At Large : Doing what we ought to
There are lots of puzzles and some downright peculiarities about Martha's Vineyard. Its beauty and shabbiness, for instance, next door to one another. Its richness and poorness, coexisting as both manage to do on terms crafted to suit the distinct personalities of each of the six towns. Plaid shirts at the Chilmark town meeting, blazers and crewnecks in Edgartown.
The rich employ the poor, the poor prey upon the rich. The rich smile at the parochialism of their employees, the employees marvel at the indulgence and lavish whimsy of their employers. The seasonal property owners own large tracts, the year-rounders fill their freezers with the birds and deer that share those acres with their visiting owners. The Island merchants, down to skin and bones after an economically withering winter, cavort at the arrival of the seasonal visitors whose appetite for trinkets and plump, dear produce is wanton. Then, their treasuries restocked, these same tradesmen spend the ensuing off-season devising inconveniences and expenses for their customers to come.
Ah, you say, but these are hardly fundamental metrics with which to define our social, cultural, political, and economic environments. But, they're mine. And, doubtless, some of them may strike you as hostile to your own sense of who we are and what we're up to. To you, I say, have at it.
The question I'm picking at here is, Who planned it all? Oh, I don't mean who planned our daily living during the past four decades, the duration of my observation and participation. I mean who planned it all, from the beginning, when our predecessors merged with the previous owners (you may characterize it otherwise, but no matter).
After all, you could, and lots of us do, look at it this way. Gasoline is too expensive. Food is too expensive. The ferry is too expensive. Houses are too expensive. Land is too expensive. Choices are too few. If you've become addicted to a mainland mall, as I have, you may feel deprived, as I sometimes do. Wages are too low. You can't come and go when you like. So much closes in the winter. The tourists may not come this summer. The tourists may.
There aren't enough bike paths. The beaches are private. You can't get a drink in this town or that one. The bars close too early. There's no Burger King. You can't let your dog off the leash in the conservation areas. The taxis cost too much. The band at the wedding can't play after midnight. The big summer houses are too big. Why don't we add an extra tax on the summer residents? There are too few tourists; you can't make a living.
There are too many cars. There are too few parking spaces. You can't get through Five Corners. You can't figure out where to park at the Steamship terminal in Vineyard Haven. It's crazy the way they have the luggage cart next to the loading ramps. There are too many tourists.
You could commit dark poetry with all this whining. Or music, a Gregorian sort of tune, written in praise of this precious hood of ours. The song writes itself. I hear these musical fragments everywhere I go. People are singing the Vineyard, and not that softly.
And, here's the big, astonishing finish. We - rather, a driven few of us - are planning endlessly to preserve, protect, and conserve this earthly paradise, not for a day to two, but for 50 years hence. We'll have it our way, and so will those who follow us. Go figure.