Aquinnah: Yossi Monahan, Philbin Beach cleanup, and gratefulness

—MV Times

The place on Philbin Beach where the stream meets the sea is becoming one of those spirit-lightened places. For a long time, locals have gathered there to celebrate birthdays, to mark anniversaries, and to gather in mourning for those we have lost. On Saturday, Dec. 23, there was such a gathering. This one was to grieve for and celebrate the life of Yossi Monahan. More than 30 surfers, clad in black wetsuits, lined up their boards facing into the water, and moved quietly in a line out past the break. Once there, they gathered into a large circle, sat facing one another on their boards, and joined hands in a long silence, communing over the loss of one of their own.

Charley and I were on the beach with about 60 other hearty souls, some of whom went into the freezing cold water in tribute to Yossi and his family. On the beach, we also joined hands and stood in silence, each of us praying or meditating or simply listening to the ocean and remembering that beautiful boy. It was a fundamentally powerful time, warmed not just by the bonfire, but by the kindness and love of a community. I am grateful that I was able to be there.

Philbin is always beautiful, of course. But the powerful storms earlier in the month have left their mark. Among other pieces of trash thrown up by an angry ocean, there are thousands of small pieces of Styrofoam that washed ashore, and are now littering the dunes and sand. It’s a darned sin. Something must be done.

Seems to me that we have a few choices. We can leave them there forever, uglifying that great place. We can hope that they get blown back into the sea, where they can choke the waters and those living there forever. Or we can darned well go out and pick up the stuff and bring it later to the dump, to be taken away safely.

I, as you may have guessed, vote for the last option. In that spirit, I propose that we have a New Year’s Day beach cleanup. Grab your family. Grab your friends. Bring along a thermos of hot beverage. Wear your warm grubbies, and a good pair of boots. Have a trash bag, and maybe some gloves. Let’s all meet up on that Monday, late morning, and have an Aquinnah community work party. Unless we have a nasty nor’easter blowing, I’ll be there, looking to fill a bag with hundreds of tiny pieces of Styrofoam, which I’ll bring to the dump later in the week.

We have had the great good luck of having all three of our children, along with their spouses, and all seven of my grandchildren, with us for the Christmas holiday. We have delighted in the pandemonium, soaked up the loving, sang and laughed and cooked and ate, just as we should. I am keenly aware of how precious every minute of it has been. I’ll hold those beautiful faces and kindly spirits in my heart for the rest of my days. I am so grateful.

I can’t believe it, but it is true that Olive and Violet Taylor McPhail are turning 18 on Dec. 30. I have watched those two girls grow from tiny babies and little round, pink, dumpling toddlers and then into absolutely gorgeous, fierce skaters, intelligent students, and loving young women. Eighteen is a big deal. A turning point. Doors opening and doors closing. They’re so ready. The world awaits. Happy birthday, Ollie and Vi — we are lucky you are among us.

I look forward to the new year. Celebrate sanely. And I’ll be looking for you on New Year’s Day at Philbin. Be there or be square.

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