Authors Posts by Valerie Sonnenthal

Valerie Sonnenthal

Valerie Sonnenthal

Weatherwise, what’s up? Going from a balmy 60 degrees to waking up Sunday morning to the bone chill of a mere 18 degrees? We’ll just have to wait and see what Mother Nature has in store for us as leaves continue falling, fall colors are nearly all brown, and there’s no more denying winter is coming.

The week started off with a huge semi-trailer truck jack-knifed at the mouth of Tabor House and Pasture Roads. In other words it meant I was stuck. Of course I got out my car to see what was going on and there was Dan Athearn and the truck driver trying to figure out how to get his back wheels back on the road, get his front wheels out of the soft ground and move this mammoth hay delivery to the off-load point. Dan got back on his tractor with the fork loader, the truck driver got back in his cab, and with a chain attached between the back wheels and tractor, a little ingenuity and a farmer’s can-do attitude, they managed to get the truck back on the road after 20 minutes! So Morning Glory Farm’s cows pasturing on Peaked Hill will not want for hay.

P10104823.jpgThe other day after walking my dogs at Lucy Vincent Beach and returning to the parking lot, I noticed a crackled, wizened Massachusetts license plate reading, LOBSTR. This was not the first time I’d noticed the plate in my nine years living on Island, but it was the first time I witnessed someone emerging from the vehicle. “Hi,” I said, “Can you tell me about the license plate on your car?” I’m sure that many seasoned Islanders probably know 92-year-old John T. Hughes of Vineyard Haven, who was the first manager of the Division of Marine Fisheries lobster hatchery built in 1948 in Oak Bluffs. John’s son, John Gallagher, who had emerged from the car, told me his father purchased his first plate in 1966, when our state began issuing vanity plates. In fact he said his dad has had multiple plates at home all saying LOBSTR. Mystery solved. Thanks John. And if you do not know John Gallagher perhaps you’ve seen him flying when he is kite gliding. If not check out his bird’s-eye view at

Congratulations to Bonnie and Bob George who have just returned from welcoming their sixth grandchild into the world. Newest family member Micah Hellinger George is the son of Andrew and Stefanie George of Takoma Park, Maryland, and brother to Nina.

Don’t forget Storytime every Tuesday and Saturday at 10:30 am with Kristin Maloney at The Chilmark Public Library. And if you are looking for a place to come in from the cold, bring your lunch and enjoy it in the library’s meeting room.

The Food Truck is keeping busy parked in front The Home Port in Menemsha from 11 am to 2 pm, and was even there last Saturday! Check the daily menu on Facebook and text your orders to 508-560-5883. If you’re feeling like fish, pick up lunch or dinner at Menemsha Fish Market, soups, sandwiches and so much more. Their menu is online and you can call your order in to 508-645-2282.

The last Pizza Night at The Chilmark Church is Tuesday, November 25, at 6 pm. Thanks to all the folks who make this free dinner possible.

Wow November is flying. Last week I took Nancy Aronie’s final Chilmark Writing Workshop of the year with 22 other participants (thank you ACE and Nancy). I had an amazing time. I also finished up my last Hand & Foot class at ACE, spent much of the weekend at Karen Gabler and Megan Grennan’s fascia workshop at The Yoga Barn and then held a wonderful MELT Intro Workshop at my studio. On Monday I took my dogs for a long Squibby walk, saw paddle boarders and shellfishers enjoying the waters and the warm day. I stopped by Josh Aronie’s Food Truck (open Monday – Friday from 11 am – 2 pm; check out their menu on their Facebook page, call ahead for pick-up), now parked in front of Home Port, and sat at an outdoor table overlooking Menemsha Pond to enjoy lunch. Also, I offer thanks to good Samaritan Steve Besse for finding my cell phone at Great Rock Bight and driving back to Chilmark to return it — yes, it was worth the sunset.

The Chilmark Community Center (CCC) will be hopping this weekend. First, ladies: your AHA! Moment has arrived — the 34th Chilmark Women’s Symposium is this Saturday, November 15, 9 am–12 noon. The event is free, but donations are welcome to cover expenses.

On Sunday, November 16, the West Tisbury School 5th grade class is having a Cake Walk fundraiser for their Alabama trip from 2 to 4 pm at the CCC. You can enjoy their bake sale, a 50/50 raffle and a chance to win a Sunset Sail for two on the Alabama. Sunset Sail raffle tickets are available in advance until Sunday. Tickets are $5 each, or five for $20. You do not need to be present to win. Contact Elizabeth Oliver at 508-939-0616 to purchase raffle tickets if you cannot be at the Cake Walk. Should be a great weekend!

