West Tisbury: Stories and songs


The grass is coated in frost that sparkles and crunches underfoot when I take Abby out around 5:30 in the morning. She awakens me with a paw, then her whole body’s weight, across my chest, announcing that a new day has begun and she is ready to get out into it. We are learning our rituals.

I am always pleased with myself when I venture out to attend some cultural offering on the Island. It’s often too easy to stay home by the fire with a good book. But whenever I do go somewhere, I am in awe of the talent right here, definitely the case upon seeing “Big Fish” at the Regional High School this past weekend. Director Brooke Hardman Ditchfield, musical director and orchestra conductor Abigail Chandler, and choreographer Ken Romero did an amazing job, as did everyone involved. Violet Cabot was stage manager. Other West Tisbury students acting in the show were Bella Giordano, Jaiden Edelman, Abigail Hammarlund, Ruby Suman, Annabelle Brothers, and Rachel Salop. My apologies to anyone I missed. 

Everyone and everything was fabulous. The acting, singing, dancing, scenery, staging, it was all so well done. The USO dance in particular was worthy of a Broadway extravaganza or Hollywood musical. It was definitely an afternoon well spent. The coconut chocolate chip cookie I treated myself to was excellent, as well.

Mike and I had gone out to breakfast with Julia Humphreys at our favorite haunt, Plane View at the airport, just down the road from our house, convenient. Both Mike and Julia have spent much of their lives on the Island, since the 1940s. They started reminiscing and asking each other questions about people and places, giving me a wealth of stories to listen to while I ate my French toast.

Mike spent his whole summers here, staying in the Joshua Slocum house with his Hull grandparents and an ever-changing cast of aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. He grew up knowing Scannells, Smiths, Whitings, Waldrons, Burts, Bryants, Murphys, Fords, Huntingtons, Bacons, and many others. Dan’l Manter was his revered mentor, and remains so to this day. Mike worked for Dan’l as a teenager and a young man, learning the craft of carpentry, learning about the Island, and learning how to be a man of integrity.

Julia’s family came in Septembers and rented a house in Chilmark before her grandparents bought the red farmhouse on South Road in 1946. She didn’t know as many Island or summer kids until she moved here year-round in 1999. As an adult, she rented the Gadget, the Morgan camp on Chilmark Pond, every spring and fall for 20-plus years, then she bought the house on Briar Wood, where she lives with her changing cast of golden retrievers.

I loved listening to their stories of Manter or Morgan or Whiting camps the families rented when they were young children, of no electricity, of hand pumps or gas-fired pumps for water, of places without modern amenities, but with rapturous views. Canoes, skiffs, or small sailboats lined the coves, ready for days on the water and picnics on the beach. Mike spoke about the Quansoo Yacht Club races and its end-of-the year prize, the Demerara Cup. Winners took home a painting by Willie Huntington of all the sailboats at Big Sandy; they kept it for one year until it was given to the next race winner at the end of the following summer. Mike wondered, Whatever happened to the painting?

Mike’s family stories always sound so idyllic to me. Beaches, boats, picnics, explorations, “beach treasures,” games, rainy days, neighbors visiting back and forth, a house full of kids and dogs to play with. The kids were largely unsupervised and explorations were usually something no modern parent would permit; it all sounded wonderful to me.

Some reminders from earlier columns: Deadline to sign up for Friends of Family Planning’s fundraiser, a lip-sync contest, is Feb. 22. The event is scheduled for March 7 at the P.A. Club. Entry fee is $30. Pay and sign up at fofpmvi@gmail.com. The annual Foster Parent Recruitment event is next week, Feb. 29. Call or text 508-326-1155 for more information, directions, and to sign up.

The West Tisbury library has several events planned for school vacation days. There will be drop-in crafts between 10:30 am and 4 pm. Kids can build and paint a city using cardboard boxes in the Children’s Room, and there will be special crafts for tweens and teens in the Young Adult Room. Free soup and bread lunches will be served in the Program Room between 11:45 am and 12:45 pm, then stay for a family or teen movie and popcorn.

Congratulations to Alexandra Pratt, our new library director, whose appointment was announced last week. She has been at our library for several years, serving as children’s librarian for the past year.

We will all miss Beth Kramer, an amazing person who has done an amazing job. Alexandra will, too; it will be different. I wish Beth all the best in this next chapter of her life. 

Thursday, Feb. 20, 10:30 am, Classical Music Is for You. Ed Merck will present “Improvisation in the Baroque: Continuing the Emphasis on Spontaneity.” Laura Jordan’s Little Bird Music and Movement for kids will begin at 3 pm.

Friday, Feb. 21, 3:30 pm, One Love Yoga’s Emily LaPierre will lead a glow yoga class for ages 9 to 17. Sign up at the library.

Monday, Feb. 24, 11:30 am, Kanta Lipsky’s Balance Class will be held this week at the Howes House. At 6:30 pm, WMVY’s Dave Kish will host a jazz documentary and discussion.

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 4 pm, Alicia Seaver will lead “Dementia 101,” a discussion of different types of dementia, risk factors, symptoms, and warning signs, benefits of early detection, and possible treatments. She will also speak about dementia from different perspectives. Sign up at 508-477-0043, or just come.

I will end with a tribute to artist Ann Howes, who died in December. Ann was one of the first artists I met when I moved to the Island. Her skillful watercolors with their sparkling use of the white paper and her careful compositions were inspiring. So was Ann’s genuine niceness. I always liked seeing her.

Her family is planning a gathering at the Howes House on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 29, at 2 o’clock. It’s a perfect place, as Ann painted there every week with a group of artists, and they all exhibited their work together every summer. I know there will be stories, and maybe some of her paintings to see one last time.