Authors Posts by Jack Shea

Jack Shea


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Members of the Martha’s Vineyard Junior High/Youth football team will use its four-game schedule to launch an innovative pledge fundraiser designed to turn every Vineyard point scored this coming season into dollars to help veterans. Photo courtesy of Jeffery Scheller
Junior football player go through their summer conditioning drills. Photo courtesy of Jeffery Scheller
Junior football players go through their summer conditioning drills. Photo courtesy of Jeffery Scheller

Early this month, a team of young Island athletes will compete this fall to bring help to returning Island veterans.

The Martha’s Vineyard Junior High/Youth football team will use its four-game schedule to launch an innovative pledge fundraiser designed to turn every Vineyard point scored this coming season into dollars to help veterans with physical, emotional, and financial issues.

Steve Quinn, head coach of the youth team, developed the idea as a way to help Island vets and to teach community outreach to his young players.

Mr. Quinn recently outlined his plan at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School practice field, as he watched team members participating in exercises under the watchful eyes of conditioning coach Jeff Scheller.

This summer, team members and coaches will fan out across the Island to collect pledges from businesses and individuals for their mission.

“We scored 40 points last year. Based on that, if we can get $1,000 in pledges per point, that would be $40,000 we could give to the Martha’s Vineyard VFW Post 9261 in Oak Bluffs for distribution,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to do something for our military, give back for the lives they make and have made possible for us,” he said. “And it’s a good teaching tool. Like the military, football is about hard work, teamwork, and the guy next to you.”

The young men, and women cheerleaders, in our program are excited and looking forward to giving back in this way,” he said.

Fellow coach Zeke Vought, a Navy corpsman who served in Iraq in 2005, amplified that view.

“Personally, I thought military service is the most honorable thing you can do, and these kids, they internalize, personalize our service, and show respect to veterans like me,” he said.

Mr. Vought is no stranger to community service. Twenty years ago he served in City Year, a national inner-city community improvement organization.

Mr. Vought has been designated as the point man for the fundraising effort. In addition to coaches Micah Vought, Gustavo Simoes, and Jared Meader, on hand for the discussion were incoming VFW Post Commander Rich Berard and players Tristan Scheller, Christian Turner, Micah Vought, Kai Rose, James Murray, and Taylor Trudel.

Mr. Berard, who served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989, said the Post would honor the youth team at a season-ending dinner.

“These kids understand,” he said. “They all have an uncle, a parent, or another family member who has been or is in military service. Our members are all excited by this program. Society is becoming concerned about veterans again. I’d love for the kids to sit with people like Nelson Smith at the dinner. Nelson is 96, our oldest member, and a Word War II veteran.”

For now, the middle schoolers are on the practice field, conditioning themselves to give back to the Island community.

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Jan Pogue’s publishing house releases its last three books.

Jan Pogue owner of Vineyard Stories. – Photo by Eli Dagostino
Courtesy Vineyard Stories
Courtesy Vineyard Stories

Jan Pogue’s love of this place is reflected in the final three books she has chosen to publish in 2015 before shuttering her Vineyard Stories publishing company after 10 extraordinary years of success.

Vineyard Stories is a story itself. Ms. Pogue and her husband, John Walter, launched their publishing enterprise in 2005. Three years later, the respected former journalist died unexpectedly, his shattered widow holding the pieces of their life and meticulously crafting them into a mosaic of their shared dream.

Ms. Pogue has completed that work and is — meticulously — ending the active life of Vineyard Stories. Island readers and writers will miss the little publishing company that could, and did, present us with nearly 50 top-quality works, several of which earned a spot on best-seller lists. Now, as a farewell, she has provided us with three perspectives on Martha’s Vineyard, representing more than 40 years of our history.

The first comes from Tom Dunlop, author of three other books for Vineyard Stories, who has compiled and edited a group of essays about the Island by Pulitzer prizewinner William A. Caldwell called “Reflections on Martha’s Vineyard.” Mr. Caldwell wrote the pieces as a weekly columnist for more than a decade at the Vineyard Gazette.

Mr. Dunlop culled hundreds of Mr. Caldwell’s columns, and arranged his selections by topic, on the Island, nature, food, language, seasons, and predicaments. The cover photo of Mr. Caldwell makes the man look like his words, at once bearded and bemused, with world-wise but sparkling eyes looking out from under a fisherman’s cap. (Mr. Dunlop has been actively promoting the book around the Island, and will read from the collection again on Wednesday, August 5, at 7 pm at the Edgartown library.)

His style fits and describes the place, often through the recounting of otherwise unremarkable events. His

Courtesy Vineyard Stories
Courtesy Vineyard Stories

daughter, Alix Caldwell McArdle, says in back-cover notes: “I do not know why writers write. I do not know why my Pop wrote. But these Vineyard Gazette columns give me the best hint: It is to bear witness.”

The second Vineyard Stories offering comes from new author Adam Moore, executive director of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, who writes as a diarist, with monthly reflections in “A Year on Martha’s Vineyard.” I wish Mr. Moore’s book was around 30 years ago. Before I lived here, I scrounged for Vineyard publications and books to read over the winter, in anticipation of next year. It will resonate this winter when I am snug in Vineyard Haven.

It’s that kind of read, and a wonderful first effort by Mr. Moore. He writes quietly and with great clarity in a monthly rhythm about living here, in a series of short essays — reports and reflections really — throughout the seasons of a year.

Mr. Moore, who is a naturalist by trade and clearly by his own nature, tells us small stories; what a blizzard feels like up-Island, and how stunned he is by the fertility of this place. Here’s a Walt Whitmanesque sample from July: “A day or two later I walked through the woods at Pennywise Preserve in Edgartown and was amazed to see the profusion, the fecundity of huckleberries. Everywhere I looked, everywhere I stepped, were plump, ripe, black huckleberries. That July I found myself absolutely astounded by the sheer beauty around. I remain astounded to this day.”

