West Tisbury: Joys of summer

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— Kyra Steck

It’s the prelude to 4th of July weekend, a quietly rainy Friday of what may turn out to be a quietly rainy holiday weekend. I am grateful that our house is set back in the woods where I can pretend the Island is still small and silent except for the wind, where summer and winter still feel the same, where we are still a small town and know most everyone.

Outside my windows there are tall kousa dogwoods still thickly covered with creamy-colored blossoms. They were all gifts from friends years ago, and have all produced seedlings I have happily given away.

Daylilies are beginning to bloom in the kitchen garden. So far, I have been enjoying peach and yellow daylilies and anticipating more in various colors. Everything has been so fulsome this year. The clumps of daylilies are larger than ever, with more stems and buds ready to burst. Delicate purple-blue adenophora and white matricaria fill in any spaces between. The deer haven’t bothered them yet, and although I would be foolish to believe that they won’t, I can hope to enjoy a long season of unfolding buds, every day a different garden depending on which ones have the most open flowers. A pleasant fantasy, so far.

I have often wanted to write about daylilies. As long as they are not eaten, they are a most satisfying flower. The garden changes every day depending on which ones bloom, so there are always surprises. The morning ritual of dead-heading is a pleasant garden task. I relish walking around with bare feet and a cup of coffee in my hand, removing yesterday’s past, and neatening up for a new day. My orange cat, Nelson, usually accompanies me on these perambulations, my best companion.

I have also enjoyed walks at the Polly Hill Arboretum these past few weeks. There is always something new to see and to learn. Kousa dogwoods and stewartias have put on a magnificent show, as have the orange azaleas I covet every time I see them. They are supposed to be difficult to propagate, but I live in hope.

Our golden retriever, Abby, has become a water dog on her daily walks. She runs into the water and splashes around, sending plumes of spray up towards the sky. Now she is actually swimming. If you remember the Peanuts cartoons of Snoopy dancing, a look of pure joy on his upturned face, you will have an accurate picture of Abby at the beach.

On one of our walks, she attracted the attention of a flock of sanderlings that seemed to engage her in their games. The birds would fly up, Abby would run towards them, they would fly off, then swoop back close to her. This went on for quite a time. The birds really appeared to be playing with her. It always seemed that birds just flew away from our other dogs, but they were actively courting Abby. It was fun to watch. She has her own personality, as have the others, and it is a pleasure watching her grow into herself.

Our other amusement has been watching parasailers on the pond. They are quite skillful and are moving with some speed when they get going. Owen Jones joined us one afternoon as we stood on the beach watching the latest person. He and Mike got into a conversation about their childhood and teenage exploits. I love listening to these reminiscences of the Island as it was, of boat races and picnics, of boyhood friends and local characters, of working for Dan’l Manter or George Magnuson or Arnie Fischer, of clamming and hunting, of beach treasures.

Hearing about Arnie reminds me of how he started the West Tisbury Fire Department back in the 1950s and was the first chief. It’s been on my mind as we anticipated the end of June when Manny Estrella would retire from his tenure in that position. Manny was a great chief and really brought a professionalism and modern education to the department. He cared about his firefighters. (Yes, we have women in the department, the inimitable Maddie Scott being a fine example.)

Selectmen Kent Healy and Skipper Manter attended as town clerk Tara Whiting-Wells swore in our new fire chief, Greg Pachico, at a ceremony at Station II last Monday evening. On Wednesday, June 30, Manny’s official retirement date, fire trucks, police cars, and EMTs formed a parade past his house. Horns hooted and sirens sighed as well-wishers displayed their obvious regard for Manny and gratitude for his many years of service. May he and Sharon have days of fun together and enjoy many a full night’s sleep.

Congratulations to Greg. You have earned the trust and regard of your department and will make our town proud. And safe.

Welcome to the Vineyard Gazette’s new West Tisbury columnist, Molly Martone. I have enjoyed your first two columns and look forward to more.

M.V. Democrats will meet on Zoom this Saturday morning, July 10, at 9:30 am. There will be two guest speakers, Ben Hellerstein, director of Environment Massachusetts, and M.V. Dems member Alan Strahler, who will report on environment-related advances made at the Island’s town meetings this past spring. Email democratsmv@gmail.com for a Zoom invitation.

Tony and Doreen Rezendes traveled to Watertown, Conn., to attend the graduation of their granddaughter, Kendra DelTorto, from Watertown High School. Kendra will be attending James Madison University in the fall.

It’s time to sign up for the Summer Reading Program at the West Tisbury library. While you are there, take a look at some of the special programs this coming week. On Thursday, July 8, the Martha’s Vineyard Library Association is sponsoring an online talk by Chaya Milchstein at 7 pm. She will give an overview of car maintenance, what needs to be done, when, and how. To sign up, email ccooney@clamsnet.org. On Monday, July 12, there will be an online Libby eBooks and eAudio patron training at 10 am. At 7:30 pm, bring a blanket to sit on the library lawn for a program of spooky songs and tales of Martha’s Vineyard’s supernatural history by Mark Lovewell. There is no sign up for this event. Helene Barr will present “A Garden Essay in Photographs” on Wednesday, July 14, in person in the library at 4 pm. Seating is limited, so you must sign up in advance at wt_mail@clamsnet.org. Don’t forget to look at all the continuing yoga classes, book groups, art classes, craft kits, and more that the library provides.

John Hough, Jr. has a new book out, just in time to add it to your summer reading list. It’s called “The Sweetest Days” and I look forward to getting my copy.

All the galleries in town have opened up for the season. Allen Whiting is open on Sundays from 1 to 6 pm, and by appointment at other times. Call him at 508-693-4691. Kara Taylor has opened with a collection of new paintings. Her gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. Alison Shaw, Tamalin Baumgarten, Anne Besse-Shepherd, and Heidi Lang are showing at the Granary Gallery through July 15. At the Field Gallery, see work by Susie White, Jhenn Watts, and Kenneth Pillsworth, through July 21.

If you travel out of town, in this case to Oak Bluffs, the Galaxy Gallery is showing work by the critique group I have belonged to for almost 20 years. Called Artists/Friends, we are Claire Chalfoun, Lyn Hinds, Ruth Kirchmeier, Liz Taft, Wendy Weldon, and me. It will be on display through July 14. The Arts District Gallery Stroll is this Saturday and all the galleries along Dukes County Avenue and Circuit Avenue will be open.

I took a break Friday afternoon to sit on the refurbished front porch of Alley’s. Everything is freshly shingled and painted, our bench and the swing have been reinstalled. Mike and coffee friends have reinstalled themselves, too. It felt like old times watching the traffic go by, watching the weather, catching up on our week. Lots of people who saw us thought the store was open. The sign says “soon” and looking in the windows it appears that things are progressing. Soon.

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