Although some of my dear friends are lsland-born, most of us have been coming here for generations as “wash-ashores.” The Urban Dictionary describes a wash-ashore as “a newcomer to a coastal or island community, a nonnative.” We may not be “newcomers” anymore, but all of us have the privilege of discovering something new about this Island every day.
My morning began after waking to the buoy bells’ chime off the East Chop bluffs. A blue convertible rolled down the driveway. Birds were singing, the sky was blue, and our day was destined to be divine. I hopped in the back of my friend Elena’s car, and we drove from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, en route to Katama Kitchen, a scenic restaurant on Katama’s historic airfield (some of you longtime locals and wash-ashores may remember it as the Right Fork Diner). Since 1924, Katama Airfield has been a cherished hub for both local and international aviators. A training ground for budding pilots and a magnet for aviation enthusiasts, it’s steeped in history — the Spirit of St. Louis was even captured in a photograph here.
Katama Kitchen sits beside the airfield’s hangar, where up to four biplanes can be stored year-round. I had not been there since childhood, when my grandfather, a seasoned barnstormer, took my sister up for a ride in one of their cherry-red biplanes. Excited to watch the planes take off as we enjoyed breakfast, my mood shifted as we drew near the airfield — blue skies turned gray, and raindrops descended upon us. Although the rain felt refreshing, an ideal scenario would be clear skies and aesthetic pictures. My wishes were granted as we turned into the Katama Kitchen’s parking lot — the airfield’s weatherstone cast a shadow on the ground, indicating sunny skies (a weatherstone is simply a stone suspended by a string or rope. The condition and position of the rock — wet, dry, swinging — are then “interpreted” as weather conditions, such as rainy, dry, or windy).
Aside from adorable carvings of planes and Katama Kitchen’s logo, our table had a spectacular view of the bimodal biplanes as they revved their engines and prepared for takeoff. My lovely friends Elena (owner of the Barbie car) and Ella chose two options from the breakfast specials: the avocado toast with home fries and the basic breakfast, which came with two eggs, tater tots, and bacon. I gambled and got a vegan BLT. As we awaited the arrival of our food, we overlooked the departure of three biplanes. It was stimulating, entertaining, and a good distraction from our rumbling stomachs. Ella held down the fort, while Elena went to check out the airfield’s merchandise, an assortment of sweatshirts and T shirts, aside from the biplane rides, and I walked over to the bar, which had decals of planes and flight paths on full display. We finished up brunch, which was lovely; I do wish I had gone for the real bacon, but the components of the VLT were still fresh and good. Elena and Ella joined the clean plate club, but I took half of my sandwich to go.
Our next destination was Aquinnah’s Moshup Beach, off Menemsha Cliffs, but of course, for a day on the beach, we needed snacks. Elena suggested her favorite farmstand, North Tisbury Farm and Market, which offers a wide array of high-quality and responsibly sourced food. Locally grown berries, flowers, and fruit beckoned as artisan pasta and cheese lined the shelves. They even serve hot or iced coffee, among other refreshments. Elena treated us to blueberries, cherries, and “Golden Treats,” which I would describe as a perfect hybrid of plum and nectarine.
Back in the convertible, hair was sprawling, the cherries falling, and the beach was calling. It wasn’t long until the Gay Head Lighthouse, perched upon the Cliffs, came into view. We paid $30 for parking at the lot above Moshup Beach, which was a splurge, but we were comforted when the attendant assured us this was the best investment we’d make that day, and I agreed.
Moshup Beach is a bit of a hike; regardless, it’s one of a kind. Families and children flock closer to the beach entrance, but if you turn right and walk down past a particular rock, one suddenly meets a sea of unencumbered nude sunbathers, minding their business while connecting with nature on the purest level. It’s like stepping through a sandy portal into a realm where swimsuits are so last-season. Rather than nudists, these beachgoers prefer the term “naturist.” On a whim, my friends and I sat under the Cliffs and participated in the culture. We were all individuals celebrating the beach and our surroundings, and it was surprisingly peaceful. After a few dips and some good books, we were ready to finish our day on a high note.
We drove across the Island up to Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, a favorite restaurant I’ve frequented with family and friends since pre-COVID times. We enjoyed focaccia with crispy chickpea hummus, Caesar salad (excluding the anchovies), Brussels sprouts smothered in tamari ponzu glaze, and finished the meal with their famous fried chicken, elevated with homemade cornbread. Beach Road’s food and service were impeccable, as always.
The term “wash-ashore” might denote outsiders — portraying us as mere visitors or fleeting shadows. Nevertheless, today, like many days, we feel deeply rooted in the more intimate aspects of this Island’s culture and community. True belonging isn’t always about birthright, confined to the walls of being a native, but how deeply you delve into experiences and openly embrace other cultures. My friends and I may converge from different paths and walks of life, but on days like today, we are one with each other and one with the Island. In other words, sometimes, it’s not about where you were born, but where you truly come alive.