The third book, by artist Gail Rodney, represents the efforts of a summer she spent sketching Island life as she found it, in “A Martha’s Vineyard and Chappy Sketchbook.” The book matches the watercolor scenes with brief commentaries from 28 residents detailing what they love or value most about the Island. Ms. Rodney is a 40-year Chappaquiddick resident whose book was inspired by the Island itself; “the serene beauty stirred a desire to paint and draw.” “A Martha’s Vineyard and Chappy Sketchbook” includes about 150 mostly miniature detailed watercolors of iconic places and pursuits, the things we all see in a given summer. It is visually evocative, made concrete by the words of Island residents accompanying each page of sketches.

Courtesy Vineyard Stories
Courtesy Vineyard Stories

It is perhaps not coincidental that photographer Alison Shaw and writer/editor Tom Dunlop collaborated on the final flock of Vineyard Stories. Both have been constant colleagues in the life of Vineyard Stories, perhaps most notably as the photographer and writer respectively for “Morning Glory Farm and the Family that Feeds an Island,” a hugely successful Vineyard Stories book.

For the most recent reads, Ms. Shaw contributed the cover photos for the Caldwell and Moore books. Mr. Dunlop selected and edited the Caldwell compilation.

“Well, I did pick them because each of them expresses the greatest of love for the Vineyard. Gail’s sketchbook and the quotes from residents are about love. The Caldwell book is a retrospective love. And how can you turn down Adam Moore, the quintessential Island naturalist? Ultimately, I chose them, I guess, because they made me happy, as the Vineyard makes me happy,” Ms. Pogue said last week. Ms. Pogue will not build more books, but will remain at Vineyard Stories for a year, shepherding her literary flock.

Good choices: “Reflections on Martha’s Vineyard” ($19.95), “A Martha’s Vineyard And Chappy Sketchbook” ($24.95), and “A Year On Martha’s Vineyard” ($19.95) are available at Island bookstores and libraries.

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The annual writers’ oasis features workshops with John Hough, Justen Ahren, and Niki Patton, among others.

At Islanders Write 2014, cookbook authors, from left, Cathy Walthers, Jessica Harris, Susie Middleton, and Tina Miller. — Photo by Bella Bennett

There are places that just attract writers.

Our Island does. Sausalito, a couple of miles across the bay from San Francisco, is another literary haven akin to us. Sausalito was not much in the 1930s and 1940s, a fishing community with a few boat builders and local businesses that served fewer than 10,000 inhabiting souls. A few writers settled, then others came.

Early Updike was published there. Evan S. Connell Jr., an underrecognized American 20th century novelist, poet, and short-story writer, was a mainstay. The list of first-rate writers who have worked in Sausalito is long.

Today the fishing is gone; a few boat builders persevere, but Sausalito has become a creative processing center, awash in bookish companies, services, and endeavors, and with people who love the written word. Resident Carol Sheldon writes a series of mysteries set in Sausalito. All sounds familiar, eh?

Hard to know how or why these literary communities spring up. Certainly, alluring geography is important. And while writing is a solitary business, writers need other writers, it seems. Like Sausalito, we had the troika (Styron, Buchwald, and Wallace), and we have McCullough, that lion of words, Brooks and Horwitz, Fairstein and Patterson, all names that have drawn their colleagues to our community.

But last August, no one at The Times and Arts & Ideas magazine expected the flood of people, energy, and ideas that flooded the inaugural Islanders Write (IW) event at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. Hundreds of people packed the meeting room upstairs for panels and presentations, and buzzed around tables and hands-on discussions downstairs. Attendees were not browsing. The intensity was palpable. Turns out we are not only chockablock with writers here, but also with people who love writing, who write, or who are looking for a push into the deep end of the writing pool.

The time is approaching to get everyone back together again. The 2015 Islanders Write event is set for Monday, August 10, at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury between 8 am and 5 pm. Doors open at 7:45, and admission is free.

This year’s Islanders Write will present panels and workshops on the art, craft, and business of writing, with a goal of learning through interactive, hands-on work with experts in the art and craft.

This year’s workshops are about writing better: news you can use, so to speak. At noon, Island resident John Hough will lead a discussion on the role of dialogue in fiction writing. Mr. Hough, author of both fiction and nonfiction books, including the nationally acclaimed “Seen The Glory,” also conducts writing workshops in his West Tisbury home. They are known as hardworking interactive sessions, an environment he will bring to the workshop.

Author John Hough will lead a discussion on the role of dialogue in fiction writing.  – MV Times File Photo
Author John Hough will lead a discussion on the role of dialogue in fiction writing. – MV Times File Photo

“Dialogue is the essential element in fiction writing because it moves the action. It provides room for the expository. A great example is George V. Higgins’ ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle.’ Higgins never tells us what the characters are thinking. Dialogue does it,” Mr. Hough told The Times last week. “I encourage writers to bring ideas and passages for discussion. I can talk from my book [“The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue”], but I prefer conversation. While that’s that’s easier in our small writing groups, I think the workshop will fly by,” he said.

Three other workshops are being presented under the mantle of the Noepe Center for Literary Arts, a top-20 U.S. writers’ residency created by director Justen Ahren in 2007. Noepe presenters will encourage attendees to examine the public and private aspects of writing. Susan Klein, a successful author and public storyteller, will lead discussion of “Spice of Life,” a workshop on organizing and writing memoirs, including an overview of writing one’s memoirs and triggering exercises to evoke memories as well as paired sharing.

Another session hosted by Niki Patton, a writer and an accomplished performer of her work, will encourage attendees to hear their own voices in “Writers Read at Islanders Write.” Ms. Patton created Writers Read this February as a monthly sharing forum for writers of all levels to present short readings from their works in progress, fiction or nonfiction, for a fixed amount of time at the West Tisbury library.

