Did you ever wonder WHY?

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 photoSnuggles copy) 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.

The Trouble with #Blogging

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.

IMG_5124It 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.

I could tell you about my latest book, VINEYARD MAGIC, but I already have. (Nice review on amazon . . . thanks, whoever you are!)

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.

Happy Monday.

http://www.jeanstone.com

Life is a Potluck Dinner

They liked it. :-)

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.

www.jeanstone.com

To Plug . . . or Not to Plug

IMG_5041Writing novels isn’t easy. Back in the olden days . . . I know, haha. But seriously, things have been interesting lately. After a hundred (or more) years of writing day in and day out (well, at least thinking about writing day in and day out), I’ve slowed down a bit.

Age? Apathy? Lack of ideas? Any of those excuses seemed plausible. Until this past weekend.

I’d planned a quick, off-island visit to a friend on her birthday. But I left the Vineyard later than I’d hoped, and stayed longer than I’d intended. I soon realized I needed to spend the night on the Cape. Hmmm.

Could I do that on a moment’s notice? Really? It would have been easy when I was twenty. But now?

I had no toothbrush, no toothpaste, and, God forbid, no make-up in my purse. I did have a book to read and, for some reason, a notebook—the kind with pages of lined paper inside. Remember those?

I reasoned that it could be an adventure, and I’ve always liked those. Yes! I could do it! Surely I could find a CVS in the morning where a few purchases would allow me to be seen in public.

I texted another friend: He offered the use of his home that was vacant. He apologized that the place does not have a TV or Internet connection, but this was an adventure, right?

Feeling proud of myself, I drove up the driveway to his house, then suddenly slammed on the brakes.

“NO!” I wailed. “I CAN’T DO THIS!”

Well, of course, I couldn’t. After all, I did not have the most essential item of all: my phone charger. My link to the world of e-mails and texts, and, dare I say, Words with Friends.

I yanked my iPhone from my purse. Thirty-three-percent power. It would not last the night, let alone until I got home the next day. But it was too late to find an Apple store or a place that sells those self-charging do-dads. I sat in silence, heart lightly pounding, brain calculating. If I drove an average of 132mph and got all the green lights, I might make it to Woods Hole for the last boat back to the island. Argh. I dropped my forehead onto the steering wheel. I was doomed.

After a few seconds of feeling sorry for myself, I pried my face up. For some reason (there’s that comment again), I glanced at the passenger seat. There was the book I could read. But more importantly, there was the notebook.

I used to write that way. With pen, paper, and nothing but quiet. No pings, no chimes, no alerts. Just me. In my thoughts. In the quiet. I’d written 17 novels that way.

I put my foot back on the gas and drove up to the house. I found the key and let myself in. Four hours later I had outlined twelve chapters of a new book. I don’t know if anything will become of it, but it sure felt good. Great, in fact.

I think I’ll stay unplugged for a little while longer. And see what happens when I have no more excuses.

Hark! I went!

I never cared much IMG_5032for Shakespeare’s works. All the “Lo,” “Behold,” and “Alas” words find me rolling my eyes. Back in high school, I always felt I was reading another language—the kind where you walk into class and the teacher only speaks those words, and the text is only written that way, and you don’t have a clue what’s going on.

But now I’m on the Vineyard and the Edgartown Library is awesome.

In honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s passing, Virginia (our favorite film lady) will show two films of his plays each day Monday through Thursday; live performances Friday and Saturday. The tribute began yesterday with a film screening of Falstaff, the Verdi Opera featuring a top jokester favorite of the Bard.

If there’s anything I know less about than Shakespeare, it’s Opera.

When I was a kid we watched the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights. My dad had a wonderful sense of humor. In between the circus acts and comic shticks, Sullivan often featured an opera singer. My dad then employed exaggerated lip sync and dubious sounds that rose up from his toes in order to imitate the vocalist who was usually a soprano. My sister and I doubled over in laughter.