Join Morning Glory Farm Chef Robert Lionette at The Chilmark Library on Wednesday, November 19 at 5 pm, as he talks about the new Vineyard Stories book, Morning Glory’s Farm Food: Stories from the Fields, Recipes from the Kitchen and enjoy tasty samples of his farm-fresh food.

Also if you missed Art historian Henry Adams’s talk about artist Thomas Hart Benton’s work and legacy on Martha’s Vineyard that took place at the Chilmark Library on August 13, you can now check out the DVD from the library’s collection. I checked it out last week; my husband and I found it to be very interesting and full of surprises. For library information or questions call 508-645-3360.

Be sure to stop by Santander Bank across from the CCC, which is hosting a Haiti PeaceQuilts exhibit and sale through November 31. Islanders PeaceQuilts director Jeanne Staples (yes, the Edgartown painter), U.S. Program Coordinator Carolyn Stoeber, and Karen Flynn (owner of The Bite in Menemsha) have been in Haiti for the last two weeks and will be bringing new items for sale with them. They will be available as of Saturday, November 15. For more information about volunteering, donations, or other ways to help, go to or contact

I dusted off sweet potatoes with the M.V. Gleaners last week at North Tabor Farm. The gleaners are a wonderful group of helping hands organized by belly dancer extraordinaire Jamie O’Gorman. To learn more about Island Grown Gleaning or other activities see and to learn more about belly dancing on the Island go to Also special thanks to Laurie David’s farm for growing and supplying sweet potatoes to Island schools; anyone else interested in growing crops for Island schools can contact the above Island Grown link.

Ah November shocks with winter darkness and renewed morning light, our bodies still adjusting to clocks rewound. October brought weekend wedding celebrations from the sweet outdoors into the magically transformed Chilmark Community Center and ended with Halloween wonder and merriment thanks to volunteer fireman, Chilmark School families and the remarkable energy of Katie Carroll. A storm of white, wet and fierce wind cut us off for barely a full 24 hours from the mainland.

I did not mean to mislead anyone last week and want to give due recognition to Alan Cottle of Blackwater Farm, owner of Lambert’s Cove Glass in Menemsha. We wish Alan a speedy recovery from a fall while building his latest project, a boat, and we’re glad to know he is home again. Alan is a Renaissance man who moves between his day job farming and also paints in oils, makes furniture, does glass blowing and so many other things. Stop by the store, open weekends from 12 noon to 5 pm and check out his colorful work. His store manager, Ginny Jones, said on Sunday, “The Sound and the harbor were a froth of waves all day. And the beach has all blown over the parking lot and, of course, into the harbor. On days like today there isn’t a lot of action in Menemsha except for racing whitecaps, trees whipping around, and a very few cars on the move.”

Sending warm birthday wishes to Trudy Taylor who turns 92 on Friday, November 7. Celebrate every day.

In case you missed last weekend, Candy Shwedder’s Up-Island Pottery Sale continues on Saturday, November 8, from 9 am to 12 noon at 4 Fulling Mill Hill off Middle Road.

You won’t want to miss Annabell Lee, The Chilmark Public Library showing of a recently discovered silent film from 1921 that was filmed in Menemsha on Wednesday, November 12 at 5 pm. Based loosely on the poem by Edgar Allen Poe, it features seldom seen film footage of Menemsha before the village was destroyed by the 1938 hurricane and the Gay Head lighthouse before erosion threatened to sweep it out to sea. Admission is free and sponsored by the Friends of the Chilmark Public Library. For more information, please call 508-645-3360.

Nice to know if you want to come in from the cold that the Offseason Library Cafe is now open. Ebba Hierta says they will be offering coffee, tea, cocoa, and cookies in the meeting room during regular library hours, donations appreciated. Thank you, Friends of the Chilmark Public Library. Also, anyone is welcome to bring their Food Truck lunch or bag lunch and enjoy the warmth of the library meeting room as a cozy respite!

And if it’s chocolate you are craving we are all thankful that Chilmark Chocolates is open again.