At her Islanders Write workshop, attendees will have the opportunity to read from their work, and receive feedback if they wish. Readers can reserve a spot at the workshop by emailing Ms. Patton at

For the inside stuff, Michael West, an Island resident and author of a burgeoning series of novels, will invite workshoppers to spend time “Finding and Facing your Inspiration,” and Mr. Ahren will lead a group in working on many writers’ biggest problem: doing the writing.

Mr. Ahren recently talked about his subject with The Times. “I call the workshop “Devotion: Cultivating a Daily Writing Practice.” I’ll give people prompts and starters that have worked for me over the years to overcome staring at that vast empty page, to get going on a daily basis. Ideas that work at getting rid of the ‘what I am supposed to say’ and to get to the saying part. Sometimes it’s simple. For example, just being grateful will lower stress and anxiety. Being grateful for the day provides an acceptance, no matter what you write that day,” he said.

Along with book signings and other literary delights, IW 2015 will present a daylong series of panel discussions:


Islanders Write,  Monday August 10


8–9 am, Self-Publishing

9–10 am, Writing Poetry

10–11 am, The Business of Publishing

11 am–12 pm, Developing Character and Voice

1–2 pm, Censorship, Free Speech, and Journalism

2–3 pm, Writing for Laughs

3–4 pm, Writing a Screenplay

4–5 pm, Writing Lyrics that Sing


A growing list of Island literati have signed up to give back to their craft, including the following to date: Justen Ahren, Jenny Allen, Nancy Slonim Aronie, Shawn Barber, Lashonda Katrice Barnett. Fred Barron, Lawrence Blume, Geraldine Brooks, Lucy Dahl, Dawn Davis, Lucinda Franks, Nicole Galland, Tony Horwitz, Jemima James, Amy Holden Jones, Sarah Kernochan, Willy Mason, Richard Michelson, Donald Nitchie, Peter Oberfest, Jamie Raab, Jon Randal, Amy Reece, Arnie Reisman, Katherine Scheidler, Rosemary Stimola, John Sundman, Jennifer Tseng, Michael West.

For a schedule with complete descriptions of workshops and panels, along with bios of all participants, visit:


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Lisa DeLorme Cash’s children’s book keeps the educator's legacy alive.

Lisa DeLorme Cash authored the 'Spool Days' before her death in 2011. - Photo courtesy Kiner Cash

We can forget that books are more than the words we are reading.

That thought came to mind this week during a conversation with Dr. Kriner Cash of Oak Bluffs about “Spool Days,” a children’s book that his wife, Lisa DeLorme Cash, completed during the final years of her life. Ms. Cash died on Sept. 27, 2011, in Memphis, Tenn.

“We’ve always been a goal-oriented family. Not staggering goals, but we’d set three or four a year, and after we achieved them, we’d set some more goals. Lisa was a dedicated educator, and early after our marriage in 1977, Lisa had a goal of writing a children’s book,” he said. Ms. Cash, an educator in Edgartown for four years, also volunteered at a number of Island service agencies during her 20-year residence here.

Life intervened, as it does, and with three growing kids and expanding career responsibilities, Ms. Cash got to undertake her project in 2006, completing the writing and illustrating of “Spool Days” before her death at age 56. “She had completed the book. It just needed a final readover that she had asked me to make. She wanted every comma to be correct. It was a busy year for our family. Our three sons, Kofi, Asil, and Jade, were getting married, within four months of each other, between June and October,” he said.

Ms. Cash had been struggling against a somewhat rare cancer for several years, and her passing was unexpected. While the long-term prognosis was not hopeful, doctors believed she had at least a year and perhaps 4 to 5 five years of living to do, Mr. Cash said. “Lisa was a strong person. She suffered quietly, and she was hopeful,” he said.

Ms. Cash enjoyed son Asil’s wedding in June, struggled physically at Jade’s wedding, then returned to Memphis where Mr. Cash, a former superintendent of Island schools (1995-2004), was superintendent of the Memphis school system. She was resting up for Kofi’s October wedding. “She had setbacks, but she tried hard, and made plans to return to her Island for Kofi’s wedding. She died Sept. 27th on our way to the airport,” he said. Mr. Cash has since retired from the Memphis school superintendency, and lives in Oak Bluffs.

The loss of a parent and spouse is difficult to process, and losing Ms. Cash in the midst of her boys’ celebratory life changes was difficult for the Cash men. “We are all alpha males, but I will say that the grieving process has strengthened our relationships,” he said.

Mr. Cash said “Spool Days” had a major impact on their recovery process. Ms. Cash, a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C., earned a B.F.A. from the College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati, and used those skills in writing and illustrating her book.

“Spool Days” has been published, and is available at the Bunch of Grapes bookstore ($14.95). “Spool Days” is dedicated to Lisa’s three grandchildren, Tyson, Harper, and Cameron.

“A copy of ‘Spool Days’ will be donated to each Island elementary school, to the Charter School, and to each town library. Proceeds will be placed in a fund in Lisa’s memory to contribute to educational projects that motivate and inspire children to pursue their dreams,” Mr. Cash said.

The opening page describes the book as “A story of a young girl growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, who had a dream of becoming a school teacher.” It is the narrative of a young girl’s life, Lisa DeLorme’s life, growing up in a family of educators who saw its life-forming values, and encouraged their daughter to spend a few hours a day in study, sharing her knowledge with her grandmother each evening.

The little girl has a backyard bunny rabbit who receives a kiss daily, and a fig tree to sit in. The fig tree gets a hug every day before the girl attends to her studies.

