West Tisbury: Noticing nature


It always surprises me to find the odd myrtle flower or a few blossoms on our rhododendrons every fall. An unexpected gift. A reason to remember to notice what’s happening in nature. Nasturtiums and petunias are still looking vigorous. Geraniums are loving the cooler weather. I’ll need to bring them in soon, but am happy to leave the cleaning and repotting for another day.

Mike and I had dinner at Diane Wall’s house last week, an extra-special occasion because Teena and Charlie Parton were with us, visiting the island from their home in western Massachusetts. I started to write “new home,” but realized they had moved longer ago than I remember. I still prefer thinking that they are just down the road from us. In fact, I told Charlie that I was disappointed that Diane hadn’t asked me to bring dessert, as I would have made one that was nostalgic to all of us — hot fudge sundaes with peppermint ice cream. It was Charlie’s favorite. He made it every Wednesday night all winter long for hot fudge sundae night at Alley’s, back when the Partons owned the store. AT, Alex Taylor, often ladled out the fudge sauce when he was home.

Hilary and Tessa Wall were with us for dinner, too. Grown women now with lives and careers and homes of their own, no longer the babies sleeping in a carrier on the front counter at Alley’s, monitored by Diane as she worked and all the store’s customers as they came and went.

This must have been in the 1980s, and Alley’s was the center of our lives back then. We got our mail there, bought the newspaper, ran into everyone we knew. Carpenters, plumbers, and electricians met to coordinate their jobs. You could buy any kind of tools from hammers and screwdrivers to fancy power tools, screws and nails out of drawers rather than in plastic bags, paint, paintbrushes, work boots, warm woolen coats and vests, Cheddar cheese cut from a wheel on the counter, the best kitchenware, chicken or hamburger for dinner, fresh vegetables, and any esoteric spices you needed. Teena covered the front porch with plants for sale every spring and with pumpkins every fall. So much of our home and much of what we needed every day came from Alley’s.

Does anyone remember Lambert? Lambert was the handsome long-haired black and white cat who lived in the store. Most of us only knew Lambert from his tail, as he was usually seen with his head buried in a bag of Meow Mix cat food that was kept on a low shelf for him. When he emptied one bag, he would rip into another, and start right in again.

It’s getting near Halloween, and the library and Parks and Rec are busy planning their parties. Peggy Stone is looking for volunteers to help with the town’s party at the Ag Hall that night. Please call her at 508-696-0147.

When I saw Binnie Ravitch, she asked me to mention her dachshunds’ upcoming 17th birthdays. George Burns Ravitch and Gracie Allen Ravitch were littermates who crawled engagingly into Binnie’s lap the day she went to see the puppies. She called them “my emotional response to 9/11.” She brought them home the day after Christmas 2001, so Christmas that year became “Puppy Eve.” They have remained comfortable and comforting in Binnie’s lap ever since. Happy birthday, George and Gracie, and wishes for many more.