The new exhibition space at Seastone Papers is open on Saturdays and Sundays. —Photo by Valerie Sonnenthal

One of my favorite rites of fall is the resuming of Island hand-papermaker Sandy Bernat’s Mixed Media Journal Group meetings. The first one happened last Sunday at her Seastone Papers studio in West Tisbury. Ellie Bates read a poem she had shared earlier in the day at the Unitarian service she oversaw. Beth Tviet shared her new box pieces made with recent finds from Chicken Alley Thrift Shop. Sandy Bernat shared mysteries of the lowly brayer plus author and artist Lynda Barry’s 2008 book, What It Is, a book which never ceases to inspire. Other artists in attendance included May Baldwin, Jean Hay, Susan Spence, and Carolyn Daniel. It was a wonderful afternoon, but the best for everyone else is Sandy Bernat’s new exhibition space upstairs in her studio, now open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays through the fall. You will find wonderful gifts and treasures. Call Sandy Bernat at 508-693-5786 or email to set up a visit.

Please join The Save The Gay Head Lighthouse Poetry Project for a reading hosted by Richard Skidmore on Saturday, November 1, 4–5:30 pm at Midnight Farm in Vineyard Haven. Included are Chilmark poets Nancy Aronie, Mollie Doyle, Susan Puciel, and myself joining other Island poets. Refreshments will be served and Legacy of Light: Poems for the Gay Head Lighthouse will be available for sale.

If you’re looking for conversation where kids can play outside, come to the free Pizza Nights, 6 pm at The Chilmark Church, weekly through November 25.

Ginny Jones’s store, Lambert’s Cove Glass in Menemsha, is still open weekends from noon to 5 pm; she is tucked between Copperworks and Beetlebung Café. She not only carries Alan Cottle’s wonderful hand-blown glasswork and furniture, books for all ages, both new and used, but has some vintage sweaters and Guernsey sweaters. Seeking the unusual? Be sure to make your way to her shop. Also Ginny is happy to search for any books about the Vineyard, maritime titles, food, fiber and environmental books, kids books and mysteries;  contact her at

As the leaves fall, the pumpkins and scarecrows come out of hiding and we know Halloween is upon us. In our own backyard The Chilmark Volunteer Firefighters are once again hosting their Annual Halloween Party at the Chilmark Community Center. There will be haunted decorations, pizza and snacks.  All are invited to participate in the costume parade around the hall!  Doors open at 5:30 pm on Friday, October 31.

On Saturday, November 1, there is an all-day Nature Program “Squirrels and Coyotes,” for ages 6 to 23, from 11 am – 4 pm at Sassafras in Aquinnah. See from more information.

Women’s Pick-up Basketball, a non-competitive free game is looking for more players, Mondays, 6:30–8:30 pm, at The West Tisbury School. Call 508-627-1777 for information.

Ladies, I know I have already said mark your calendars, but just in case — you won’t want to miss the 34th Chilmark Women’s Symposium, held at the CCC. This season’s theme is AHA! Moments. The event is free, but donations are welcome to cover expenses.

Colin Ruel and Nettie Kent got married last weekend. – Photo courtesy of Colin Ruel

Last Thursday, my husband and I beat the rain to the Island, making our way home from NYC through awful bouts of thunderstorms. So just a reminder to be safe in the bad weather — we passed close to 20 accidents, adding two hours to the drive!

When I went to the bank on Friday and saw all the doors open to the CCC, I wandered over to peek in at the preparations for the wedding of Barbara and John Armstrong’s son, artist Colin Ruel, to native West Tisbury jeweler Nettie Kent, daughter of artist Doug Kent. I do not know any of the family, but had seen Barbara’s offer for free tulle on MV Stuff for Sale. The bride and groom were doing everything themselves, with the help of those nearest and dearest, putting finishing touches on transforming the CCC into a tulle-festive hall, while the entrance area was set up with tables for a buffet using an assortment of unique antique plates borrowed from friends. “Oh my, only 24 hours until the wedding,” the bride sighed, and then returned to her to-do list. I hope grandparents Jim and Roberta Morgan, all 200 family and guests, and bride and groom had a fantastic wedding outside in Menemsha, followed by a joyous evening of dancing and celebration.

So glad to be able to continue swimming, seeing the leaves change and still have the sun warming my face when I wonder whether it will be the last swim of the season.

Have you ever thought about those ads that seem to follow you around the Internet and wondered who else is keeping track of your online activities? Come to the Chilmark Public Library on Saturday, October 25, at 1 pm to hear the explanation, when Internet security expert Greg Page presents “Who’s Tracking You Online? The Quiet ‘Big Data Revolution.’” During this interactive presentation, Page will talk about the positive, negative, and uncertain implications of the era of Big Data, including critical issues surrounding individual privacy and security. He will also discuss ways that individual web users can minimize their online footprint.