To make her work fun, the little girl uses items from her collectibles basket — a feather, coins, red glasses, a set of jacks; items that remind her of a specific person in her school class. The symbols became her own class. She teaches them what she is learning. When school is out, the icons reside on the spools at the top of the girl’s bedposts. “Spool Days” is a gentle, sweet story with life lessons for kids.

“Lisa’s natural essence, personality, and philosophy as an educator and mother are mirrored and illuminated through the story’s lead character, a young girl nicknamed ‘Buttercup.’ Lisa and Buttercup showed and continue to show tremendous honesty, kindness, imagination, love, and respect for the strong women and men in their families. Her clear desire to work hard and to do well in school, in her chosen profession, and in life, are timeless, unassailable qualities that should resonate well for all youth — today and for generations to come,” Mr. Cash said.


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A state grant coupled with a private grant will fund the construction of a new education center and botany lab.

The Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury plans to break ground this fall on a new 2,800-square-foot learning center and laboratory. – Courtesy Polly Hill Arboretum

The Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury plans to break ground this fall on a new 2,800-square-foot learning center and laboratory. The project will be funded in part with a $200,000 Massachusetts Cultural Commission (MCC) grant received earlier this year, and a grant of $500,000 from the Cedar Tree Foundation, along with smaller donations.

The facility is expected to be completed by fall 2016 at a cost of nearly $1 million, Tim Boland, Polly Hill executive director, told The Times.

The Polly Hill Arboretum is a nonprofit preserve set on 70 acres off State Road. Named after its founder, Polly Hill, the nearly 60-year-old facility, home to more than 2,000 plant and arboreal species, has been open to the public since 1998.

“This grant, coupled with a $500,000 matching grant from the Cedar Tree Foundation and donations from members and Island groups, has provided us with $940,000 in available funds to undertake the project,” Mr. Boland said, noting that fundraising efforts will continue through the summer for furnishings and furniture for the center.

The Cedar Tree Foundation (CTF) is a Boston-based small family fund created by the late pediatrician and entrepreneur Dr. David H. Smith, a seasonal West Tisbury resident whose interest in botany also led him to reshape Polly Hill as a nonprofit in 1988.

“Dr. Smith believed in the power of individuals and organizations to make significant changes in our world, and we reflect that belief in our grantmaking,” CTF states on its website.

Polly Hill’s new Education Center and Botany Lab will be located near the Homestead administrative building, on a site now occupied by the original (and very creaky) structure at Polly Hill, which had served as both a residence and an administration building.

“All of our contractors are Island companies,” Mr. Boland said, noting that Tucker Hubbell and the Rising Sun Construction Co. in West Tisbury will be the lead contractor. Peter Rodegast of West Tisbury and Margaret Curtin of Vineyard Haven drafted the design.

“In scale and design, the building will be consistent with the other buildings on the campus, and we’ll use as much of the material from the old building as we can in the new one,” Mr. Boland said.

The building will not be LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) but will generally meet LEED criteria, including insulation and solar panels that are expected to generate 50 percent of the building’s energy needs, Mr. Boland said.

The Polly Hill Arboretum Education Center and Botany Lab, as the new center is named, will enhance three important pieces of the Polly Hill mission, Mr. Boland said.

“We will be able to offer our education programs on a year-round basis. We have been using a rehabbed barn, which is pleasant, but it’s open and uninsulated. Along about October, it can get uncomfortable,” he said.

The new meeting room will seat 30 people.

“We’re also planning to expand our reach. To date, we’ve been able to offer learning programs for kids up to sixth grade. The new, larger facility will allow us to offer programs to seventh grade right through high school,” he said, emphasizing that botanical training is critical today, particularly in light of ecological concerns planet-wide. College degrees conferred in botany sciences have slumped 50 percent since 1988, and advanced degrees are down 41 percent in that period, he said: “Many kids are choosing micro- and molecular-biology disciplines instead.”

Polly Hill staffers serve as trainers for the staffs of the Island’s multiple nature conservancy groups. “We serve as the go-to source for conservancy groups needing to identify plants and learn about their care and treatment,” he said.

Finally, the new building will provide much-needed lab space and critically needed storage space, particularly to provide a climate-controlled home for Polly Hill’s “herbarium” — a collection of 3,000 plant specimens which have been collected, arranged in a natural form, pressed to paper, dried, and inserted in folders.

“They are stored in various file cabinets now. Under proper conditions, specimens in this form can last up to 150 to 200 years,” Mr. Boland said.

He said that the Americans with Disabilities Act requirement for an elevator in a building like the center provided a planning opportunity. “We decided to expand the basement level to capacity in order to maximize our laboratory and storage space. We will have 12 storage units serving as a big repository for plant specimens, vascular plants, lichen, and for our first donated herbarium, Rose Treat’s seaweed herbarium,” he said. The late centenarian Rose Treat spent decades on the Island studying and collecting seaweed.

“We’re not just a beautiful place. There are lots of layers going on here. I think Polly would be pleased,” Mr. Boland said.

For more information, call 508-693-9426.


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Artists Imogene Drummond and Rich Blundell collaborated on the surfboard project. – Photo courtesy Pamela Benjamin.

Rich Blundell is a big thinker who has synthesized his views on the human relationship to our universe into a developing multimedia presentation named “The Surfer’s Guide to the Universe.”

Currently a doctoral candidate on the cosmic narrative at Macquarie University in New South Wales, Mr. Blundell, 49, is a Duxbury native and a continuous Island visitor who is using woodcrafting to seed money for his “Surfer’s Guide” project, designed to promote awareness of our cosmic relationships.

The artist has been busy working on a handmade wooden surfboard sculpture to support his cause. Titled “Pelagic Pulses,” the surfboard features an original painting by Imogene Drummond on one side, and a smooth, perfectly polished wooden finish on the other.

