Coronavirus Chronicles: A view from the trenches

Jan Pogue provides some perspective in the year-rounder vs. seasonal debate.

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. 



  1. The “true islander” debate is silly. We are all washashores, unless you are indigenous, and should be thankful to be here. The important issue at this time is not how long you have lived here but are you respecting the rules and being mindful of the scarce resources that people are facing everywhere?

    • My families been here since the late 1800’s and continues to grow and flourish.To say it’s not important is an under statement at best, “If you weren’t born here, you’re not from here”.. That quote is coming directly from a movie you tourist and transplants/Washashores love, called “JAWS”. So I guess Steven Spielberg is SILLY, for having over 5 scenes in JAWS that are about being born and raised here.I guess he just loves to waste money and pay several actors to memorize those lines and put them in his movie, because he’s silly. Just be honest and stop telling people your from here, when you’re clearly not. You either came here for the hype, to brag to your friends, the status, or just to say that you came here. You don’t respect the people that have made this island what is and Native generations are the heart of the Vineyard. I’m all about moving here and falling in my love with my home, but just stop the lies and be honest about where you’ve originated from.
      Steven Spielberg made JAWS back in 1975′ and felt that he needed to put that in his movie, he just loves being SILLY and wasting thousands of dollars and hours of time. It was an issue in 1975′ and it’s an even worse issue today in 2020′, people love to lie about being from here.They think it makes them seem special, until they tell the wrong Native and get a reality check.
      I’ve left the island for college and lived in New York City and I never once said I was from there. I lived in a really nice part of New York City as well, but I respected the natives.
      So the answer to your question, is you’ll never be considered being from Martha’s Vineyard. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived here for a second, or for 1000′ years, you’ll never be from here. If you weren’t born and raised here, you’ll always be a transplant/washashore and be happy with that. Why can’t you be happy with being born where you were born and say I moved here and so on. You seem like a nice lady and I’m sorry about your husband and it’s sad.I’m glad that you like, love and admire Martha’s Vineyard, the facts will always be the facts.
      A true Native of Martha’s Vineyard, is someone who’s been born and raised here.There’s nothing wrong with being honest and just stating the truth and saying I moved here and I’m from such and such.Just like the two woman in Jaws on State Beach, the woman asked the other woman. “How do you become from here” and she stated “you have to be born here”..It was true in 1975′ and it’s still true today and will be forever..

      Be safe and healthy..

        • Yes, JAWS is fictional and the movie wasn’t the point I was making. The point was that Spielberg actually made a point, to make that a part in is his movie, this movie just happens to be JAWS.To have several scenes in the movie of JAWS, that talked about being from here.Which had nothing to do with the movie at all, but because so many people say there from here. He felt it was relevant to add several scenes about it, to give respect to the born natives of MV.
          This discussion isn’t about the virus at all, it was about being considered from here.That’s what I was commenting on, you took the discussion off course.

          • The essay focused on where the writer is from within the context of the corona crisis. The Island can’t handle any population increase at this time without endangering people. Some won’t accept that message because they think the warnings are based on the old Islander vs. summer resident rivalries rather than the hospital’s bleak facts. Tourists of any destination should respect the locals, but there’s no reason to be snobby or remind someone they weren’t born here. They know.

      • Mv-born, I think your pride of your Island lineage is great. My Island roots are from 1700 but I know I am a washashore now and forever. However, its my humble opinion, that, in this time of international crisis, anyone who has a home here is entitled to be here. The “true islander” debate is fun in Jaws but not relevant in determining who is allowed to use their home. And the debate seems have brought out the worst in people when we need to be our best. No one should feel uncomfortable about being here unless they are not following the simple guidelines that responsible medical professionals have asked us to abide. There will be plenty of time to take pot shots at tourists and washashores. I just don’t believe it is helpful now.

      • “A true native” Honestly. Why do some people who were born here feel superior to someone who relocated here? An accident of birth gives you some kind of entitlement? And so what how long your family lived here? Last time I checked, this was still part of the USA. You’re no more entitled to be here than anyone else. Get over yourself.

        • You know we only do it to ruffle your washashore feathers. It’s kind of like you can’t be a Libra if you are born in August but you can be a Leo. That’s cool too right?

      • I’m curious, MV-Born, whether you think immigrant citizens have no right to call themselves “Americans” because they were not born in the U.S. In your view, is an immigrant citizen less of an American than a native-born American? Is a special “respect” due to native-born American citizens because they were born here?

      • Hmmmm….I believe the line is “ I just want to know when do I become an islander?” “never, if you’re not born here you’re not an islander. That’s it”
        That being said if your family’s been here since the 1800’s you know Spielberg didn’t exactly do us any favors in the keeping the island a secret department.
        At any rate, this isn’t about us and them. It’s about staying safe. We are all in this together and owe it to each other not to do risky things….like travel.
        MV Born, my family has about 200 years on you but I won’t hold it against you.

      • Dear MV-Born,

        If being born here, a fact over which you had no control, is the thing you are most proud of, that’s quite sad. If being Native Born is your greatest accomplishment, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but you are not an accomplished person. When you take the measure of Jan Pogue by what she has contributed to Martha’s Vineyard — helping build the new YMCA, creating a wonderful library of books about the history and culture and people of this place — the question of where she was born pales. The question of birthplace is, ultimately, immaterial to anything. What matters is what we do with our lives once born.

      • Sorry to break it to you, but unless you’re a member of the Wampanoag tribe you’re always gonna be a washashore and are in no sense “native” to this Island. Facts are facts, America.

          • Because the Wampanoags have been in the area for 10,000 years and the Vikings came through roughly 1,000 years ago.

  2. It is interesting that nobody is complaining that the Massachusetts General Hospital will be taking patients from the MV Hospital, nor that Ms. Schepici was asking for preferential transfer status to MGH.

  3. Neither Massachusetts General Hospital nor that Ms. Schepici was referenced in the article. MVH was not its focus. The message I got was, “we are all in this together, no matter who we are or where we live. ” A call for unity and calm in a time of stress.

  4. Funny what some people get out of a well-written, from-the-heart article… can’t we just be kind, people? What a wonderful man John was, and Jan has done some incredible things for Vineyarders since he passed. “Life is difficult, says M. Scott Peck. “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.” Can we transcend our differences and difficulties and see that we are all more alike than different? I heartily agree, ” A call for unity and calm in a time of stress.”

  5. Seems to me the ‘islanders’ are an endangered species, much like the famed dinosaurs of the past such as t-rex and brontosaurus, their fossilized bones can be seen at the MV Museum, and their descendants will prowl the under brush of the island, clucking and crowing, claiming to be true ‘islanders’. The rest of us will look on at their protests with amusement.

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