Support the MVRHS Minnesingers Silent and Live Auction Benefit, Saturday, October 25, 6–9 pm, at Dreamland in Oak Bluffs. Tickets available at the door are $25 and include hors d’oeuvres, chowder bar, desserts and cash bar.

If you have an Island Club Card, you can get a discount on any activity at the Farm Field Sea, Island Culinary Adventure taking place Saturday and Sunday, October 25 and 26, in Menemsha and Chilmark. Be sure to check out Sunday’s cheese making class with Jacqueline Foster, head cheese maker at Grey Barn Farm and explore the history and process of cheese making. Demonstrations and hands-on class will include Ricotta Salata, Farmers’ Cheese, and how to build your own cheese cave. For more information or to reserve your spot, go to or email

The Farmer’s Market has moved indoors to the Ag Hall and will continue every Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm through December 27, except for Thanksgiving weekend. I am happy to report Josh Aronie and The Food Truck should appear beginning in November; I’ll keep you posted or you can follow them on Facebook.

The Rural Scholars from from UMass School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Nursing will be on the Island from October 19 through 30 taking a closer look at elder abuse and neglect, prevention strategies, and current services. They will present their findings and  recommendations at a meeting at the West Tisbury Public Library on Thursday, October 30, from 4:30 to 6 pm. The public is invited and encouraged to join in.

Middeltown Nursery will have a free garlic planting demo on Saturday, October 25 from 10 -11am.  Bring your garlic, questions and curiosity. A free family fun day including scarecrow making will follow from 11am – 2 pm.

Eisenman-grave-site.jpgA couple of weeks ago, John Hill (a longtime colleague and friend of my husband) and his wife, Dorothy, came to Chilmark to inter Alvin Eisenman’s ashes at Abel’s Hill Cemetery. Eisenmen had been Hill’s mentor, and his widow, Hope, was there, along with their daughter’s family and friends. Eisenman died a year ago at the age of 92. His headstone, a special black slate, was hand-carved by Nick Benson, a master of large-scale architectural inscriptions, including the National World War II Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Washington National Cathedral, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, and countless others. Learn more about Nick Benson at /

Eisenman had been a summer resident of Chilmark for nearly 50 years, enjoying the house he built off North Road. Some of you reading this may have known Alvin and many not, but his influence — I would bet — has been a part of your daily lives for years without you even knowing. Alvin Eisenman started the first graduate graphic design department at a university in the United States, at Yale in 1950 after being asked by Josef Albers. Eisenman was responsible for computers coming to Yale before other schools had them, and working with GE, IBM and Apple among others. He hired the best in their fields including Paul Rand, creator of iconic corporate logos for UPS (United Parcel Service), ABC (American Broadcasting Corp.), IBM (International Business Machines), Westinghouse, and documentary photographer Walker Evans. According to’s Design New England blog, Christopher Pullman, a typographer who became WGBH’s first vice-president for design, said, “Before the Internet was Alvin.” Read Chris Pullman’s “Remembering Alvin Eisenman” in the Design Observer, about this remarkable fun-loving man who changed the face of type and graphic design and whose influence can still be felt today.

I guess the long weekend helps us get over all the closings for the season. Farewell Chilmark General Store, Chilmark Tavern, The Home Port, The Galley, The Bite, and Kara Taylor Gallery. Keeping my fingers crossed that Josh Aronie will be parking his food truck in the heart of our town soon.

If you are looking for great Chilmark cards or postcards, be sure to stop by Hellie Neumann’s photography show at Santander Bank across from the community center through October 17 or contact her at

Get ready for the MVRHS Minnesingers Silent and Live Auction Benefit on Saturday, October 25, 6–9 pm, at Dreamland in Oak Bluffs. Tickets, $25, can be purchased from any MVRHS Minnesinger or at the door and include hors d’oeuvres, chowder bar, desserts and a cash bar. The proceeds will help offset the Minnesingers’ travel expenses abroad in April 2015 where they will be performing at several venues, including local schools and churches. For more information, call 508-939-4053.

And ladies, mark your calendars now for the 34th Chilmark Women’s Symposium on Saturday, November 15, from 9 am – noon at the Chilmark Community Center. This fall’s theme is AHA! Moments, the event is free, but donations are welcome to cover expenses.

The Barnes-Klaunig family at Grey Barn.