The board was built primarily out of of sustainably grown and harvested wood, glass, and adhesives. There are no metal or plastic fasteners of any type. The internal “fishbone” framework, painted panel, and rails are made from marine-grade sapele and meranti plywoods. The planks and fin alternate between western red cedar, Atlantic white cedar, and Asian paulownia, protected by 10 coats of mineral spirits and pure tung oil.

According to his website, the sculpture “is the culmination of over two decades of wooden surfboard design, ride, creation, and evolution, now in collaboration with striking artistic expressions in paint. While the warm wood tones and gentle curves arching across one side invoke a sense of control and refinement, the abstract splashes of color on the other side provoke feelings commensurate with the exuberant complexity of the cosmos.”

The surfboard is currently on display through July 31 at the Workshop art gallery on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, between the Times office and Seaworthy Gallery. Visitors to the Workshop or to his website,, are invited to participate in an online auction for the surfboard through the end of the month.

Mr. Blundell completed the board in the workspace of the Gannon and Benjamin boatyard, which is, you guessed it, conveniently located behind the Times and the Workshop. He has calculated that he he’ll need $23,000 to do the groundwork for the “Surfer’s Guide” components: a book, a documentary film, a lecture series, and website content.

So will the board raise $23K? “I have no idea,” he laughed last week during an interview at The Times office. Nor has he calculated its value. “There are certainly hundreds of hours in it, not including the number of boards that did not make the cut, so to speak,” he said.

Rich Blundell's handmade wooden surfboard, titled "Pelagic Pulses," currently on display at the Workshop in Vineyard Haven. – Photo by Sophie Petkus
Rich Blundell’s handmade wooden surfboard, titled “Pelagic Pulses,” currently on display at the Workshop in Vineyard Haven with painting by Imogene Drummond. – Photo by Sophie Petkus

Mr. Blundell shows up as an energetic, regular guy who happens to be very, very intelligent, and as a man who has used far-flung and pragmatic life experiences in nature to hone his views.

The surfboard-making process is an example. “I developed a process I call ‘strip and feather,’ which allows me to create a seamless bond between the curved pieces of wood. Wood has to be teased and cajoled into taking the shape you require,“ he said. Sounds like a cosmic relationship. Then there’s the relationship of wood to water. “The necessary characteristic of a surfboard is that it will surf well. This one does,” he said. Pragmatic.

Mr. Blundell’s ultimate goal is to make the world, our cosmos, a better place. “We don’t spend a lot of time contemplating our relationship with the biosphere, appreciating and reciprocating with it. The degradation of the biosphere is related to that lack of understanding. That’s what I’m after, a frame of reference for living in our cosmos,” said Mr. Blundell.

“We are a young country, a young species. We haven’t come full circle to understanding who we are and where we’re from,” he said. “Where the cosmic story comes in is that it provides a framework for living, beyond our own personal problems or the economy or political circumstances.”

For Mr. Blundell, that first transformative awareness came almost 25 years ago off Stellwagen Bank, as a commercial fisherman. “We had landed an 800-pound tuna, and everyone was high-fiving and congratulating me. It was about the money we would make.

“But something happened when I looked at this superbly designed, magnificent creature.
As I watched the light go out of his eyes, I knew my initial reaction was wrong. There was no acknowledgment of relationship or gratitude for this creature. Now don’t get me wrong. I like fish. I eat fish,” he said.

That transformative moment led Mr. Blundell to take his geology/environmental science degree from Northeastern University on a continuing saga of life experiences in nature. “It was all for the life experiences — academics call it ‘phenomenology,’” he said. And of those he has many, including three years sailing with the Sea Education Association out of Woods Hole, starting a company to run sealife study expeditions in the Caribbean, organizing campout bush safaris for students on Kenyan tribal lands, and eventually following a mentor to Macquarie University to pursue his imminent doctorate.

This month, the big thinker and pragmatist is taking another step toward his goal — to help our species play well with the others in our cosmos.


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The play’s the thing, on Sunday mornings.

Arlen Roth, sporting a New York Mets T shirt and cap, lobs in a pitch during Sunday morning's weekly Chilmark softball game. –Photos by Michael Cummo

A joyful group of Island seasonal and year-round residents cavorted — well, jogged mostly — around Pasture Field in Chilmark last Sunday morning in an engaging and offbeat version of America’s pastime.

Alex Sonnenthal, playing in his first Chilmark softball game, recorded a hit.
Alex Sonnenthal, playing in his first Chilmark softball game, recorded a hit.

Whoops of laughter enlivened a sunny morning as 60- and 70somethings, dotted with a few 20somethings and at least one 11-year-old, took the field in the Island’s oldest continuous traveling softball league.

The players tell you that the game is played for the joy of it, for camaraderie and fellowship, a community event that involves two or three generations of families in the 83-year-old Island institution,

Focus on “offbeat” here. The Chilmark Softball League (CSL) doesn’t have teams, it has people who show up, often enough to play three games on a Sunday morning. Teams are selected on an ad hoc basis. Players toss their gloves into a pile. The pile is then separated into two smaller piles. “You find your glove, and that’s the team you’re on,” league commissioner Bill Edison said on Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Edison described himself as a self-appointed commissioner. It’s a fun title, he said. “Actually, all I do is help get the field ready and post information on Facebook,” he said.

Mr. Edison, 87, has been in the league for nearly 60 years as a player and its culture keeper. As noted in an article written almost a decade ago for Martha’s Vineyard magazine by national sportswriter Jim Kaplan, the league has hosted hundreds of Islanders, visitors, and a pocketful of celebrities.

Spike Lee, Robert Crichton, and Roger Baldwin have all stepped between the often lumpy lines to play in the CSL. Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson did not. Let Mr. Edison tell the story:

Zachary Graybes-Miller knocks the ball deep.
Zachary Graybes-Miller knocks the ball deep.

