West Tisbury: Season of the shadbush


The sun is shining. It was when I woke up Monday morning, and is a momentous enough event to start off this column. The oak and beech leaves in our woods seem to have appeared overnight, a froth of pale reddish-green. Dogwood and rhododendron flowers float above emerging hosta leaves, swaths of ajuga and epimediums, and Solomon’s seal.

Best of all is the shadbush, called wild pear by some, or shadblow, which is what we called it in Connecticut when I was growing up. I am enchanted by its delicacy, its soft white flowers dotted through our still mostly leafless woods. I was happy to be reminded of just how special it is when the shadbush blooms every May. David Damroth read the following poem, one of his mother’s favorites, at the memorial service for Jane (Farrow) last Saturday. My thanks to David for giving me a copy to reprint here.


When the Wild Pear Blooms

By Emma Mayhew Whiting


Oh come to the country in Maytime

Oh come when the wild pear’s in bloom

When delicate shimmering blossoms

Replace the forest’s gray gloom.


Along the wood roads through the farmlands

To gladden the wayfarers’ sight

Shy brides are standing

All veiled in laciest white.


Reluctant, hesitant, trembling,

Her white-clad maids clustered round

While from harps of wind in the tree tops

The Lohengrin choruses sound.


Others may sing of the cherry

A-bloom in quaint distant Japan:

Rare orchids from far Indo China;

Exotic flowers from Sudan.


I sing of the wild pear of our Maytime

Which blooms when the bluebird’s a-wing

Which dons overnight bridal whiteness

And whispers in ecstacy, “Spring.”


Kathy and Margaret Logue, both Smith College alumnae, traveled to Northampton last weekend to see daughter/granddaughter Megan Mendenhall graduate magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in educational psychology. Megan was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa, “a nice first in our family,” said Margaret, noting that it didn’t exist on the Smith campus when either she or Kathy graduated. Although it rained the whole time, the festivities went off as planned, and they were able to visit with many Smith friends. Megan Mendenhall’s father, Ernie Mendenhall, who would have burst with pride watching her graduate. So far, Megan plans to be on the Vineyard for the summer.

Olivia de Geofroy, daughter of  Louis de Geofroy and Karen Overtoom, graduated on May 12 from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J. She completed two degrees: a bachelor of music in education, summa cum laude with baccalaureate honors; and master of arts in teaching, with distinction. She will be seeking a teaching position in the Boston area.

Congratulations to both Olivia and Megan, and to all the other West Tisbury graduates this spring. Any proud parents are welcome to send me their kids’ graduation information for future columns.

Please note: if you haven’t registered to vote in West Tisbury yet, you have until 8 pm this Friday, May 25, to register before our upcoming special town election on June 14. Town clerk Tara Whiting is available in her office weekdays between 8:30 am and 1:30 pm. She will be there this Friday until the 8 pm deadline. Or you may register online at


Cape Light Compact has a special rebate deal for residential and small business electric customers. Sign up by June 15 to recycle an old refrigerator or freezer, and you will receive a $100 rebate. Removal of up to two appliances is free until July 31. Sign up online at

capelightcompact.org, or call 877-889-4761.

At the West Tisbury library this week:

Thursday, May 24, 5 pm, a recital of 19th century European art songs by baritone David Behnke and pianist David Rhoderick. Highlights include Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” and Chopin’s “Ballade #3, Opus 47,” for piano.

Friday, May 25, 3:30, Dumbledore’s Army meeting for tween and teen members of the Harry Potter Club.

Saturday, May 26, 4 pm, a book talk and reading by Emily Cavenagh of her new book, “This Bright Beauty.” At 6:30 pm, a screening of “They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief.” A question and answer period will follow with producer Shant Mardirossian and Near East Foundation president Charles Benjamin.

The library will be closed for Memorial Day on Monday, May 28. Don’t forget that the library is now closed on Sundays for the summer.

Tuesday, May 29, 10:30 am, Rebekah Nivala will lead the first of four Kindermusik classes for newborns to 1-year-olds and their caregivers. Infants can explore new sounds and make music together. Signup is required.

Katherine Long has had her mother, Katherine, and sister, Mary Ruth Flores, visiting for the past week. Despite the run of gray days, they had a good time “doing Vineyard things,” and, knowing them, they probably had some sewing projects to work on together. All are avid quilters. Mary Ruth will be back in August to work in the fiber tent at the Ag Fair, as she does every year.

I had called Katherine to ask how long it’s been since Tom (Vogl) died. “2010,” she said. I asked because either the spring just before Tom died or the year before, he and Katherine gave me a little white Silkie hen named Fern. I delivered her to Redding in the cage they lent me in time to be a gift for my brother Andy’s March 19 birthday. Fern wasn’t getting along with the other hens in the Long/Vogl coop, and we hoped she would fare better with Andy and Edward’s chickens.

It was an instant match made in heaven. Fern and Andy loved each other from the start. She waited for him every morning, and he saved special tidbits just for her to eat out of his hand. They cuddled. Everyone got along, and Andy, a photographer, immortalized Fern in many of his images, especially in dress-ups or staged setups for their Christmas cards. She was a star.

She still is. Our brother Mike recently stayed at the house to take care of the dogs, chickens, and goat while Andy and Edward visited Tuscany for a fabulous week. Mike had done this before, but this time he found Fern especially charming, and even affectionate to him.

None of us can believe she has lived this long. She still lays eggs. That’s why I am telling this story. She is still alive and thriving. We all adore her. I have written about her on occasion over the years, so consider this an update on Fern’s long and happy life.