Michael Barnes (the farm manager at Grey Barn) and his partner Lindsay Klaunig (the cheesemaker) wanted their son Elias to grow up "surrounded by animals and nature." So far, so good. —Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

As I walked out of the farmstand at Grey Barn after picking up some milk, I couldn’t stop staring at a rugged man holding his joyous naked son in his hands. He carefully placed him down in the grass to crawl around with a small gaggle of geese. I went over and introduced myself to Michael, Lindsay, and Elias. It has been six months since Michael Barnes moved to Martha’s Vineyard in April to take over as the new farm manager at The Grey Barn in Chilmark. He moved here with Lindsay Klaunig, his partner in life, and their newborn son, Elias. I ask if he grew up on a farm and Michael says, “I grew up all over the place.” He tells me, “I was born in Oklahoma, moved to New Mexico and lived there about ten years (through high school in Santa Fe), and moved to Oregon for community college in Bend and stayed there a couple years after that.” Despite not living on a farm growing up, Michael and his family grew vegetables and raised chickens (for meat) in the backyard, and always composted.

Elias at home with the ducks at Grey Barn. – photo by Valerie Sonnenthal
Elias at home with the ducks at Grey Barn. – photo by Valerie Sonnenthal

At age 35, after completing an undergraduate education at Colorado State University, and stints on various farms around the West, Michael rode his bicycle across the country and found a farm in Indiana that he would return to, eventually meeting Lindsay, who came on board as the farm’s cheesemaker. The couple moved to Idaho, then, after Elias’s birth, found themselves working 80 hours a week, with no days off, and realized they needed to make a change. They tell me they “started thinking about the best scenarios for Elias to grow up in, and began looking for a safe, clean outdoor environment surrounded by animals and nature.” Michael saw the job at Grey Barn on Martha’s Vineyard on an agricultural jobs website; deciding to take the job was an easy decision.

Michael oversees 70 acres of grazing and hay, of which 20 acres will be certified organic next year. Grey Barn has 31 adult milk cows grazing, 4 beef cows, and raises 50 – 60 hogs on whey, a cheese by-product, all sold locally. Michael tells me, “One of the reasons I chose this job is I like diverse farms — poly-cultural layered agriculture that maximizes all waste streams on the farm.”

Michael takes a break to have lunch with Lindsay and Elias. –Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop
Michael takes a break to have lunch with Lindsay and Elias. –Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

A typical day on the farm for Michael starts with a 5:30 am alarm. He’ll have a quick breakfast, then head out to stock the farm store with milk, then move and feed the chickens. Then he sets up the milking parlor to milk the cows, heads out to move the cows from the field up to the parlor and by 7:15, he’s milking them in the parlor.  By 9:30 am Michael, he’s finished milking and cleaning the milk house. Next he feeds the pigs, checks on all of the animals, their water and fencing. Then it’s time to look at the previous day’s grazing to make sure the cows are getting the right amount of food from the fields. He’ll take down fencing from the previous day’s paddocks and set up new paddocks for the milking and dry cow herd. The rest of of the morning, until lunchtime, is focused on a small task to-do list that usually includes fixing something broken — a constant farm reality. After lunch with Lindsay and Elias, he will finish up as much as he can on his list, order materials, and do inventory. Around 2:00 pm it’s time to wash bottles for milk, feed and water the pigs again, collect eggs, set up the milking parlor, get the cows and milk around 4:15 pm. After cleaning the parlor and milk house, moving the cows and feeding the chickens, Michael can call it a day.

With the driest September on record in 57 years, Michael has had to organize a rotation and “extend the season a little bit. The animals are back on pasture, but that’ll all change in a week.” He admits that he is more at home now, even though he has not had much time to explore or get off the farm yet. Michael takes another call from the driver of 70-foot-long semi on its way to deliver hay, and I let him get on with his pressing duties.

Lindsay is one of the most relaxed new mothers I have ever met. She grew up in suburban Indianapolis and tells me she tried Indiana University for a year and then “went out to Washington state to pick blueberries on a whim through WWOOF [World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms].” When the season was over she “got a job flipping cheese” and loved it. The next year through WWOOF she took an apprenticeship in New Jersey, making cheese at a primitive cheese plant where no PH meters or thermometers were used, and acidity was tested by tasting the whey. She continues, “It was a good first experience; should a PH meter break, the power go out and you do not have a thermometer, I could still make cheese.” She spent a year there before moving on to manage a creamery making eight different kinds of bleu cheese in Washington, an experience “that committed [her] to cheese.” She spent a couple of years traveling to Romania, Transylvania, and South America to learn local cheese-making, before returning and concentrating solely on cheesemaking at Consider Bardwell Farm in Vermont, where she was “mentored by Peter Dixon, the Johnny Appleseed of cheese.”