“I was pitching one Sunday, probably I was in my 40s, and I had two down in the ninth. A little wimpy guy was up next, and I needed one more out to win the game. This big, strapping African-American guy had just shown up, and someone shouted, ‘Put him in as a pinch hitter.’ I objected. I wanted to win, and he looked like he could hit. Only later I learned that the guy was Jackie Robinson. That man was my hero. It would have been a proud moment for me if I gave up a game-winning home run to Jackie Robinson. I mellowed after that.”

The CSL is mellow today. An old-timey chalk scoreboard carries a partially recorded score of a game sometime in the past.

After modest beginnings in a back lot behind Dave Flanders’ house in the 1930s, the CSL moved to a larger field in the 1960s behind Muriel Toomey’s house on the road to Aquinnah, later to the West Tisbury Elementary School, and now to its current site off Pasture Road in Chilmark. The league has expressed several personalities from competitive to mellow.

“In the beginning, it was loose, few rules, then went through a competitive period, with arguments and tension,” Mr. Edison said. “About 10 years ago, Bill Meegan and I moved it to Flanders Field. We named it after Dave Flanders. Dave got me started in the league. He was a great player, had a tryout with the Boston Red Sox,”

On Sunday morning, it was pretty clear the Red Sox weren’t missing any prospects — although shortstop Jerry Murphy showed a cannon of an arm — and it’s also a safe bet that a bunch of major league millionaires were not as happy playing the game on Sunday as these ballplayers are.

Paul Iantosca, a Boston neighborhood guy and a summer seasonal resident, seemed as pleased about his red CSL hat and T shirt as he is with his successful real estate development company.

“If you show up consistently for a year, you get this hat. Show up a second year, you get the T shirt,” the gregarious, though not fleet-footed, player said.

“I knew about the league for 35 years, but I never came because I thought they would be too good for me. Five years ago, I came and said to myself, I can play with these guys,” he said.

Alex Balaban remembered times as a kid with his dad, Dan Balaban, who played into his 80s. “He started at 16, so that’s almost 70 years,” he said. Beside him, daughter Sophie Balaban was resting after running her game-day lemonade stand, which raises money for the Martha’s Vineyard Animal Shelter.

The stories went on. About the time the U.S. Coast Guard played in the league until the morning a boat ran aground. Where’s the Coast Guard? Famed puppeteer Bil Baird trotted off his Chilmark porch to tow the boat off. “That was the end of the Coast Guard at our games,” Mr. Edison said.

Two players made their debut on Sunday: Larry Feig of Newton is a veteran of the EMass Senior Softball League, while 11-year-old Alex Sonnenthal, visiting from Berlin, Germany, lined a single in his first CSL at-bat.

Joel “Rocky” Bleier was there. Honey Heller, as she has for many summer Sundays, jogged from the homestead to support husband Keith Heller. Howie Bromberg, for whom the annual “Howie Hustle Award” is named, was in the house. Longtime player Peter Simon was not, but Zachery Graves-Miller won the “Shoeless Peter Simon Award” for playing in bare feet.

The closest thing to conflict occurred when no one could recall who was supposed to lead off an inning. It was resolved when a player grabbed a bat and strode to the plate, as most observers watched a pair of magnificent Belgian horses stroll past on the road just behind right field.

Arlen Roth pitched awhile for both teams. Noting the mix of friendship, camaraderie, and generational interaction, the noted Island musician said, “This is unbelievable. It’s the ultimate level playing field.”


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Since 1997, Vineyard House has been the only long-term sober-living facility for Islanders who are coming back to the Island after detox or rehab.

Vineyard House benefactor Joel Greenberg speaks about his mother at the dedication of the Carol Potasnik Greenberg women's residence Sunday.

Dedication ceremonies for the Carol Potasnik Greenberg women’s recovery residence at the Vineyard House campus in Vineyard Haven Sunday morning were an emotional affair for donors Joel Greenberg and his wife, Marcy Gringlas, and for the approximately 70 Island residents in attendance from the recovery community and recovery service providers.

The Greenbergs are seasonal residents who made the Vineyard House a substantial matching-grant offer that enabled the organization to complete a nearly decade-long effort to upgrade the housing it offers to Island residents in early recovery. The $3 million four-building residential and administrative campus, built by Squash Meadow Construction on Short Hill Road off Holmes Hole Road, opened in December 2014.

Designed for group living for 17 men and seven women, including private (for seniors) and semiprivate bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, laundry facilities, and common areas, the complex includes a separate administrative building with a community conference room available for 12-step meetings and other recovery programs.

The new campus.
The new campus.

Short introductory remarks by Board Chairman Mark Jenkins and Executive Director Dawn Bellante-Holland drew comparisons between the transformative nature of recovery and the benefits provided by a safe and secure environment for people building their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Noting the community support for Vineyard House since its inception in 1997, the speakers credited efforts by Squash Meadow Construction, Jardin Mahoney, and a group of building tradesmen who worked on the project.

Mr. Jenkins noted that recovery work is not glamorous work. Indeed, most recovery work is conducted quietly, and observes the anonymity of sufferers. Stories are not often shared in a public setting, and Mr. Goldberg’s often emotional telling of his mother’s life transfixed the audience on Sunday.

Carol Potasnik Greenberg was born in 1927 in Yonkers, N.Y., “in a big family with big hearts who ate a lot, drank a lot, and laughed a lot,” he said. His mother shared the family traits, he said. “In her 40s, she moved to Israel, not speaking a word of Hebrew, to help children, survivors of a school bus bombing by Palestinian terrorists, to rebuild their lives,” he offered as an example.

He said her greatest act of courage came when she was 70, when she admitted that she was an alcoholic and had strained relationships with her family. “She went to rehab, and never had another drink. She mentored and counseled others during the remainder of her life,” he said.

