West Tisbury: Parsonage Pond

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— Kyra Steck

The first white mallow flowers have appeared among the greenery around Parsonage Pond. The ever-changing arrangements of shapes and colors at Parsonage, even though it is mostly a filled-in marshland now, and at the Mill Pond across the road, offer an opportunity to observe whatever view is offered on that day, at the time you are looking at it. Skies of gray or blue, cloud-filled or not, reflections on the water, falling or emerging foliage, green or dying orange grass, multiflora roses in the spring or mallows in August, it’s all there to be savored. There are often birds and waterfowl, too. Watch out for the poison ivy.

Both of those ponds are places I see often. I have painted them many times, but not since Parsonage has become more of a marsh. I am reminded of something my friend and painting companion, Leslie Baker, said on one of our days out: “Painting a landscape is making a record of a place as it is in that moment.”

No one has skated there in years. I wonder what it will look like in another few years. Everything grew in so quickly. There used to be a culvert or something beneath the road that George Manter kept clear, so Parsonage remained a pond like the Mill Pond. Neither was ever particularly deep. I remember seeing the Whitings out with some piece of equipment mucking out the reeds and detritus from the bottom of the pond. Parsonage is also known as Whiting’s Pond. But that was years ago, back when people were able to do stuff to keep things the way they were. There are so many ecological and environmental regulations now that prohibit the old ways.

I am not stating any opinion about regulations, just saying that everything has changed, and managing our local landscape is different now. Our ways will likely seem quaint to future generations.

I thought about Chief Manter on Sunday when I looked at Skipper standing in front of the Public Safety Building. There is a resemblance. Skipper has retired from the West Tisbury Police Department as of July 31. A parade of fire trucks, police cars, emergency vehicles, and rescue ATVs drove along State Road around 1 o’clock to acknowlege his many years of service to the department and the town. Sirens sounded and lights flashed. A crowd of well-wishers had gathered along the road to wave and shout and take pictures. It was an exciting, though bittersweet occasion.

My husband thinks Skipper was about 17 or 18 when he joined the department. His father was chief, as his grandfather had been before him. They had all lived their whole lives here, and knew their town. There are so many stories of the quiet and personal way police business was handled when West Tisbury was a much smaller town. As with all aspects of island life, it was different then.

I will admit to being nostalgic. Forty years of life on the Vineyard is nothing, yet I miss the way it was.

We will all have an opportunity to celebrate with Skipper and wish him well at his retirement party this Sunday, August 7, 4 pm, at the L&W Tree Farm, across from the Ag Hall. The main course, a pig roast, will be provided. Please bring a potluck to share. There will be music by the Stragglers from 5 to 7. I suspect there will be stories galore, and I can’t wait to hear every one. It will be a wonderful occasion to all be together. See you there.

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