She returned to a farm in Indiana and “ got to develop cheeses myself and do a line of cheeses,” and met Michael, the farm’s manager.

Neither Michael nor Lindsay had history on Martha’s Vineyard. Much of Lindsay’s family lives in New Jersey. Her twin sister has visited twice from Maui, and she looks forward to family and friends joining her and Michael and Elias on-Island for Thanksgiving. Lindsay consults on cheese to an upstate New York and a Montana creamery and works with sales at Grey Barn when she is not looking after Elias. Her newest project is growing mushrooms in their basement.

Now that the season is over, Lindsay enjoys being able to park and not having to defend herself against crowds, visiting beaches with Elias and enjoying “the glorious fall weather.” One happy find is an apple tree. She has prepared all their vegetables for the winter and admitted they already have their turkey in the freezer. The Island is a welcome change from the winters of Idaho, and the family looks forward to getting to know their new home, neighbors and sharing their skills with local farmers and new friends.

Kosher Turkeys This Thanksgiving

The Grey Barn and Farm is bringing a rabbi to the Island to perform a Kosher slaughter. If you are interested in reserving a Kosher turkey email or call 508-645-4854.

Dolly Campbell's husband, Bruce, built shelves that allow natural light to pass through her bottle collection. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Kay Dixon, a childhood Vineyard summer friend, is visiting Dolly Campbell when I arrive. She now comes annually, has just arrived, and always looks forward to revisiting Dolly’s collections and discovering what has been added. Getting to revisit all these objects makes her feel the same at-home comfort year after year. It would be impossible to miss Dolly’s collections — they fill shelving specially-built by her husband, Bruce, so her bottle collection can have natural light from the windows pass through them; old handmade herb choppers ring the uppermost walls around the kitchen; assorted animals can be found on the floor throughout her home, one-inch high handmade wooden birds extend over three windows sitting above the upper casing in the dining room, walls are hung with family portraits and collected favorites. There is so much to see, the eye must focus on one group, whether slab tiles made by Heather Goff or antique books lining shelves: it is just not possible to take it all in at once, so Dolly and I start in her kitchen.

Multi-colored bottles — pale amethyst, reds, assorted blues, dark green — come from as far away as New Zealand. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Multi-colored bottles — pale amethyst, reds, assorted blues, dark green — come from as far away as New Zealand. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Dolly grew up in Southport, Conn., in a neighborhood referred to as Fertile Acres, “because everyone was having babies [and] loved retail,” she says. “I’d go around the house and pick things up, then set up a little table outside the house and sell them. One time I sold my father’s wallet to the next-door neighbor for a quarter. He had to go and buy it back for a dollar because it still had money in it.” Dolly remembers seeing a photo story when she was married of Jackie Onassis’s New York City apartment —  all the tables were filled with family objects and mementos — and loving how it looked. She adopted the style as her own and rearranged objects in her grandmother’s house in West Chop, where she was living while her own home was being built.

Dolly started going to yard sales and limited her collecting to the Island, though the idea of stopping at thrift shops and antique stores off-Island appeals to her now. The only problem, she says, is where to put things. Dolly retired from 15 years of co-managing the Chicken Alley Thrift Shop in 2011. There, she purchased many treasured objects and kept her collecting spirit always ignited. She loves the varied shapes and forms of the no-two-alike herb choppers lining two sides of her kitchen walls just below the ceiling. She has an antique glass jar filled with sea glass, which she realizes is the first thing she ever collected and pieces go back to her childhood. Dolly admits there is more sea glass squirreled away in her basement. Her Vineyard Haven home is filled with many inherited collections, including family portraits in oil, sterling silver tea service from the early 1900s, furniture, old books — including Trollope and Dickens — that her husband Bruce collects.

Her bottle collection has mostly been purchased through thrift shop finds and includes unusual colors — a pale amethyst, reds, assorted blues, dark green, besides an array of clear bottles. She takes down one of her favorites that she brought home from a New Zealand stay with her son’s family. Although it looks old, it is a contemporary bottle that reminds me of Japanese Ramune soda bottles that have a glass marble inside sitting above the pinched neck. She told me that people break the glass to get the marbles out. I notice the jar of dice and she exclaims, “I love dice.”