Mrs. Greenberg died in 2013 of pancreatic cancer. She was 85.

Public acclaim for other contributors to the recovery community here has been observed in other Vineyard House buildings. Rooms and buildings are named for Hazel Teagan, who continues her decades of work helping addicts and alcoholics as a nurse at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital; for Kathy Ferland, longtime Vineyard House operations manager who died last month; and for Pat Gregory, who was Vineyard House treasurer and board member when he died in a senseless robbery and murder in 2014 during a California vacation.

The dedication clearly affected Dr. Charles Silberstein, an Island psychiatrist who has written extensively on Island substance abuse and has counseled untold numbers of people in recovery.

“Hazel [Teagan] and I have had this shared vision since 1995, that people would be able leave the hospital’s [former] detox center and move into a recovery environment. Then Julie Norman offered Vineyard House a property right next to the hospital. Amazing. As a psychiatrist, I can observe the ripples of recovery move through the community, something you don’t see in a larger urban community.”

The benefits of the new Vineyard House are best described by people who live there. Jill Huminski is the house manager of the Carol Potasnik Greenberg women’s residence. She has served as the women’s house manager for three years.

“I can see a tremendous difference,” she said. “This residence is telling people that we deserve good things in our lives, and they show respect for their home and toward each other. And I have never seen a group of men come together as they have here.”

Bill C, a Vineyard House resident for six months who asked that he not be identified, agreed. “This place makes me hold my head a little higher, makes me feel better about myself and in my relationships with others,” he said. “We are not on top of each other; there is room for living.”

The Vineyard House will hold its annual fundraiser, Water Tasting by the Sea, on August 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Captain R. Flanders House on North Road in Chilmark. More information is available at

Jack Shea is a freelance writer, and has served on the Vineyard House board.

Five generations, and still fishing.

The Larsens in the 1980s: Louis, Beth, Travis, Hans, and Andrew. – Photo by Alison Shaw

The Larsen family story is huge on this Island. For one thing, there are a lot of them. And they are big, strapping people. Their kids and their grandkids are big. You don’t have to look hard to find a Larsen on Martha’s Vineyard.

The Larsen name is synonymous with fishing and seafood on the Island today, but it wasn’t always that way. Not by a long shot.

Norwegian immigrant Daniel Ludvig Larsen used to take his catboat out of Menemsha to fish in the 1920s. – Courtesy The Larsen family
Norwegian immigrant Daniel Ludvig Larsen used to take his catboat out of Menemsha to fish in the 1920s. – Courtesy The Larsen family

When Norwegian immigrant Daniel Ludvig Larsen took his catboat out of Menemsha to fish in the 1920s, he had the waters to himself. “He wasn’t welcome in the fleet. He told my dad [Louis Larsen Sr.] he fished alone and offshore — but not because he wanted to,” Louis Larsen Jr. recalled with a smile recently at the Net Result, his family’s fish market on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, where he and his wife Beth (Elizabeth Renear) Larsen work side by side. The flourishing Menemsha fishing fleet got all the fish they wanted, right close in the Sound, and they wanted nothing to do with the new guy looking to feed five kids.

Louis’ brother Dan has operated Edgartown Seafood, which is located on Cooke Street at Cannonball Park in Edgartown, for 28 years. Their sister, Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Larsen, and her husband, Robert Sloane, operate the 46-year-old Larsen’s Fish Market hard by the harbor in Menemsha. That’s what’s known as “brand dominance” across the water in America.

Louis Larsen at The Net Result.
Louis Larsen at The Net Result.

The Larsens are now five generations on the Island, but the first three gens weren’t, ah … brand dominant. In fact, each of those generation had some hardscrabble times. Things are better these days. The Net Result is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. “It was all timing. I was out fishing for a living, and the kids were getting bigger. I wanted to be around for them. We opened in 1985, knowing that a seafood store had just failed in Vineyard Haven,” Mr. Larsen said.

“We didn’t make any money; we lost money the first couple of years. We’d just built a house, and the bank would lend us money on the house but not on the business. We learned 1,000 ways to eat codfish. Then the boom hit … thank God,” he said.

Beth Larsen also has a clear memory of the days before the high rollers and tourist dollars provided a myriad of career opportunities for residents in a place where, basically, the land and the ocean had sustained its people for thousands of years.

“We were building our house, living with my parents, working 20-hour days, bay scalloping, oystering. My mother would drive me to Menemsha to haul nets. We’d paint the brand-new house at night,” she said.

Beth is a fourth-generation Islander, descended from French and English lineage that included risk takers as well. “Walter H. Renear, my great-grandfather, started an auto dealership [initially Reo, then Ford motorcars] in the early 1900s on Church Street in Tisbury. My dad, Dixon Renear, left the dealership to start Island Insurance Co. [now the Martha’s Vineyard Insurance Co.]. Dad helped start Camp Jabberwocky. That was his love. We were all involved in it — a wonderful experience,” she said.

Beth and Louis Larsen remember all the details of their courtship, seamlessly handing off elements of a love story with a transcontinental twist. Beth Renear left the Island for school in Boston after high school graduation in 1972, then went farther afield.

“I had relatives in France, living in Paris and outside the city. My grandmother’s sister visited the States, and invited me to visit her. I spent a year in Paris, living with family and studying at the Alliance Française [a French nonprofit organization with cultural and educational initiatives around the world],” she said. Heady stuff for a Tisbury kid, but she remembered Louis, and wrote him a letter from Paris. When she returned home, they began dating, married in 1977, and began a family in 1980.

Last week, the couple talked about their nearly 40 years together. “I’d had a crush on him since we met in sixth grade and —” Ms. Larsen began — “It was the chocolate chip cookies,” Mr. Larsen interjected with a grin.

