Aquinnah: Kinship Heals, Aquila deck, Passover, Howes House, and book group

—MV Times

A community is a complex weaving of people, experiences, and place. For some of us it includes occasional trips to the town dump. For years, our town has been greeted at the dump by the barking and watchful eye of Natalie Francis’ little dog, Princess. If you were at all interesting, or had a dog of your own in the back of your truck, Princess would peer out the window of Natalie’s office, give real meaning to that term stink eye, and bark like crazy. With Princess on watch, nobody was going to get away with anything. Princess was very small, cute as a button, and loved the people who visited the dump. Her devotion to Natalie was absolute, and her presence a comforting reminder that all was well. Princess died at the ripe old age of 16 last week, leaving a hole in the fabric of our town. Send some deep loving thoughts to Natalie. We have lost a friend; she has lost a big piece of her heart.

As life does, right along with sad news comes some really terrific news: First, a nearly eight-acre parcel of land has come back to the Wampanoag people. Jennifer Randolph, executive director of Kinship Heals, and her crew, did the magic of raising nearly $2 million in just a few months to purchase the land. They will use it to create a shelter and place of healing for survivors of domestic violence.

Second, Del Araujo, who runs the Aquila coffee shop on the cliffs and a coffee shop at the Y, won a $10,000 grand prize at the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce’s Perfect Pitch competition. He is going to use the dollars to create a deck outside his little shop where we all can sip his fabulous coffee and soak in one of the best views on the Island. I can’t wait.

Meanwhile, much of the Earth and all that lives on it are waking up from a long winter sleep, and the people are greeting spring with an array of celebrations. For the Jewish people, the holiday of Pesach (Passover) is a celebration of freedom, which begins this year at sundown on April 5. If you don’t know it, the Passover story is about the Egyptian pharoah who held the Jewish people as slaves and refused Moses’ plea to free them, only to then see Egypt suffer plagues, environmental disasters, and swarms of frogs. Finally, the pharoah gave up and freed the people, but then ordered them to immediately leave Egypt. The people had no time to prepare, but fled nonetheless with unleavened bread to eat on their trek to freedom, and with great joy in their hearts. The Jews of today usually hold a feast called a Seder as part of their observation of that time. They tell the story of the bitterness of slavery, and joy of freedom.

In my family (where my mother and father were absolutely not religious, but celebrated the holidays of the world as a way of celebrating the best of humanity), we celebrated a mix of Easter and Passover. We did it as a way of welcoming the joy and promise of spring and celebrating the quests for freedom that have taken place on every continent at one time or another. So we dyed eggs for egg hunts, and prepared a special brunch complete with pastry and eggs, and raised a glass in salute to whoever was the freedom fighter of the time (anyone from an internationally known hero to a local kid who stood up to a bully). As a child, I loved it, but longed for a fancy dress and an Easter parade instead of our unorthodox holiday celebration. Now I am grateful to my parents for giving me those sensibilities.

Here in Aquinnah, spring will be celebrated as we prepare our gardens, feast with our families, and revel in the warming air. There will be a Spring Egg Hunt at the library on Saturday, April 8, at 11 am for children.

At Howes House, the Up-Island Council on Aging wants you to know that if you are over 18 years of age and don’t have access to dental care, you can call Polished Dental at 978-549-0659 or go to to sign up for a free dental cleaning. They also are offering an opportunity to go and see “Six, the Musical” in Providence on Saturday, April 22. Call Howes House if you’re interested (508-693-2896). They are trying to get the weekly luncheons back on Thursdays at 12:30. You need to preregister each week by Tuesday, so call them if you want to lunch with a great group of friendly people, and also just to make sure the luncheon is happening.

A somewhat belated birthday greeting to little Ahsun Coby Spears Vanderhoop, who turned 2 on April 3. (And don’t forget to let me know important dates you want mentioned here:

One last thing: If you are looking for something to read, the Aquinnah Library Book Group is hosting a discussion about the book “Crying In H Mart” by Michelle Zauner. It’s a story about identity (Korean American), food, memory, grief, and a whole lot of love. Discussion takes place at the library on April 13 at 3 pm, so you have time to check it out, read it, and get ready for lively talk.

If you have any Aquinnah Town Column suggestions, email Kathie Olson,