West Tisbury: Toward a simpler lifestyle

— Kyra Steck

Hazy, hot, and humid weather continued through last week and the weekend. I had hopes for some rain, but nothing. Our abundant spring rains are long gone, and we are having our usual summer drought.

The garden still looks OK. I have the most enormous squash plants I have ever seen. Every fall, I throw the tiny pumpkins I decorate my windowsills with for Halloween and Thanksgiving into the compost. Some years I am rewarded with plenty of pumpkins for the fall. Some years, nothing. Some years a crop of mystery vines appears from the rich compost, and I eventually learn what it is. This year I have different varieties of winter squash. Nothing to complain about there. I love being surprised.

Mary Beth Norton gave a Zoom book talk last Tuesday afternoon about her latest, “1774: The Long Year of Revolution.” Mary Beth is a wonderful writer, speaker, teacher, and there was a lot to learn from her presentation, most salient of which was the fact that there were more anti-British tea protests than the one in Boston. The ports of Philadelphia and New York wouldn’t allow the East India ships into their harbors, and Charleston seized and stored the tea. The Colonies were more divided between Loyalists and colonists opposed to British policies and taxation. All this was a more complicated and nuanced situation in the Colonies than I had learned about in school.

Mary Beth showed old prints of the ships and ports she spoke about, lovely old engravings, some hand-colored. She told us about her years of research for this book, discoveries she and some of her colleagues found, letters, and contemporaneous printed articles. It sounded like a treasure hunt. Here is one of the quotes at the beginning of the book, from Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet, dated Nov. 14, 1774: “I almost wish to live to hear the triumphs of the Jubilee in the Year 1874, to see the medals, pictures, fragments of writings, &c., that shall be displayed to revive the memory of the proceedings of the Congress in the year 1774.”

Besides listening to Mary Beth’s talk, I had the pleasure of sharing it with my niece, Charlotte, who lives across the country. She is a historian, and her primary interest is pre-Revolutionary history, so when I saw the announcement in the library’s events listing I immediately asked if she would like to join me. I am full of praise for Zoom. It was totally wonderful seeing her sitting in her office. Charlotte said that seeing so many familiar West Tisbury faces made her feel like she had been home for a visit. We are looking for other events we can share.

I guess that for all that I complain about computers, there are some positive things they can do.

Ginny Jones sent me an email about a group of young people in Scotland who have started some very innovative businesses. Their motto, “reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle,” makes a lot of sense. One of the women, Kate Kavies, posts online about her work and her ecological conscience, wanting to make less of an impact on the environment. It could be a business model for our post-COVID economy.

Having grown up in a family that had lived through and regularly spoke about the Great Depression and the war years, it was nothing unusual to see my mother darning our socks or turning the collars on my father’s shirts. Worn clothes became pillowcases or aprons. Everything was cared for and turned into something else.

It is so interesting that many people are looking for ways to simplify their lives and to eschew the rampant consumerism that is ruining our lives and our physical world. There are constant advertisements luring us to be consumers of everything. Especially young people are choosing to live a smaller lifestyle, to grow their own food, to make things, to take care of what we have rather than throwing it out and buying a new whatever-it-is. It appears that the world our parents and grandparents lived in makes sense again.

I wonder how this will all play out?

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