Dolly loves many things. We continue from the dining room to the living room where I learn all the boat paintings and prints she found as presents for her husband over the years. One particularly large port scene painting came from the Foster estate which is now the Lambert’s Cove Inn, and hangs over the sofa in the middle of the living room. Dolly says, “Mr. Foster was a bachelor who traveled all over the world. He died and the bank took over and had a big open house. I think this was in the late 60’s. You see this is a Claude Lorrain look-a-like.” In fact it is a copy of his Port Scene with the Villa Medici from 1637 that hangs in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy.

Dolly co-managed the Chicken Alley Thrift store for 15 years and found lots of treasures there. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Dolly co-managed the Chicken Alley Thrift store for 15 years and found lots of treasures there. —Photo by Michael Cummo

On the mantel there are two lovely metal sculptures of dancers, both thrift shop purchases. I notice two Chinese cloisonné vases on the floor in front of one of the bookcases filled with mostly antique books. Dolly admits, “I used to collect vases, but ran out room for them because they take up too much space. I’ve given a lot of them away.” We go into the front hall and I fall in love with the animal door stops along a wall. There are antique boat prints and my favorite, I learn, was purchased on their honeymoon in New Hampshire — a large print of White Star’s Oceanic, the first ocean liner ever built.

Upstairs, the master bedroom’s walls are filled like the Louvre from the ceiling to floor with assorted paintings. One painter whose work Dolly has been buying for years is Claudio Gasparini, originally from Italy and since 1984 a seasonal Martha’s Vineyard resident, who has an annual show at The Granary Gallery. In one corner of the bedroom is a mirrored dressing table that once belonged to Island philanthropist and dear friend Molly McAlpin. Dolly has adorned it with necklaces, finds and family photos. I’ve been escorted through every room in the house including the bathrooms and then Dolly says, “Well, there’s lots to look at outside as well.” Her garden meanders up and down around the house and out to a very large koi pond. I could call it Dolly’s Folly: it reminds me of English gardens that were created to look as though built around ancient ruins. I love the sculptures and especially the dog house, House of Coco which, yes Dolly bought at a yard sale and hopes to restore some day.

Lisa Levart on shoot with Francesca Kelly. —Photo by Myles Aronowitz
Lisa Levart —Photo by Myles Aronowitz
Lisa Levart —Photo by Myles Aronowitz

Thirty years ago, a photographer got in touch with me when I was running the gallery at New York City’s Dance Theater Workshop, and sent me — by mail — some 35mm slides of her handmade photographic collages. Her name was Lisa Levart, and since 2002, she has been photographing women dressed as goddesses from creeds and mythologies of cultures around the world.

I met Lisa again in Rockland County, New York, where she and her husband, photographer Myles Aronowitz, continue to live. Our lives intersected again, most recently, on Martha’s Vineyard. In August, Lisa came for a visit with a mutual friend, artist and filmmaker Katherine Matheson. While running around with both ladies, I needed to make a stop at my friend Francesca Kelly’s home, and wanted Lisa to meet her as a potential goddess for her ongoing project. In the few minutes we spent together, Lisa and Francesca loosely agreed to a September shoot. We enjoyed our days together, and Lisa returned to New York. Then, in late September, Lisa got a cancellation and had an opening in her schedule. She travelled back to the Vineyard to photograph Francesca.

Francesca Kelly made it her mission to save the indigenous horse of India by founding Marwari Bloodlines with Raguvendra Singh in 1995 “to preserve, promulgate and promote the Marwari horse in India and abroad.” So when searching for a goddess for Francesca to portray, Lisa and Francesca agreed upon Sheravali, “one of many names attributed to the Goddess Durga, the goddess of power and her most common appellation in Rajasthan.” Francesca explained, her “given name in Rajasthan is Goravali, she who rides horses, [while] Sheravali translates literally as “she who rides the lion.’” Francesca offered to include her Indian groom, Sushil, in the photo with her. Lisa, who had never photographed horses before, was thrilled.

