We writers, poets, artists, and other creative types who live on Martha’s Vineyard consider ourselves the most fortunate of all people. Both of our weekly newspapers refer to our Island, and our Island alone, with a capital “I.”
Martha’s Vineyard is separated from the mainland and the rest of the world by four miles of salt water, enough isolation, but not too much. At a hundred square miles, the Island is neither too large nor too small. Large enough, though, to have six towns, each with its own fire department, police department, school, library, government, and especially its own personality. Our towns might almost be separate nations, yet wherever we are, the farthest town is only a bicycle ride away.
The glacier that formed our Island 20,000 years ago gave us a setting as varied as the six towns. Marshes, grasslands, forest, beaches, freshwater and salt ponds, flatlands and hills, good farming soil and impenetrable clay. We claim that our water is the best in the world, our air is the freshest, the light the very best for painters and photographers.
It’s only natural that our population is equally varied, by background, age, ethnicity, income, profession, and religious beliefs. The Island has at least 20 different houses of worship. Our characters, their idiosyncrasies and their eccentricities provide a never-ending source of stories for us writers.
Martha’s Vineyard is often referred to as the playground of the rich and famous. That’s true, to some extent, but cocktail parties and whale-printed slacks are only a minor facet of year-round Island life. Less well known is that Martha’s Vineyard is one of the most severely depressed counties in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with one of the lowest per capita incomes. For most of us, making a living consists of cobbling together three, four, or more jobs. House cleaning, painting, shingling, landscaping, caretaking. At the same time, a good guess is that the Island has one of the most highly educated work forces in the nation. A carpenter who’s worked on our house has an MBA from Dartmouth; a rigger at the shipyard has a master’s degree in oriental religion.
The Island is a gentle place. Temperatures are mitigated by the Gulf Stream, which passes to our south. Winter temperatures are ten degrees warmer than Boston, summer temperatures are ten degrees cooler. Our two tallest peaks are a little over 300 feet.
Everything around us is an inspiration — the Island’s physical setting, its characters, its weather, its plants and animals, and the constant rhythm of surf pounding our shores.
It’s no wonder the Island is a sanctuary for artists, writers, and other creative people. The sea that surrounds us protects us from the real world out there.
Please contact me if you have any questions or comments.