West Tisbury: The best potato salad ever


Wanting something cold for dinner tonight, Mike mentioned a pasta salad of some kind. It would be easy, one of those things you could just take dinners out of for days. And it would be cold. I tend to throw in “everything but the kitchen sink,” meaning lots of vegetables and whatever suits our fancy at the moment. My mother always put in tuna fish. Mike’s mother put in Cheddar cheese. Both are excellent.

You can already see that this is no gourmet dinner. Although I have made lovely salads with limited, fancy ingredients, this is what we ate in the summertime as kids.

I brought up the salad bowl from the basement, an enormous yellowware bowl that is one of my treasures. Mike’s mother, Bobby, used to make potato salad or pasta salad in it, and passed it along to me when she decided she was done making quantities of anything anymore. I thought of her as I washed and dried the bowl, and decided this is what I would write my column about this week.

I have often thought about what makes things — inanimate objects — special, what gives them their energy. It is the memories of the person who gave it to you, or where you were when you got it. Every time I use Bobby’s yellowware bowl, I think of her and the best potato salad ever, which she used to make for family picnics in the summer, of sitting on her screened porch with the breeze coming across the meadow. Of Bobby and Richard and Janice still being alive. Of Josh and Charlotte being young children still at home. Of happy times. Of drinks and laughter, of silly conversations and arguments long forgotten. Of the fragrance of newly cut hay when Jimmy Athearn would mow the meadow.

So many things are like that. My whole life feels made up of sentimentality.

Linsey Lee’s new book, “Vineyard Voices, Volume 3,” had its official debut Tuesday evening at an event at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. I can tell that I bought a copy to give Mike for his birthday because he will have received it before he reads this column on Thursday. I looked through the book before wrapping it, and have already read a good bit of it. John Athearn, Tom Thatcher, Clifton Athearn, Woolcott Smith, and Polly Murphy are some of the West Tisburyites who are included.

Speaking of books, the 60th Friends of the West Tisbury Free Public Library Book Sale is this Friday, July 26, through Monday, July 29. Hours are 9 am to 3 pm all four days. Books are full-price the first two days, then half-price on Sunday, and free on Monday. People plan their vacations around the book sale, and I have friends who weed their bookshelves in advance to make room for the new purchases they plan to make at the sale.

Saturday was art day, as Ruth Kirchmeier and I planned a list of openings and shows we wanted to see. We always go to Allen Whiting’s together sometime after the opening, to really spend time looking at the paintings and to have a good visit with Allen and Lynne. So we planned our outing around that and the route we would take. 

Deciding to follow a straight line, we started at Heather Sommers’ opening at the Chilmark library. We had seen several of Heather’s sculptures in her studio, and some of the printed images she designed around them, but nothing prepared me for the impact of turning the corner after entering the library and walking into the room where the exhibition was arranged. A large table was set up in the center of the room with Heather’s sculptures displayed across its surface. The prints were on three walls. I was blown away by the power of her work.

“The Centaur Chronicle” began after the inauguration of Donald Trump. The first sculpture was titled “Populist Shoots Self in Hoof,” and it began a series of, so far, 23 pieces, all presenting Trump as a centaur, “a mythological creature, half horse and half human, trapped in conflict with its base instincts and civilized behavior.” Heather has produced a body of work that encompasses the best of both political satire and fine art. It is a knockout show, and much of our moment in history.

Next to the Davis House Gallery. Allen Whiting has mounted a show of about 60 paintings and drawings. I may have favorites, but every piece was wonderful. His charcoal drawings show a facility for gestural description, and I always feel that drawings are the most personal of an artist’s work. There were some small floral still life paintings that were beautiful. Most of the paintings were, as always, of the landscape, and especially of the Whiting Farm. New this year were some night paintings, with full moons lighting the sky and the scenes below.

While we were there, we met guests Robin Young and Laury Hammel. Laury has been a friend of Lynne’s since their childhood in Salt Lake City, where they both attended the Holladay Community Church.

Then on to Rez Williams’s opening at A Gallery, another fabulous collection of major paintings by an important artist. As with Heather’s show, I had seen some of the paintings in Rez’s studio, but seeing them hanging at eye level on a wall with space to walk back was amazing. The gallery was crowded, but there was still room to see the work and to really look at the details. I was particularly interested in subtleties, places where Rez had laid colors of close values, sometimes different colors altogether, sometimes slight variations of the same color, together in broad areas of the paintings. To look at what at first appeared to big a flat green shape, then looking more closely, I would find patches of blue or lavender that gave it a vitality.

Looking at art is totally wonderful.

As we were leaving, Ruth and I met Nevin Brown, a friend of Louise Bessire, who was visiting from Siena, Italy.

The All-Island Art Show is coming up. This year it will be held on August 5 from 10 am to 3 pm at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. Amateur and professional artists are invited to participate. Artists may register beginning at 8:30 am the morning of the show. The rain date is August 6. For more information, look at the website, allislandartshow.wordpress.com, or stop by the MVCMA office.

The Federated Church will host Julie Fay, director of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, as part of the church’s Community Partnership Program. She will speak on Sunday, July 28, following the 9:30 am service.

What an occasion to see West Tisbury Postmaster John Hirt and David and Rosalie McCullough unveiling and dedicating a new postage stamp right on the front porch of the West Tisbury Post Office. The stamp commemorates the Transcontinental Railroad, and was chosen by John Hirt because he has been a lifelong railroad enthusiast.

It’s funny, after all the rain we had this spring and early summer ,that the garden can possibly need watering. But it does, and that’s the next chore on my list for today.