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Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer Invasion 2014

Beach Road, Oak Bluffs at 5am, Summer 2014
I had rather forgotten how beloved Mocha Mott’s, something of a beloved coffee shop here on Martha’s Vineyard, is until last Sunday.  I went to pick up a cup of tea on my daily inbound swing from a
Noon at Vineyard Haven Harbor 
walking loop.  Instead of a considerable wait for four patrons to be served, there were fourteen people in line ahead of me.  Some of them sported numbers pinned to their shorts. To me, this spelled road race season, sailboat season, bike-race season, ice cream season, jay-walking season, Summer Season.  I stepped out of line, disappointed.  For reasons I can not surmise, my thoughts cast back on an afternoon last fall when I met a mother and daughter team at Mocha Mott’s.  One of my friends said,
“I don’t know how you do it. You really put yourself out there with that blog of yours. I couldn’t do that.”
Her observation was something that was so strikingly obvious that, somehow –really? – I had missed it. As I walked away from the line of coffee, chai, green tea and latte drinkers last Sunday, I turned over that thought again and again.  Was I simply making a verbal spectacle of myself? Maybe I am the Empress with no clothes! Who did I think I was? Sharing my perspective with the world. Who cares anyway?  Wasn’t I being grossly narcissistic to think that my reflections might have some bearing on someone else?  The truth is this.  Rarely, very rarely, do I consider exactly who might be reading my essays; I would be paralyzed were I to do so.  I offer up the things I find humorous, true, or that bear reflection, then move on.  I do not worry about what anyone thinks of me particularly. Whether it is fiction, essays or a dry science textbook to which I am called to write, I try to be true to the knowledge that I have on hand at the time. If I am mistaken, I will bear the responsibility and shoulder the weight of being wrong.  My driving mission is simple.  If I can touch someone in a meaningful way, just one person – if I can lead someone, just one person, to look at themselves or their lives differently, if I can bring light to someone and reassure them that they are not alone, then I am willing to be exposed to both judgment and ridicule by others. What occurred to me is that writers cannot picture their audiences with too fine a lens.  It would be crippling. 
When I walked home from Mocha Mott’s today, again, the line  was too long for my frayed patience.  To pass the time, I considered three strong threads of emotions that help maintain my connection to this Island.
First, I was, I am, deeply grateful to have moved here.  While I am doing the “Summer Shuffle” (on the Island that means moving from one place to another to accommodate the disparity in rental rates) for a couple of months, I have been privy to the best the Island has to offer. Month by month, I have been wed to her. I have gained a deep and abiding understanding that something about this place feeds and restores my soul. It is spiritual, it is healing. When I return in late September, my intention is to lay down roots and finally build my hearth and home. I have had two homes on the Island. At this particular juncture, I miss them both.

Over the past months, I have watched the flood of summer visitors invade the Island. There seem to be a glut of the entitled and privileged population. Many have deep pockets. There is a smaller group (from whom, admittedly, I am sprung) that keep careful budgets while real estate taxes are nipping at their toes. These folks rely on elbow grease, Simple Green and lots of rags and paint.   It can take weeks of rigorous work, inviolate work ethics and sheer determination to get their homes – some three bedroom Campground Cottages and others, twelve bedroom, three story manses, ready for summer fun and relaxation.  Today, the hardware store was low on paintbrushes and I believe they were awaiting shipments of window fans.  The hum of lawns being mown could sometimes be heard above the surf.  People were relieved their houses had wintered over successfully.  I find myself feeling a certain pride for having watched over them in their absence. I felt like a dutiful citizen when I called the police when someone’s carbon monoxide was going off one January evening.  I reported a downed electric line to the electric company after a hurricane – and a blizzard.  I have often tucked away windblown garbage cans that have escaped from their fenced-in pens.  I righted statuaries. I knocked snow off overly-burdened branches so tree limbs wouldn’t snap.  I moved invisibly through the off-season tidying and being as neighborly as I knew how to be right alongside the other year round resident. With summer upon us, I would be happy to have a try at Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility.
            The day-trippers tend to be the most rude and presumptuous of all the Island’s visitors. But they eat here, buy sweatshirts and towels and Island-made treasures from Island merchants. They contribute to the economy, And, sometimes, they swell the real estate market, helping everyone out.
        Finally, the last deeply personal observation I can make about having wintered here is that….get ready….. I was not simply accepted here, I was embraced.  I made friends.  Really kind people populated my life and brought me solace, joy, humor, and kindness.  There are times I use my wheelchair so that I can be part of something else. For instance, while I can take a walk, standing still is exhausting for me.  Or walking without a determined predetermined endpoint for more than thirty minutes can leave me seeking a place, any place, to lie down.  Because of the many surgeries to my spine and hips, as well as the devastating effects my disorder (Ehler’s Danlos Sundrome) has on my joints, I need to be able to sit in a reclining position when I go out.  I have found Islanders to be polite, interested and then…..completely unfazed by it.  This is a profound difference to how I am often treated off-Island. Sometimes, when away from the Island, I feel like I am giving people the opportunity to be politically correct, and while they try not to reveal it, they work so hard to be oh-so politely inclusive.

On Martha’s Vineyard, I am me, and that is enough.

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