame was too small for a modern mattress. I’ve got a regular double mattress squashed down into it, with bungie cords to keep the frame from pulling apart.

For the nomadic decorator, the key tool is an electric sander: Take an elderly item of furniture — an end table, a chair, a desk — paint it any color, sand it to bring out the pentimento hues of times past, as well as lovely wood grains that provide a marble patina, and Bob’s your uncle: all your furniture will be gorgeous.

And, of course, anyone can enjoy thrift shop and yard sale charm without having to pack up the camel and move every three years. There is always a need to replace, refresh, fill in with some new, funky old item (not forgetting sander and paintbrush).

These venues are gold mines of whimsical lamps, gently used slow cookers, baskets and boxes for attractive storage right out in the open, and beautiful throw rugs such as the six- by four-foot carpet I recently found at the Campground flea market, a little girl’s dreamscape of a cut-out doll with tabbed apparel right down to Sunday school frock, overalls, and skirted swimsuit.

I like it better than the Picasso pitcher I sold on eBay and I’m still $955 ahead of the game.

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“Looking Back,” by Shirley Mayhew, Music Street Press, 2014,

In March of 1946, Shirley Mayhew, a West Tisbury resident for the past 65 years, met her husband-to-be, Johnny Mayhew, at a mixer at Pembroke College in Providence.  “The campus, after several years of being dominated by women due to World War II, was being flooded by returning veterans,” Ms. Mayhew writes in her self-published memoir, “Looking Back.”

Shirley, a stunningly attractive young sophomore (one sees this from the photos; the author herself is self-effacing to an endearing degree), attends the mixer to please a far more extroverted friend. When Shirley meets Johnny, a Vineyard native of 10 generations, and an Air Force pilot to boot, they hang together the way two wallflowers will connect in the corner of a crowded room. They stroll into town in the dead of night. He has a girlfriend, and yet they go on meeting. Suddenly the girlfriend vanishes from the picture, and Johnny proposes in a comically laconic way: “’You wouldn’t marry me, would you?’ Without a pause to think it over, I said, ‘Sure.’” Out of this understated beginning arose a lasting marriage with three children, three granddaughters, and six-plus decades of life in what the author herself describes as “the slow lane” in West Tisbury unfolds.

Everyone should live in such a slow lane. Ms. Mayhew recounts her early days as a young bride on Martha’s Vineyard where her new husband followed his bliss by fishing for a living, later expanding to an oyster farm. Later both Johnny and Shirley earned teaching degrees and worked in the school system to support their family.

Ms. Mayhew is a good sport from the very start. She writes, “I married my husband more than 60 years ago for better or for worse — but not for fishing…. The tide and the weather determine a fisherman’s life — and the life of his wife, if she ever wants to see him. The first mistake I made was getting married in September, during the Oscar-season of the Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.”

The author’s style is engaging as she takes us through Hurricane Carol to her many years on the banks of Look’s Pond, her worldwide travels, and back to her Island again where this wash-ashore is fully blended with her family-in-law’s ancestry. Ms. Mayhew relates how life in the slow lane on this pastoral island includes up-close-and-personal contact with birds of all stripes, a genius raccoon at the bird-feeder, and an overactive mother-and-baby mouse team whose welfare the young Shirley puts before her own.

A fun chapter, Check Stubs Tell All, takes us on a romp through what things used to cost in 1949: 45 cents for shipping a slip-cover from Bloomingdales, a 3-cent postage stamp, $75 to deliver a baby, 35 cents an hour for babysitting, $2 for a bottle of sherry, and $4.14 for a carton — a carton! — of cigarettes, and this in the day when smoking was good for you! The monthly rental for the West Tisbury parsonage across the road from the Whiting Farm was $35.

In an age when so much media attention is focused on what the younger generations are up to, it’s refreshing to hear from articulate members of the Greatest Generation. Their fighting spirit took this country through The Depression and WWII. Its members brought us the odd yet family friendly era of the 1950s — when women were “…eased back into their homes, with propaganda about how satisfying it was to wax your kitchen floors and to get your clothes squeaky clean with the new bleach products.”

From early potluck suppers and guitar musicales with up-Island friends to funny letters from students’ moms  — “Please excuse Billy’s tardiness. He was helping his father catch our pig (they didn’t succeed)” — to eventual granddaughters, one of whom, Katie Ann Mayhew, sang her way to the Boston Pops in London, the memoirist provides a sweep of Island life by demonstrating that the slow lane is filled with stunning moments of incalculable riches such as this one describing two wounded geese who’d partnered together, only one of whom regained the use of its wings: “He would flap his wings alongside her until he was airborne, and when he realized she was not with him, he would return and land on the water beside her… finally Gus took off a final time, circled, but did not return to Andrea. Because all Canada geese look alike, we never knew whether we ever saw him again.”

“Looking Back” will be stocked at the Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven and, when August traffic shows signs of easing up, at Edgartown Books as well. Stay tuned for news of readings and signings: This is a fine gift for family and friends who wonder what we do and how we keep ourselves in the winter unless  — shhh! — we’d just as soon they never knew.