West Tisbury

—MV Times

I’m writing this column early on Friday morning, the morning after the big rainstorm we had mid-afternoon yesterday. My woods are shrouded in mist. The sun isn’t up yet, so little illumination, just suggested grays: lavender, pink, the lovely varieties of spring greens, and the softened edges of tree trunks and branches.

The woods stretch out almost to infinity, at least in my imagination, an early spring Wolf Kahn painting of my very own: his famous woods, rhythmic verticals across the span of his canvas, drawn-into-paint sqiggles that animated the surfaces of his last paintings. And always, color. Whether rich, drenching hues of pure pigment, or paler, grayed-down complements, Wolf Kahn’s paintings were paeans to glorious color.

It’s already Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day originally was May 30. It began in 1868, and was called Decoration Day, a day for families to decorate the graves of their Civil War dead, and honor their service. Eventually World War 1 veterans were included, and soldiers sold paper poppies that people wore on their lapels, a reference to the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McRae, written in 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The holiday felt festive in my childhood, with a parade down Main Street in Ridgefield, paper poppies, children riding on bikes with red, white, and blue crepe paper streamers, and flags everywhere. Hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, ice cream.

As an adult, it seems a sacrilege now to celebrate wars, with wars in so many places, details constantly in the news. It’s estimated that 620,000 soldiers died in our Civil War, out of over 3,000,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. Thousands of civilians died as well, and our country was ravaged. As it is in wars. I’m rereading “The Iliad,” the new translation by Emily Wilson, of war between Greece and Troy, written by Homer sometime around 750 B.C. War was ever thus. We seem to have learned nothing over all the years of human history. Sigh.

Back to the present.

Leslie Clapp, executive director of the M.V. Center for Living, will lead a discussion of “On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s” by Greg O’Brien at the West Tisbury library on Friday, May 31, at 1 pm. Books are available at the library.

Vickie Thurber, co-chair of the Large Animal Equine Emergency Response Committee, is organizing a fundraiser for the organization. It will be at Misty Meadows on Wednesday, June 5, from 5 to 7 pm. Doctors Cimetti and Jasny will speak on advanced equine first aid, and small-animal emergencies. Tickets for $25 are available online at mvhorsecouncil.com.

The June Neighborhood Convention meeting will be at Chilmark Community Church on Tuesday, June 4, 11 am. Seán McMahon will speak about “Ministry through Music.”

The sun is coming out, brightening the landscape I described earlier as “shrouded in mist.” It’s bright and sparkling now, and my yard is full of birdsong.

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