Chilmark, O Chilmark: A love letter

File photo by Susan Safford

O Chilmark in the spring. I fell in love with you in 1971 when we biked (we could bike from Vineyard Haven to Beetlebung then — O youth) and all those daffodils dancing in the gentle breeze made their invitation impossible to turn down. Come, they beckoned. Come here. And we had money then. And so we RSVP’ed YES!

My rich friends looked at our humble cabin and said no way. Our poor friends looked at it and said way cool! It was a non-judgmental time and it was a non-judgmental place. You could have long hair or a crew cut; you could be fat or you could be boney. You could be a surgeon or a housewife. You could wear mini-skirts or long hippie dresses. I was coming from a very conservative area in Connecticut where I always felt they wanted me to dress in Laura Ashley and espadrilles. An impossibility for this six-foot frame. The notices on the bulletin board at Alley’s announced yoga (no one used the word yoga or even yogurt for that matter in my Connecticut town). There was a hand-printed 3×5 card offering macrobiotic cooking lessons. There were cords of wood for sale. What could one do with so much wood, I’m sure I must have wondered.

And then there was the library. With two ancient (younger than I am now) ladies who jumped out of their seats to get you the esoteric book you requested. Two fish markets with fresher than fresh fish where Betsy and Christine said hi no matter how busy they were and Stanley at Larsen’s was an oasis in off-season Menemsha as he served up hot chowda in February. And when someone got sick the whole community pitched in and either brought food, mailed cards or sent money. When my son Dan got sick and then sicker this community held us in its very large arms.

January was empty. No cars; white snow that stayed white and your social life took place in the post office where the postmistress and ‘master said “Hi Nance, How’s it going?” Where when I went to the bank, Margaret Maida stopped everything and said, “I read your story in Ladies Home Journal. I loved it.” The best of a small town: solitude if you wanted it, company if you so desired.

Here’s the surprising blessing: Almost nothing’s changed. All the things I fell in love with still exist. Lee says, “Hows it going?” at the PO; yoga is everywhere. I learned how to use three cords a winter and stay cozily warm. I can wear my hair the way it wants to fly. Betsy‘s smile and my plate of oysters are still as sweet as saltwater candy. Kristin and Irene and Ellen all pick out my reading material, Ebba suggests a winner, winter is hibernation at its best, except now if you want a New York art and music scene Pathways is two minutes away.

So, O Chilmark in the spring (and summer … a little more challenging… Fall, and winter too), I am still in love with you.

Happy Easter, Happy Passover. I am your adopted daughter.

Thanks for taking me in.

Nancy Slonim Aronie is a commentator for NPR, the author of Writing From the Heart, and the founder of The Chilmark Writing Workshop.  

Easter services and Dreams

Easter week services at Chilmark Church begin with Good Friday Service from 5:30-6:15 pm. There will be songs, readings, and meditation. An Easter Vigil is planned on Saturday from 5:30 to 6:15 pm with a similar program. Sunday services begin at 9 am with Sandra Attwood on harp. All are welcome with child care and egg hunt afterwards.

Another date to remember, the 33rd Chilmark Women’s Symposium will be held at the Chilmark Community Center on Saturday, April 26, from 9 am to 12 noon. The theme is “Dreams.” There will be speakers, small group discussions and refreshments. The event is free, but donations are welcome to cover expenses. For more information, call Bonnie George at 508-645-3214.

Got Chilmark News?

Send local news, updates, birthdays and births to Jamie Stringfellow at the MVtimes. We also welcome essays such as the one here by Nancy Aronie and are looking for an occasional or regular town columnist.