This is the 53rd column I’ve written (I counted ’em up), but it is the first one I’ve written for The MV Times. (All the others were for newspapers in Southern Oregon.) I’m excited and grateful, and only a little bit trepidatious.
You see, I love this westernmost tip of the Vineyard, where the wind scours your brain and gulls and ospreys and hawks soar. And I know that those who don’t live here wonder, “What do you guys DO up there, anyway?” I wanted to be sure that we were represented among the town columns, just like the big guys down-Island. So, after looking at the Aquinnah Columnist Wanted signs for several weeks, I decided to throw in my hat.
I have lived here, year-round, for almost seven years. Before that I was a seasonal visitor. (The winter season, actually, when the streets and shops are quiet and the trees show off their sculptural beauty.) My husband, Charley (the potter), and I came here to be with our daughter and her family (Noli and Isaac Taylor, and their Emmett and Tillie). We also came to partake in the glories of Aquinnah — the water, the wind, the down-to-earth, warm and funny and kind people. From the first moment, I have felt as if this is home.
While I still keep my hand in as a seasonal program officer for a tribal foundation in Oregon, I am pretty much retired from a lifetime as a worker — working steadily from when I was a 17-year-old clerk to my 70s as a nonprofit chief executive. Since we moved to the Vineyard, I have become enmeshed as a volunteer. I’m a town registrar. I’m a trustee of the Aquinnah library. I’m a shelter coordinator for the Community Emergency Response Team (Aquinnah CERT). I’ve helped with a Green Communities grant for the town. I help the family at Outermost Inn. I’m a town representative to the advisory board of the Up-Island Council on Aging. My Charley and I sell at the annual Vineyard Artisans Festival. And I consult with various Vineyard nonprofits when asked.
But mostly I read (fiction primarily). I paint and draw. I walk the beaches with my beloveds. I cook. I tend my home and garden, and love our animals. I lead a quiet and contented life. I know how lucky I am. I am grateful every day.
I’m excited to be able to share the magic of Aquinnah with those of you who don’t get to come here often enough, and I’m even more excited to be able to spread news to my neighbors about the good things that are happening. It is my hope that you will send me birthday dates, anniversaries, awards won, events planned, problems solved, the victories and challenges of our Aquinnah kids, so I can share them here. Here’s the first dispatch:
Thursday, March 23, as you have probably already heard, saw a mighty army of Vineyarders who went to the State House in Boston. We went to seek the required legislative approval of a transfer tax on over $1 million earned through the sale of property, the dollars to be used to help alleviate the terrible dearth of affordable housing both here and in Nantucket. Voters on both islands have approved the tax — all we need is that legislative approval. It was a glorious day of hope and resolve, and our little town was amply represented. Seen in the crowd to speak for the housing needs of Aquinnah (as best as I can recall): Meg Bodnar, Nadajiza Bolling (summer director of ACC), Carla Cuch, Mike Hebert, Morgan Hodgson, Kathy Newman, Mitzi Pratt, Flip Scipio, Juli Vanderhoop, Jim Wallen, and Aquinnah Witham. Mitzi, Morgan, and Flip poured their time and energies into making this happen, and are real heroes. Juli spoke at the rally. The Charter School was represented by a vocal and charming group of students, including some of our Aquinnah kids. I was proud to be there, and am still processing the beauty of the State House, and the enthusiasm and focus of the Vineyarders who went. This was community at its best.
The Community Emergency Response Team (Aquinnah CERT) is made up of a hearty bunch of neighborly volunteers who stand ready to assist first responders in preparing for and dealing with emergencies. For several years, they have met at least quarterly, being trained by and meeting with leaders of the Fire and Police departments and Tribal Rangers. They’ve assembled lists of Aquinnah residents who might need help, created brochures to help people prepare for weather events, trained in first aid, and gathered materials for emergency shelters in case they are needed. They know that a severe emergency event could leave those of us way out here on the western tip isolated and needing to take care of ourselves for a while. CERT is hoping they are never needed, but if they are — they’re ready! That said, they can always use more helpers. If you are an Aquinnah resident and want to help, please contact email@example.com.
Spring brings to the forefront the organizing efforts of the Aquinnah parks and recreation committee, which are working hard to raise funds to develop a playground. In 2021, the committee brought together a group of Aquinnah kids (via Zoom) to share ideas and drawings about what their dream playground would be. The town has identified a space (behind Town Hall) that is perfectly suited, and preliminary plans have been drawn. It’s definitely going to happen, but It’ll take the whole village to make it real. It’s a big undertaking. Contact the parks and recreation committee and sign on. Check the Aquinnah town website to learn more.
And one last thing: The Aquinnah library has some great programs lined up for April. Library director Rosa Parker has hired a new program associate, Sonja Josephson, who is warm and friendly, and raring to go. Drop by the library and welcome her onboard.
That’s it for my first column. I welcome your feedback and your news. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome, Kathie! Great column!
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