West Tisbury: Flowering trees and bushes


The windows are wide open, sun pouring in, and the fragrance of new-mown grass. Mike is mowing for the first time this spring. The past few days have really felt like spring, and I am grateful for the sunshine, grateful to want to be outside, grateful for warmth and fresh air. I know it won’t last, that before long it will be hot and humid, but for now there is no reason not to revel in every minute.

Even Zoom has moved outside. I have seen several people in Zoom meetings sitting on decks or lawns with their laptops or iPads. Why not? Rabbi Broitman conducted the Saturday morning Shabbat service from her deck, and several of us were outside, as well. I have a very comfortable group of Adirondack chairs, so I can move around to keep the sun out of my eyes. It would be nice to think that Abby could be lying quietly by my feet through services or work programs and meetings, but she is still pretty rambunctious. Holes need to be dug, after all, and tennis balls need to be thrown, retrieved, and thrown again.

My 35-year-old rhododendron hedge is spectacular this year. The first white blossoms of ‘Catawbiense Album’ opened last week, followed by bright pink flowers on a slender-leaved R. makinoi. ‘Ken Janeck’ and ‘Yaku Prince’ are showing fat pink buds that will open to paler flowers. More to come.

The dogwoods are my favorite because they remind me of my Connecticut childhood, and were my father’s favorite, too. We had one tree in front of our dining room where I would sit for hours on a leafy branch, sure that no one could ever see me up there in that secret bower.

I did a program last week for the Center for Living clients about the Polly Hill Arboretum. Phil DaRosa and Ann Quigley had made a video tour of the gardens in April that I showed as I spoke about Polly, meeting her with Jean Wexler back in the 1980s when it was still a private garden, the development of the garden, and her hybridizing of so many plants, the design of what began as open fields bounded by old stone walls. Jean wrote the gardening column in the Gazette back then, and we both became besotted with all the rhododendrons we discovered and learned about on our visits with Polly. I realize how much I learned from both of those women and the gardens they tended.

When I planted my original rhododendrons, I had just gone out and bought white rhododendrons. There were a few other colors there, but all pretty similar in size and leaf shape. After walking through Polly’s Playpen, seeing what differences there were, so many native and hybrid varieties, I began to appreciate them in a more nuanced way. The R. yakushimanums have the most wonderful leaves, with soft, velvety undersides. I love stroking them as I walk by. The original white-flowered hedge has been widened, with smaller rhodies and azaleas and groundcovers in front and among them. As we extended it along the length of our property, there was room for ever more plants. There are trees and evergreens mixed in for height, oakleaf hydrangeas to bloom later in the summer. It’s really very woodsy, not formal or tightly clipped at all, but to me it feels like a living painting that changes with the seasons.

Marie-Louise Rouff called me around midday last Saturday. She had been held up on her way to the transfer station by a traffic jam near the Ag Hall. I later learned that more than 400 cars were lined up along State Road and the Panhandle, awaiting their turn for a free bag of oysters. The giveaway started at 11 o’clock, and was over by 11:30. Waiting in line gave people an opportunity to admire the 1,500 daffodils that Ag Society members planted last fall, so the time was not wasted.

Congratulations to Sgt. Matt Gebo. He was named West Tisbury Police Officer of the Year 2019, a well-earned and well-deserved honor. Thank you, Matt, for all you do.

Condolences to Maureen and Bob Fischer and their family. Maureen’s mother, Marguerite McDonough, died last week. She was 102 years old. She adored opera, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her years of nursing inspired me, especially her stories of how hard it was for young women entering school and then the nursing field. She persevered. She was an amazing woman, who will be missed by all who knew her.

The Friends of the West Tisbury Free Public Library have announced that the annual book sale has been canceled for this year. It has always been the highlight of the summer for many devoted readers. I know people who planned their vacations to coincide with the book sale, and made sure the school gym was their first stop. The proceeds supported many extra library programs. Another much-anticipated event that we will have to wait till next year to attend.

Zoom programs at the library this week include:

Thursday, May 21, at 10:30 am, Little Bird MV’s Laura Jordan will continue her virtual music class for kids through Zoom. Classes include seasonal songs and movement. Email mlawson@clamsnet.org for the Zoom invitation to join.

Friday, May 22, at 8 am, Jason Mazar-Kelly will continue teaching an all-levels Kripalu Flow Yoga Class via Zoom. Contact wt_mail@clamsnet.org to sign up.

Friday, May 22, at 11:30 am, Kanta Lipsky will lead her weekly Balance Class through Zoom. You will need a chair for some of the movements. Kanta will be leading her class on both Mondays and Fridays at 11:30 am. Email wt_mail@clamsnet.org to join. Also on Friday, at 3 pm, K.T. Herr will lead an online Poetry Workshop via Zoom. This is a traditionally structured workshop discussion of each poet’s work, finishing up with a reading by each poet of a finished, favorite poem of their own. Email kt.herr@gmail.com to sign up.

Saturday, May 23, at 10 am, Jen Burkin will lead an online painting class for kids ages 5-12. Jen will continue teaching online kids’ painting classes on Tuesdays at 4:30 pm and Saturdays at 10 am. Email lhearn@clamsnet.org to sign up. Also on Saturday, at 11:30 am, Felix Neck will offer an online class for kids all about insects! This class is for ages 5-10. Email lhearn@clamsnet.org to sign up.

Monday, May 25, the library will not have online programming, in observance of Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 26, at 2 pm, the library will host an online conversational ESL class with instructor Jonah Kaplan-Woolner. Classes will meet weekly. This class is open to all levels. Visit the library website for more info. Email wt_mail@clamsnet.org to join. Also on Tuesday, at 3:30 pm, Heather Capece will lead an online Watercolor Class for teens and adults. Email lhearn@clamsnet.org to sign up.

Wednesday, May 27, at 8 am, Jason Mazar-Kelly will lead a weekly Chair Yoga and Meditation class on Zoom. Email wt_mail@clamsnet.org to join. At 10:30 am on Wednesday, join the library for online Adult Community Dance Class with the Yard’s Jesse Keller Jason. Please email wt_mail@clamsnet.org to join. Also on Wednesday, at 3 pm, Val Estabrook will teach an online painting class for ages 7-10. Email mlawson@clamsnet.org to sign up.

My niece, Charlotte Hull, appeared on a Zoom visit, wearing a pair of unfamiliar, outsize glasses. She told me they cut the blue light from her computer screen and she found it a big help to wear them. I ordered a pair for myself, and urge everyone to do so. Now that we are all spending so much more time on our computers, it makes sense to do whatever will help ease eye strain and whatever damage blue-wavelength light is doing to our eyes. I haven’t had a headache or dry, aching eyes since I started wearing them.

If you have any West Tisbury Town Column suggestions, email Hermine Hull, hermine.hull@gmail.com.