I’m not sure I have much story to tell, except for my curious place on Martha’s Vineyard. I am neither the dreaded summer person trying to live out the virus here in this off-season nor am I the year-round person I was for more than 10 years. It places me in a curious position — as I told a friend, it’s like purgatory: I’m neither a Vineyarder nor a summer person. And yet, when the world began to disintegrate into warring factions — warring an unseen enemy, warring each other — I came here. Home.
But this is my story, so I’ll tell it quickly, in hopes it will add something to your thinking.
I moved here 15 years ago with my husband. We came after my husband, on the Vineyard for the very first time for a potential job, fell in love with this Island in about three hours. It was a curious thing to do, but he was sure. We shut down our lives in Atlanta based on that initial visit — did I mention it was in December? We brought one of our three children with us; he started school in the seventh grade in Edgartown. Our middle child stayed in Atlanta to finish her senior year in high school. Our oldest was finishing college in Boston.
He took the job that had been proffered; I continued a book writing career that took me off-Island a lot. Our young son delved into Island life. We thought we were settled. Sixteen months later, the job we’d moved here for disappeared. A few years later, my husband died. A year after that, my youngest boy went to college.
In between, John and I had created something called Vineyard Stories, which we conceived of as a boutique book company publishing books about the Vineyard. We had no idea what we were doing and thought the company would last through three books. When I closed it 11 years later in 2015, it had published almost 60 books.
The first winter after John died was hard for me. I worked more than I knew was possible. It was dark. I was lonely. I had a son who was a senior in high school and was a mess. So, I decided that when he went to college the next year, I would go away for a few weeks to someplace warm and sunny. I chose Mexico because photographer Alison Shaw told me she’d done a workshop there and thought I would like it. Five years later, I bought a house. Five years after that, at 4 am on what would have been a spectacular spring day, I crawled into a car with a private driver and began my 18-hour trip home. To the Vineyard. Through four airports. Wearing a mask and clutching a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer with an expired date.
I had arranged to stay in the summer house of friends who were not here, quarantining myself for 14 days. I’m in the middle of that now. I hope to go to Chappy in a few more days, where I have a small house that is connected to my daughter’s home by screened porches, the home I have shared for the last two years, since the birth of my granddaughter. I come back to take care of Juna for five or six months while my daughter farms on her Slipaway Farm. She’s working in the greenhouse preparing for the summer even as I write this. My youngest son, meanwhile, has opened the bakery at The Grey Barn and is now producing as many loaves of bread each day as he does in the summer.
I get up every day in this lovely home on the Edgartown Great Pond, look out the window at the changing colors of the pond, and hope I will make it through another day without a fever or a dry cough or a hard time breathing. I see no one – except one day, a man named Ed walking a big white horse named Bob and accompanied by a dog named Allie. We conversed from six feet apart, and he told me he’d just come off his own two-week quarantine.
I try to laugh every day. I try not to eat too much. I try to keep my spirits up, hoping that I’ll be able to go to Chappy in a few more days and begin a whole new lockdowned life, but at least with family near me, including my little granddaughter. I won’t see my youngest son or his fiancée to keep them safe. I won’t see my oldest son or his wife, who live in Boston and who have seen their lives completely change. I won’t really see anyone, since the rules of the house mean I can’t leave the grounds around me.
So, am I a summer person or a Vineyarder? Does it really matter? Because, from where I sit in purgatory, we are all in this together, no matter who we are or where we live.
Jan Pogue is a former newspaper reporter and editor and was the owner of Vineyard Stories, the Island’s publishing company, for 11 years. She retired in 2015. She thinks of herself as a resident of this lovely Island.