Oh, and as for that aroma of skunk I endured a couple of weeks ago? It turns out that the little guy (or girl…I didn’t get close enough) was living under my deck. Here’s hoping he has relocated by the time I return. And has carted the family off with him.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I now have a number of new readers! Yay! Many have asked about my previous titles, so, if my previous readers will please indulge me, over the next few weeks I’m going to do my own special kind of Throwback Thursday.
Here is one of my summer favorites—TIDES OF THE HEART—that’s all dressed up for easy eBook reading. A classic work of women’s fiction, it, of course, takes place on the fabulous island of Martha’s Vineyard. It was a USA Today best-seller and, for some reason we’ve never been able to figure out, it was a huge seller in France.
So . . . welcome to my new readers! If you’re already familiar with my work, don’t miss this one this time around. It’s also available in paperback—published by Random House.
For other of my classic summer tales, check out my website: www.jeanstone.com.
We now return to our regular scheduled program.
Here on Martha’s Vineyard, the air is filled with aromas of grilling and sounds of laughter and music and, well, the good stuff that happens when people converge for that fabulous thing called vacation. In short, summer is here; the season has officially begun.
Of course, it’s also Memorial Day, which, if you’ve been on FB, you’ve been reminded many times of what the holiday really means. Which is good.
The first time I visited the National Cemetery in Bourne, MA was in 2011. I was overwhelmed with the expanse of rolling, green land, the veritable hush in the air, and the thousands upon thousands of American flags that waved in the gentle Cape Cod breeze.
It turned out that over 60,000 flags had been placed at each marker by scores of volunteers. Called Operation Flags for Vets, the project was organized by a man named Paul Monti, who had lost his son in Afghanistan in 2006. Each year since 2011, flags are placed on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day.
I was lucky to have had one of these amazing vets in my life. As with all the markers, his is simple; he would have liked it that way. Best of all, it is surrounded by markers of vets from different wars, different eras, wartime, and peacetime. All vets, nonetheless. All among those who—the cliché says it best—had served to keep freedom alive.
So on this weekend of burgers and beaches and folks having fun, I thought you might like to see some of those flags (there are now 66,000) . . . and imagine the quiet with respect. And with thanks.
Oh, and though this is not about me, I’d like to add that this year I had the privilege of being one of those flag-placing volunteers. It was a most memorable, truly heartfelt experience that I shared with 4,000 people . . . and one stranger—a nameless, sweet biker guy who appeared from out of nowhere and offered to give me a hand. I was grateful; the task was difficult. He didn’t say much; he merely worked methodically alongside me, piercing the earth so I could more easily insert the small flagpole.
I couldn’t have done it without him. When we were finished the sweet biker guy wandered off to help someone else. I never found out what had drawn him to the event—what, or more importantly, who. My best guess is that he, too, had his own reasons for attending, instead of hanging out at home having burgers and beer.
Thanks to my friend and fellow writer Marty, I have begun to wonder about things. And now I have something to say when I am blog-topic-less. So…here goes.
Did you ever wonder why a dog who barks incessantly suddenly stops?
It happened to me the other night. For almost an hour, Rover kept woof-woofing. It sounded as if he were somewhere down the street…the sounds weren’t close enough to be next door, but loud enough to be annoying. A German Shepard, perhaps. Or maybe an alto poodle. Left home alone. And unhappy.
Woof, woof. Arf, arf.
Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. Really, I do. Anyone who’d ever seen me with Snuggles (my cocker spaniel—see photo) knows that’s the truth. But on a warm evening, with the windows open, the woof, woof, arf, arf was, as my friend Bev would say, “working my last nerve.” (I love that saying.)
So I closed the windows. The arfs were muted, but still there. I tried to read. I washed the dishes. I flicked on the TV news, turned it up loud. The woofs evolved into a deep howl.
Then, suddenly, they stopped.
I waited. Nothing. Nadda. Yay.
Then I started to, as Marty would say, wonder why.
My thoughts could have gone to dark places, but, as I said, I love dogs. I decided to deduce that his (or her) owner must have returned home. The sweet dog was happy again, wagging his tail, trotting into his house, crunching Milk Bones and enjoying a few laps of cool water that would no doubt soothe his throat that must have been burning from all those vocals.
I returned to luxuriate in the quiet and stopped wondering why. Until the morning when I had to do errands.
I opened the door to the outside, juggling my keys, my purse, and a trash bag (I was en route to the dump). I stepped out onto the small deck and into the early sunshine. All was lovely until I took my next breath. My throat closed up. My eyes suddenly watered. I tried to mouth-breathe, the way a doctor friend had once taught me.
Unfortunately, nothing helped. I quickly raced to my car, threw the trash bag in the back, jumped into the driver’s seat, and slammed the door. But even inside my hermetically-sealed VW Jetta, the smell was unmistakeable: skunk.
And that’s when I knew. The dog must have stopped barking because he’d had a visit from one of the neighborhood black-and-white critters. He must have forgotten that this is their island, not his. And I suppose, like me, even skunks appreciate silence.
The end. No more wondering needed.
P.S. I have not heard a peep, so I assume that the dog has returned to the mainland with his owners. Unfortunately, the aroma of his visitor still lingers. Not as strong, but still there.
I have no idea if there is a moral to this story. Maybe Marty can come up with one.
