West Tisbury: Ghosts and goblins, witches and warlocks


Our woods are looking more open, airier. The storms of the past weeks have blown down a lot of leaves, so the structure of tree trunks and bare branches, of sky in all its colors, is becoming our view. Every year I admire the new light and sense of space as we move further and further into fall. Our woods still surround our house, and I always feel their protective presence every time I look outside.

Today is Halloween. Ghosts and goblins, witches and warlocks, superheros and fairy princesses, along with plenty of cats, pirates, dinosaurs, frogs, and firemen, will come trick-or-treating tonight. From 3:30 to 5 pm is the library Halloween party. The parks and rec department hosts the town’s party at the Ag Hall from 6 to 8 pm. There will be hayrides, delicious treats, crafts, and games at both.

A group of friends was talking about our childhood Halloweens, about favorite costumes and holiday traditions. I don’t remember any special costumes, but I do remember how the nights felt cool, often rainy, and the smell of the leaves. By the end of October the lawns and sidewalks were thick with fallen leaves, dusty piles that crackled underfoot. I can remember my feet kicking up puffs of them into the air ahead of me, and their smell of sweetness and decay.

For the first years after I moved to West Tisbury, the Fire Department would spend the month of October readying the old Ag Hall, now the Grange Hall, for Halloween. They built secret passageways where skeletons and ghosts would swing out in front of you or icy hands would reach out to grab the back of your neck. Walls would force you into slanted spaces, and ceilings would gradually lower until you had to crawl on your knees, often on some contrived surface that was supposed to feel like dead bones or a muddy swamp filled with creatures. It was called The Haunted House, and the firemen prided themselves on newer, more devious special effects from year to year. People came from all over the Island, forming lines that snaked out to the road as they waited for their turn to enter.

There were hayrides back then, too. As the wagon circled the pitch-dark cemetery at Deadman’s Curve, George Manter was often hiding behind a headstone, waiting to jump out and scare the life out of you. 

Trick-or-treaters came to houses back then, too, driven by parents to houses of people they knew. We carved pumpkins and put lit candles inside them. Sometimes we decorated our porch with ghosts hanging from the posts. Bats, spiderwebs, strings of lights that looked like little jack-o’-lanterns. “Dracula” or “Frankenstein” was always on television. We expected Halloween to be scary. It all seems so long ago.

At the library this week:

Friday, Nov. 1, 5:15 pm, the Women’s Committee of We Stand Together/Estamos Todos Juntos will host a Feminist Book Discussion Group.

Saturday, Nov. 2, 10:30 am, a workshop with Linda Tumbarello, author of “The Heart of Self-Care: A Woman’s Guide to Joyful Living and Well-Being.” From 3:30 to 5 pm, an artist’s reception for members of the Martha’s Vineyard Modern Quilt Guild, who are exhibiting through the month of November.

Sunday, Nov. 3, 3 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society concert featuring cello quartet Holes in the Floor. The program includes two pieces arranged by Heidi Schultz.

Monday, Nov. 4, 11:30 am, Kanta Lipsky’s Balance Workshop. Writers Read will meet at 7 pm. Call 508-693-4307 to sign up.

Tuesday, Nov. 5, 10:30 am, Adult Community Dance Class with the Yard.

Wednesday, Nov. 6, 10:30 am, Moira Silva will lead the first session of her five-week Memoir Writing Workshop. Participants are asked to commit to all five sessions. Sign up at the library.

Thursday, Nov. 7, 10:30 am, Laura Jordan’s Little Bird Music and Movement Class for kids.

The League of Women Voters will meet at the Howes House this Saturday, Nov. 2, at 9 am.

In honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, Mary Holmes will speak about “Activity-Based Dementia Care” at the Chilmark lLibrary on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 1 pm. The program will bring ideas from senior day programs and recreation’s best practices to make dementia care at home easier and more interesting. She will discuss the changes dementia puts on one’s skills and ways to work with existing abilities to enhance and support physical well-being, social and functional skills, perception, communication, and behaviors, and to promote a more inclusive way of thinking about living with dementia. There will be time for questions and discussion at the end of the program.

Mary Holmes, M.Ed., M.Sc., is a certified dementia care practitioner with a master’s in gerontology. She is currently supervisor at the Supportive Day Program at the Martha’s Vineyard Center For Living.

If you are in Boston over the next week, stop into the Copley Society on Newbury Street to see Leslie Baker’s painting in the “Copley Masters Show.”