“Yes. We had a deal. In junior high and high school, he would drop off lobsters in my locker and I’d make chocolate chip cookies and deliver them to Chilmark. Didn’t see him much, though; he was always fishing with his dad,” she said.

Louis and Beth Larsen are authentic people. You like them. Trust them. They are also the last generation that lived the old ways of fishing and life on a virtually unknown Island rooted in the old cultural ways.

“At the time, we [Louis and brother Dan] thought our father was mean, keeping us out there in all kinds of weather, sometimes 20 hours a day. Now I miss those days. Our boys [Travis, 34, Hans, 31, and Andrew, 25] have all worked the long hard days in the retail business. Andrew works here now. The older boys say it’s made life easier for them in their careers,” he said.

Mr. Larsen wants to keep the old ways alive for his kids. He’s got a 30-foot Fortier (billed by its maker as “an honest seaboat”) in Fall River being fitted out as a harpooner fishing boat.

Mr. Larsen hopes that he and his sons will have an authentic swordfishing experience on the Miss Violette (named after his granddaughter). “We’ll take her out after July 4th, when the swordfish should be close by, sunning and ‘chocked up’ [both dorsals visible on the surface]. I’ll certainly try to harpoon one. It’s been a few years, but I used to be able to hit ‘em,” he said.

More than anything, he wants his sons to experience the thrill of seeing the fish. “There’s an adrenaline rush around swordfishing. We always got just as excited on the 30th fish as on the first one. I want them to be able to experience that,” he said about a fishing trip that will nurture the old ways for another generation.

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Rug Sox batter Kat Clark rips a base hit off the Shady Ladies. – Photo by Michael Cummo

The Macdonald’s Rug and Carpet’s Rug Sox (2-3) exploded for eight runs in the third inning and continued to pull away from the winless Vineyard Complementary Medicine’s Shady Ladies (0-4), winning 19-6 in the first game of a Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Slowpitch Softball League (MVWSSL) doubleheader Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven.

Rug Sox player Miranda Tokarz rounds third to score the game's first run.
Rug Sox player Miranda Tokarz rounds third to score the game’s first run.

In the nightcap, the undefeated and defending league champion Mama’s Girls (5-0) broke open a tight game against the Wharf’s Honeys (1-3) with two late-inning explosions that sealed a 22-15 win under some of the murkiest lights in night baseball.

The six-team league, which includes Mocha Mott’s Creamers and Long and Meehan’s Snaps, begins its 11th season delivering a signature pastiche of high-quality, competitive play and unrelenting joyfulness from 100 or so players, most of whom are related or are Island-grown BFFs. There are teenagers and 40- and 50 somethings, moms and daughters, two sets of three sisters (the Mama’s Willistons and Rug Sox Clarks) who play the game seriously but accept outcomes with equanimity.

If you were there on Tuesday night, you would have observed the following:

  • Two players, Sam Cleland (Rug Sox) and Katie Davey (Shady Ladies) hopping down the third-base line on one leg to score on injured ankles before being helped off the field.
  • Mama’s catcher Hayley Panek taking a relay throw smack in the middle of her forehead while dealing with a sliding runner at home plate. After receiving medical attention from her sister Jaci (“I kissed her boo-boo. She’s good”), Hayley popped up, but later in the game delivered two RBIs.
  • Honey’s shortstop Sarah Wennes employing a defensive shift against Mama’s slugger Danielle Pappas to rob her of extra bases in a bases-loaded situation. (“She’s a left-handed hitter, so I played behind second base,” Ms. Wennes explained.) Ms. Pappas would later deliver a grand-slam homer that no one could catch, which sealed the deal for the Mama’s.
  • Honey’s third-sacker Martha Scheffer picking hot shots all night, two on successive plays, to keep her team in the game.
  • A group hug between baserunners and defenders following a major collision at second base.
  • brilliant nicknames, like “JameDog,” “Zip-Zip,” and my personal favorite, “Pigpen.”


They come to play, not to make fashion statements, although funky, knee-high baseball socks seem to be favored. Shady’s outfielder Maggie Sarmiento won the coveted MVTimes “Best Baseball Socks” award for her blue and white tie-dye ensemble on Tuesday night.

MVWSSL has speed rules in play. Hitters begin with a one ball/one strike count, there’s an enlarged strike zone, and two foul balls with two strikes become a strikeout. There are surprisingly few strikeouts or bases on balls, although a patient Sam Smith managed to work a pair for the Mama’s.

Veteran umpires Don Herman and Rich “Ripper” Roy displayed two distinct styles: Mr. Herman uses a conventional stance behind the catcher at home plate; Mr. Roy stands several feet to the left side of the plate for lefties and off the right side of the plate for right-handed hitters. “I get a better sight line for the foul lines, and I can hear strikes, which have to hit the plate, so no problem there,” he explained.

The Rug Sox–Shady Ladies tilt was dominated early by good infield defense, with the Shadys leading 2-1 after two innings. Softball is a game of outs, they say, and the Shadys got two quick outs in the third, but couldn’t get the third, as the Rugs erupted for eight runs to take a 9-2 lead, featuring a three-run bomb from Jenny Ingraham and RBIs from Liz Clark, Julie Pringle, Mariah Duarte, Carol Bayley, Miranda Tokarz, and Sam Cron.

The Shadys roared back to tighten the contest at 9-6 on RBI hits from Heather Gibson, Meg Lizotte, and Sue Sanford, but the Rug Sox pulled away 12-5 in the fifth inning on Miranda Tokarz’s third hit of the evening. Mariah Duarte added a three-run homer later in the contest.

In the nightcap, Mama’s Girls and the Honey’s traded one-run leads several times until the Mama’s exploded for five runs in the sixth and four in the seventh inning to extend their lead to 22-12, before Megan Buchanan’s three-run bomb in the Honey bottom of the inning cut the final margin to 22-15.