Rose Styron and her daughter Paola pose as Demeter and Persephone at Lucy Vincent Beach. —Photo by Lisa Levart
Rose Styron and her daughter Paola pose as Demeter and Persephone at Lucy Vincent Beach. —Photo by Lisa Levart

The Sheravali shoot was not Lisa’s first “goddess” experience on the Vineyard. She first came to Martha’s Vineyard in 2007, to photograph Rose Styron and her daughter Paola. Other Vineyarders included in her work are actress Suzanne Douglass, and interior decorator Jan Hilliard. All of Lisa’s subjects choose “to embody a goddess who has contemporary meaning in their lives.” The choice was easy for Rose and her daughter; they decided to portray the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone at Lucy Vincent beach. Their portrait, as well as those of the other 75 women included in Lisa’s book, Goddess on Earth, published in 2011, and winner of the Gold Nautilus Book Award, create a visual celebration of wisdom, courage and personal strength inspired by history’s most ancient myths.

“More and more contemporary women are enthusiastically embracing those myths as they seek to tackle life’s obstacles,” Lisa said.

Lisa’s photographs are of women ages 8-99, including doctors, designers, authors, filmmakers, psychiatrists, actresses, and students. She explores and captures how everyday women are inspired to heal, thrive, and embrace their own personal power through their connections with sacred myths. With tenacity, determination, and passion, Lisa has followed her dream of creating beautiful works of art both in her book and public multi-media installations. In 2012, Lisa began writing a regular goddess column for the Huffington Post.

On Tuesday night, before Lisa headed home, we all met for dinner at State Road, and the first edits of the portraits were unveiled. “I want to tell the story of the myth and your interpretation of it with your words,” Lisa said as she showed Francesca the photos on her Kindle.

Although there are countless images to choose from, Lisa hones in on only three images for her final edit, choosing the photos that most reflect the power of the goddess as interpreted by her subject. “I really spend a long time on each image, pulling my color out, deepening the sky,” she said. “It is not a quick process.”

“Their physicality is very important to the picture,” Lisa said of the horses.

Francesca concurred: “Horses are very hard to photograph.” In one image, they both agree the beauty comes from the “horse movement,” in another “the colors are beautiful because the horse is still, the water is still.”

“Wow,” the women at the table said as they passed it around. “That’s beautiful.” “That’s amazing.”

To learn more about Lisa Levart’s work, or to purchase her book, visit

So thankful for the rains and once again the sun shining away the fall chill a little bit longer — good for us swimmers. What an amazing Harvest Fest this year — celebration, community, information, delicious offerings, music and enthusiasm for our collective future. I finally had the chance to purchase a couple of copies of the Gay Head poetry book in support of moving the lighthouse and got to see my poem in print. I was honored to be included as one of the poets reading at the celebration for our new MV Poet Laureate Arnie Reisman on Tuesday. My to-do list is still spilling over and this week we got to try fried apples brought by a southern guest, a mince-meat pie (mostly apples), and an apple caramel walnut and pecan crustless pie which may be our Thanksgiving offering.

Belated birthday wishes to Steven Fischer who celebrated his 39th birthday along with his family and friends at The Home Port on Saturday night.

Several Chilmark artists, including Elizabeth Germain, with her Blessed Rosemary Oil, Suzy Zell, with her handwoven cotton towels, Maria Hurwitz with her subconscious landscape altars, will be offering their creations at SHINE, a benefit sale on October 11 – 13, from 10 am – 8 pm at 129 Indian Hill Road (first mailbox past Christiantown Road ) in West Tisbury. Portions of the sales will benefit the documentary film project, The Same Heart, which proposes a way to end child poverty. Filmmakers Len and Georgia Morris and Petra Lent McCarron will show excerpts from their film and be on hand to answer questions about the project:

Saturday, October 11, is the last Farmer’s Market in West Tisbury before it moves indoors at the Ag Hall beginning October 18 through December 27, from 9 am to 12 noon.

Native Earth Teaching Farm is holding their Popcorn Festival on Sunday, October 12, 10 am–3 pm, including goats, games, food and fiber. Free popcorn and free admission.

October 13 is the last day to visit the Gay Head Lighthouse in its present location before being moved in April 2015.

This is the last weekend to enjoy eating at The Galley, have a quiet romantic dinner overlooking Menemsha, open to 7:30ish pm Saturday night. Don’t miss out on the best fried clams at The Bite, also closing after the long weekend.

Get “BUZZD” at the Chilmark Public Library Wednesday, October 15, at 5 pm with local author Michael West and honey-maker Monica Miller, who may or may not be the character Maya in Michael’s latest book, BUZZD – The Bee Kill Conspiracy. Michael says, “We want people to think about bees and what we are doing to the planet’s — and our Island’s — ecology with herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and GMOs. That’s why I wrote BUZZD.” For more information, please call 508-645-3360.

Have a good long weekend.