In mid-October Mary Ann and I embarked on an adventure in change of living from off North Road Chilmark to Main Street Vineyard Haven, barely 12 to 13 miles between the locations. It feels like off North Road still to me. The dislocation of our lives seemed extreme for the small total change involved, but we have come back to the surface sputtering a bit over continuing to search for where we left many of the small but vital things of life and who had misplaced them. I'm still writing from "off North Road" although it is a little stretch in the usual parlance.
One of my habits I have re-established has been an hour's walk with Ticker, my English Springer. The venue has changed from Flanders Lane in Chilmark to the West Chop loop up Main Street in Vineyard Haven. Ticker is so active and full of energy that the two-mile hike at a fairly brisk pace is barely enough to tire her for the rest of the day so that habit has sprung several other periods of activity for me including a shorter walk down Grove Avenue to the beach on Vineyard Haven harbor, several extended periods of tennis ball throwing which incidentally tests Ticker's behavior within the "invisible" fence," otherwise known as the buried electric fence line to keep the dog within limits. She comes to a screeching halt and veers off when the thrown ball goes over the line. She turns to sit down and stare at the point of ball's exit until I walk over to retrieve it. She expects a shock if she violates the border. Fortunately for her she seems to have learned from the rapid "tick, tick, tick," of the warning before she ever receives an electric shock. If she were to bolt outright up the lane she would quickly come to the busy Main Street beyond the little cemetery between Jewett Lane and Grove Avenue which would be a risk for this country-grown pup now three years old but acting like a six-month-old. The busiest highway she has known is Flanders Lane, Chilmark.
During our first week on Jewett Lane we found a large and unusual dog in our yard that was overcome with playfulness when she saw our Ticker. The large dog was Stella, our new neighbor. ("We wanted a good Italian name for her," her owner Giovanni told us.) She is an Italiano Spinone or, more specifically a Spinone Italiano, a large hunting dog, 20 to 26 inches in height and about 56 pounds. Her heredity goes back over 200 years in Italy, especially the Piedmont region. She has a doubly protective coat consisting of an inner soft layer and a tough wiry outer layer. Color may be all white or a combination of white and light brown and patches of yellow. It has been said that it is the best all-around hunting dog with an unusually lovely friendly nature. One expert testifies that it is the only dog in the world known never to have bitten a person. We have found her exactly as described. We would say she has almost a human expression and makes friends with everyone. Ticker now will sit at the back deck staring down the lane to Stella's home and give occasional yips which we interpret as her call to Stella for play. She has helped ease our adjustment to the neighborhood and has led to our early friendship with her owners, Giovanni and Claudia, who are renting a 200-year-old home at the end of the lane practically sitting on the shore of Vineyard Haven Harbor. Bob Jewett, who lives directly across the lane from us, says that his great-great grandfather lived in the house at the end of the lane which seems to confirm my impression that this small community sitting at the rear of the cemetery on the road to West Chop is an old settlement and has grown slowly like Topsy. Many homes have managed to hang on to a view of the water and preserve at the same time views for the longer established residents. The whole makes a blend that gives the place character and a homogeneity which is sometimes absent in our more modern period.
On my first excursions along the way around the West Chop loop, I would meet other early morning walkers who would hail me from across the way, "Hello there, what are YOU doing down here?" Of course, their greeting was pleasant but expressed surprise, I suppose because they were accustomed to placing me up-Island. The sounds of hammers and squeaking lumber have been common here this fall. One small shed has met the wrecking crane next door. The giant yellow mechanical beast is the spitting image of a pre-historic dinosaur as it raises its gigantic open jaws literally to chew away the building's roof, walls and foundation. Two or three trucks groaning under the heavy weight of debris roll away to disposal. The wrenching sound of the demolition held Ticker fascinated and somewhat in awe for a full afternoon. I kept an eye out for the dino-crane to be sure it observed the above-ground shrub line separating it from us. It was only a yard's breadth away from our own back deck.
Growth continues along the tour of the loop despite its being a long established community of magnificent summer cottages, some on the bluff at water's edge. They stretch back in time to early in the 20th century when the locals must have pondered then at the super-large dimensions of these Victorians, even now undergoing additions and renovations. As we pass into the land-side portion of the loop returning to town, several modern versions of large summer places are sprouting like new trees in the woodlands. Except on the coldest of days this fall, young workmen are closing in new roofs still open to the sky, a happy sign of progress. At the other end of town, our old home on William Street (noted in The Times of Dec. 29, 2007, "House on William and Center,") is now the scene of renewed restoration activity, another happy sign of progress.