West Tisbury


My heart sank Easter morning when I saw the rain and gray sky. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Did anyone attend the Sunrise Service? Sunrise services are one of those things. There is a magical allure about attending, and every year I plan to. But somehow, when the alarm goes off at 4 or 5 am, I think, “Next year.” And so it has been all my life. I never went to one at Francis Martin’s or the McKeon’s Farm in Ridgefield either.

By mid-morning the sun was shining, a perfect day for Easter bonnets, egg hunts, and other celebrations. A good day for gardening, too. Not too hot, although it was shirtsleeves only. Nice, soft soil for weeding and digging after all the rain. Talley and Murphy were their least helpful, digging holes and picking up things I had just set down. Still, it amazes me how things grow and reappear year after year. Our mature rhododendrons that were little more than sticks, the thickets of bulbs that have spread, the cherry trees now white and pink waterfalls. I admired a star magnolia at Mermaid Farm yesterday, and the earliest-flowering Cornell’s Pink rhododendrons, both now on my wish list.

Jayne Beitman and I went off-Island for the day last Friday. We ran into Woollcott Smith on the boat and spent about half of the crossing listening to his reminiscences of a bus trip he took in 1961. Woollcott will be in the audience attending Oprah Winfrey’s 50th Freedom Riders’ Reunion, to be aired on May 4. Woollcott suggested that I Google “freedom riders.” I did, and I suggest that everyone do so. It’s a fascinating story from our history, the subject of a May 16 PBS American Experience program, as well as the Oprah show.

At age 20, Woollcott Smith, a student at Michigan State University, having listened to dinner table conversations with friends of his parents, joined a group of CORE members who rode buses into Mississippi to test compliance with the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Jim Crow laws in the South. They were, of course, arrested and beaten, held in Parchment, a maximum security prison, for disturbing the peace. That angry mobs awaited their arrival was not, apparently, a mitigating factor. Part of the state government’s plan was to bankrupt CORE, who posted bail for the Freedom Riders, by requiring the riders to return to Mississippi to appear in court. It was a gross misjudgment on the part of the Mississippi Attorney General. All but a handful returned, a high-spirited demonstration of solidarity and devotion to upholding equal rights principles.

Bravo to Woollcott and his fellow Freedom Riders. Remember that his mother, Nancy, with a group of West Tisbury ladies, also traveled south to uphold voting rights for newly enfranchised blacks. A part of our history.

The 27th Chilmark Women’s Symposium will meet this Saturday, April 30, 9 am to 12 noon, at the Chilmark Community Center. These meetings, held in the spring and fall, are fascinating. The personal stories of women on our Island are remarkable and inspiring. Attend if you can.

Meanwhile, Vineyard Gardens presents “Lawn Care and Maintenance,” at 11 am, this week’s Saturday program held at the nursery.

You can use your newly learned skills later in the day, when Nicole Cabot invites everyone to participate in the West Tisbury School Annual Garden Clean-up and Fun Day from 3 to 5 pm. Bring a wheelbarrow, shovel, rake, and garden gloves to help spread compost and fertilizer and get the gardens ready for spring planting. Children can make special garden faeries for a $5 materials fee. “Many hands make light work,” says Nicole, so come and help out.

By the way, I forgot to welcome home West Tisbury School Principal Michael Halt, who had been serving in Afghanistan with his fellow reservists. Glad you are safely back.

The West Tisbury Church will sponsor “Planning for a Graceful Exit,” a program and interactive discussion about end-of-life planning and choices. The date is next Saturday, May 7, from 10 am to 2 pm. Panelists are Nell Coogan, Esq., who will discuss legal considerations; Timothy Madigan, Senior Financial Planner at the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, talking about the importance of financial planning; Dr. Beth Donnelly, who will talk about medical issues and concerns; Terre Young, Director of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, discussing end-of-life strategies; Reverend Cathlin Baker of the West Tisbury Church, speaking about spiritual considerations; and Michael R. Hoyt, funeral director, who will talk about planning a funeral. The program is open to anyone wishing to attend. A $10 fee will cover the program costs and a light lunch. Please call Meg in the church office, 508-693-2842, to reserve a space.

Warm temperatures lure me outside. Should I work in the garden or set up my painting gear somewhere? There are always so many things to do.