I tried to put that image out of my mind yesterday as I went to view Falstaff. I really enjoyed it! For starters, the new community room is wonderful, the 12-foot screen something to behold (Behold!) and the production that was filmed at the Met was terrific. I really enjoyed it. Thank you, once again, to the Edgartown Library for challenging and expanding my mind.

Tonight I will go watch Othello. I think I read that one in college. As I recall, it wasn’t exactly beach reading, but I suppose some of Shakespeare’s fans might find VINEYARD MAGIC much ado about nothing. Alas! I do tend to be a product of my generation. Though I secretly wish my dad had been with me yesterday. He would have done a great Mistress Quickly.

Man on the Moon Lands in Woods Hole

IMG_1182Those of us of a certain age remember July 20, 1969 for a couple of reasons. First, because it was the day after the media announced that a car had gone off Dyke Bridge on Chappaquiddick. You don’t need to live on Martha’s Vineyard to know the rest of that unfortunate story. But the second happening became something to celebrate: July 20th was the day the first man walked on the moon. His name was Neil Armstrong.

Just before I left for vacation, the “new” Neil Armstrong—a 238-foot research vessel—docked at its prestigious home in Woods Hole. The U.S. Navy owns the ship; they selected the folks at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to operate it.

Replacing the previous ship, the Knorr (yup, that’s the one connected to the discovery of the Titanic), the Neil Armstrong no doubt has an exciting life ahead. A sister ship to this, the Sally Ride, will soon be docked at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. I think it’s pretty cool that ships designed to explore the depths of the oceans are named after those who explored our universe.

When I saw the article in the Vineyard Gazette, I wished I’d known about the landing of the Armstrong ahead of time. I would have loved to witness the grand celebration as the Coast Guard escorted the ship into port. But a few days later, when I boarded the ferry from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole, I was thinking about my own adventures and forgot to look for it.

My return trip was a different story. It was a bright, beautiful afternoon; I sat by the window on the right side of the ferry (I still don’t know my port from my starboard), determined to catch a glimpse of the new vessel once we pulled out into the harbor. The sun was warm and nice, but I was tired from my time away. While the ferry sat, waiting, for its scheduled departure, suffice it so say, I closed my eyes. When I awoke (remember, I am, indeed, of a “certain age”), we were halfway across Vineyard Sound. I spun my neck as far as it would spin, but I saw only a distant white-and-blue blur of the Armstrong.

Next time, I’ll see it. Unless the explorer is off on another amazing discovery. Or I’ve forgotten it’s there.

Sign of My Times

IMG_5005I love this road sign. Every time I see it on a back road on the Vineyard, I slow down. Even if I’m walking.

It no doubt has been put there to remind island visitors that they now are on vacation, that they have left their busy lives, their hectic jobs, their daily stress back on the mainland. They’ve crossed off the days and have finally made it to the picture-perfect place that they’ve stared at on their laptop screens since the year before. Martha’s Vineyard is their haven; their place to slow down.

But what about the people who live here year round? What the heck do they do when they want to get away? (I know. It’s hard to believe, right?)

Well, some hop the Patriot Party Boat across Vineyard Sound to Cape Cod, then take the shuttle to Falmouth Plaza where they have big stores like Christmas Tree Shops and T.J.Maxx. Some take the bus out of Woods Hole and head to Boston to savor special exhibits at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum or the Museum of Fine Arts.

Others leave for the entire winter: Florida, usually, though some go skiing in places like Colorado and Utah. Others do springtime in Paris, lucky them.

Okay, get to the point, Jean.

Next week I will be on vacation. I will be returning to America, to the place of fast cars and crowded shopping malls, of chain restaurants and gas stations on every corner because everyone is busy going somewhere, doing something in a hurry.

Sigh.

The bottom line is this: Don’t look for a blog post from me next week; not until the week after, when I’m back in the place where I slow down.