It’s pretty simple: The trouble with blogging is that sometimes you don’t have any ideas.
Well, actually, I have lots of ideas. But they all stink.
It was a nice weekend.
The weather was good.
I #binge-watched a few #BritishMysteries.
The flowers are out.
The island is waking up.
Lots of restaurants are open.
And shops. They’re open, too.
And there are more boats in the harbor.
How can it be that I live on Martha’s Vineyard and have nothing to say this week?
I dunno. Maybe I need coffee. Or sugar. Or just another career.
But the truth is, I have nothing to say! Not today, anyway. Not right now. Because anything I seem to come up with sounds like blah-blah-blah. Or, yadda yadda yadda, as Jerry Seinfeld would say. Or was that Elaine?
Anyway, I decided that most of us get enough of that in our days without listening to my prattle, too.
Whew. Now I can stop angst-ing about “What to Write on my Blog” today and get back to doing something I can handle! Like taking a lovely walk on the beach. Picking up wampum. Hunting for sea glass. Feeling the sun on my face and the sand getting stuck inside my sneakers. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Because right now, unlike blogging, a walk on the beach is no trouble. No trouble at all.
Oh, and please don’t ask me what the hashtags are for. I’m told they’re important, but I still have no idea why.
It wasn’t actually dinner. It was the annual St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church picnic (aka Potluck); it would be held at the venue facility in Sailing Camp Park in Oak Bluffs, and would follow a traditional service. Set atop a bluff, the tastefully rustic building offers a spectacular view of Lagoon Pond, the new drawbridge, and Vineyard Haven Harbor in the distance. The day was bright and sunny; while we were there, a couple of ferries came and went, their gleaming white upper decks dotted with passengers, a statement that summer is almost here.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I did not have a clue what to bring. I lost my ability/desire/call it whatever to cook sometime in the late 1980s. And for a Potluck? Argh. I usually resort to brownies. Or sugar cookies, if I can add M & M’s and stash some in the freezer.
But for such a beautiful day, I decided to push the nutritional envelope.
I found my answer on the Internet: Slice of Tomato; Slice of fresh Mozzarella; Sprig of fresh basil. Drizzle olive oil over all. Even I could do that.
But while I was assembling (can’t call it cooking) my “dish,” it occurred to me that these events are really like life: when you join any group, you never know what you’re going to get, but chances are, it won’t all be potato salad.
Starting a new job? Your co-workers will definitely be Potluck. Some sweet ones, some tangy, some who might not seem terrific but turn out amazing.
What about School? When I was a kid, every September was a Potluck: The only time I knew what would be at the table was in high school homeroom when the class was alphabetized. I could be fairly sure that Ray Barafauldi would sit in front of me and Molly Briggs would be behind me. (Back then my name began with a “B,” which you’ve probably figured.) My prediction was usually right unless there was a new kid in town or someone had moved away.
As I sliced the mozzarella, I realized that every time we step out in public we step into a Potluck. At the Post Office, the Library, the Supermarket . . . some people smile, some chat a bit; some hold up the line, others seem content to stay in their own little worlds.
But it all works, doesn’t it? The folks at the office, the kids in school, the people meandering around town: If we all were the same, things would be pretty boring. Especially if everyone was a novelist like me whose head lives in make-believe much of the time.
At the picnic yesterday, someone brought salad, someone brought meatballs, someone brought quiche; several brought desserts. I didn’t see any potato salad, but people seemed to enjoy my Tomato/Mozzarella/Basil/Olive Oil concoction. We all helped ourselves to the seemingly incongruous selections—some sweet, some tangy, most, amazing—and proceeded to revel in the cacophony of life.
But wait! I forgot the best part! At two minutes before the service was to start, the woman in charge of the altar things realized she’d forgotten the communion wine. For one horrified moment there seemed to be no answer. Then Father Chip’s gaze shifted to the assortment of desserts that awaited the after-service celebration. “We have red grapes!” he announced. “Fill up the Chalice!” Perfect. I guess there truly is everything one needs at the Potluck table.
The high-energy Kentucky Derby is over, Edgartown’s fabulous Pink and Green Weekend is done, and if the throngs of people on the boats are any indication, summer has begun! (Somewhere the thermometer will soon agree.)
Summer, of course, means beach reading . . . and what better beach reads than novels that take place on Martha’s Vineyard? Oh, wait! I just happen to have a few!
I highly recommend (as does Random House, I’m sure) that you start with my first Vineyard book, PLACES BY THE SEA. Re-issued by RH in 2015 as an eBook with a brand new cover, Jill and Rita’s story is ready and waiting. They were best friends during their island growing-up years, but after graduation Jill left for fame and fortune while Rita stayed behind. Two decades have passed. Jill reluctantly returns to sell the house that she’s inherited; Rita tries to avoid her. Lots of reasons for that, of course! Then Ben enters the picture—yeah, I remember him—the soft-spoken, hunky, construction guy who Jill hires to get the house in shape.
My editor once said the title should have been: LAUGHTER & TEARS.
So break out the laugh track and the hankies, the blankets, and the coolers (don’t forget the suntan lotion with the right IV index!) . . . then charge up your Kindle, iPad, Nook, or whatever, and go ahead—have a blast. Tell my characters I said hello.
And if you’re heading to the islands, don’t forget to check the boat schedules. Summer, definitely, has arrived.