The Cards are in the Mail

IMG_3819I have been terrible at sending Holiday Cards over the past few years. Well, okay, maybe over the past few decades. This year, I sent five. Oh, wait, I think it was six.

Sound familiar? I gave it my best shot, then I ran out of time. As I’ve said before, there’s too much to do, too many awesome distractions here on the Vineyard!

They were pretty cards. (I hope I don’t get sued for showing a photo of one here.) I used a red, fine-tip Sharpie and penned a brief, but hopefully meaningful message on each. With one eye on the clock so the cards would make the Postal Boat today (if there is one), I slipped them into envelopes and quickly added the addresses of the “lucky six.” I included my return address because I haven’t been here long enough for those nice people from I-have-no-idea-where to send me cute, imprinted labels.

Heading toward the post office, I drove along the beach road and waved “Hello!” to not one, but two, police officers who sat in their cruisers, about 100 yards apart, hugging the dunes in wait. They didn’t get me this time; I was in the happy spirit of the holidays, engaged in Christmas Present, pleased-as-punch to be on my way to send half-a-dozen good wishes for the first time in too many years. It was a small act, but I was proud.

After I passed Bend-in-the-Road Beach (I love that name), my gaze dropped to the cards that were neatly stacked(?) on the passenger seat beside me. That’s when I realized I had stamped the envelopes not with decked-out Charlie Brown and Snoopy, not with a lovely Nativity Scene, not with festive Christmas ornaments, but with . . . Elvis.

Okay, so maybe a black and white photo of the King of Rock ‘n Roll is not exactly appropriate. If only it had a slight blue cast it might have been acceptable. (Remember that mournful song?) But there I was, my stack of look-at-me-I-actually-sent-out-Christmas-cards-this-year peering up at me not with the reverence of the season but with smoky eyes and a curled lip. Hmm.

I decided to get over myself. I made it to the post office, dropped the loot into the slot, wished a few folks Merry Christmas, and headed home.

To any of my friends or family who did not receive a card, please know you are absolutely in queue for next year’s mailing. Until then, I am sorry, but Elvis has left the island.

Reason #14,327

churchOkay, so here’s Reason #14,327 why I moved to the Vineyard: simplicity.

As most of us know, it’s the holiday season. And though we don’t have a Mall or a Target of even holiday versions of McDonalds’ milkshakes (if they have them, and my old marketing sense tells me they must!), we definitely have the spirit.

Everywhere you go on the island, you are aware of the scent of freshly cut evergreens. Everywhere you go you see sprigs of holly and little trees made of boxwood. You see signs for church fairs and crafts fairs and plates full of homemade cookies in the libraries and shops. You see festive lights along town streets and signs for the Red Stocking Fund that helps provide gifts for island kids.

This is a photo of a church in West Tisbury…note the green wreaths with red bows…see what I mean about the simplicity? A few bells, but no whistles. Holiday spirit without the glitz. It’s infectious, it really is.

Of course, this coming weekend will be “Christmas in Edgartown,” complete with the lighting of the lighthouse, special shopping, carolers, and, yes, more cookies (and hot chocolate). And, don’t forget the parade! I’m hoping that again this year Santa will arrive in a Coast Guard Life Boat on wheels. Hope to see you all there!

A Boatload of Words

Sometimes you get to leave the island for an adventure, like to the Cape for a dentist appointment. Of course, you can make it more fun by adding stops at the Cape Cod Mall, the Christmas Tree Shop, Marshalls, or any number of chain stores and/or restaurants that aren’t on the Vineyard. Yay!

None of which can be accomplished without the help of the ferry and its tireless workers.

I stayed on the freight deck the other day, exhausted from my trip abroad. Parked in the back, the last car on the boat, I’d watched the workers in action. They have a system, or so ‘d like to believe, of knowing which vehicle to direct into which lane. (The big boat holds 60 cars, 76 with the hydraulic lift deck.) Trucks tend to go in the middle; SUVs front, rear, and center; VWs and Coopers in the narrow lanes on the sides where it’s tough to open the doors without banging them against the concrete walls. Loading the boat is a ballet of sorts, with each vehicle having its place, creating the right balance for a smooth voyage.

As I watched that day, the process reminded me of writing a novel. There are a whole lot of words of different sizes and colors, different horsepowers (or is it horses power?), different things the author wants to convey. The fact that I drive a VW might mean I prefer short, simple words (I do). Perhaps the BMW driver in the next lane uses more impressive words like prepandial or ubiety. (I have no idea what they mean.)

IMG_3783When all the vehicles were in their proper places, we were underway. I sat in my car, pondering the similarities between novelists and ferry workers, when I glanced to my left and saw this: One of the workers parked himself by the window, picked up a magazine, and took a well-deserved break. The sun was shining, the surf was gentle, and he, indeed, had the best seat in the house.

I knew the feeling. It’s how a novelist feels when he or she finishes another scene or a chapter, having choreographed a (hopefully) perfect dance of words.

Not so fast, lady.

Jumping BridgeThe sun was bright and warm for November, the water sparkled as if it were August. In the distance a fishing boat bobbed on the surf, a lone ferry chugged toward the Vineyard from the Cape. It was a spectacular, picturesque day, all blue and green and gold, the kind reserved for brochure photos that lure tourists into booking passage, rooms, and tables in restaurants. But, of course, I’m in this story, so there is a twist.

As I cruised along Beach Road on the stretch between Edgartown and Oak Bluffs (not another car in sight), I was mesmerized by the beauty and the peace and the serenity all around. I praised myself for having moved here; I’m sure that I was smiling. I almost reached the Jumping Bridge that most folks recognize from JAWS (cue the soundtrack) . . . when suddenly a blue flashing light lit up my rearview mirror.

“Was I speeding?” I asked the nice officer in the blue-and-gray outfit.

“Yes.”

I was horrified. “I guess I was daydreaming. I was so distracted by the water . . .”

“License and registration, please.”

Well, there’s no need to elaborate. Suffice it to say I sat in shame while he called in my info. I hoped nothing vile showed up on my record if I have a record beyond the red light I ran back in Hadley when I was trying to rush home before my groceries defrosted.

And now, with hands folded, head hanging, I suddenly thought about a friend who once won the lottery. He was delirious until he learned that 14 others would share the jackpot, resulting in a much-diluted sum after taxes. He said, “The worst part is that was my only ‘first chance.’ I mean, who hits Megabucks more than once?”

Being stopped for speeding is hardly like winning the lottery, but it crossed my mind that this had been my only “first chance” at getting a moving violation on the island. I couldn’t believe I’d used it up after living here just two months.

The good news is that the nice policeman only gave me a warning. Perhaps he’d been mesmerized by the gorgeous day, too. Whatever the reason, I was grateful.

On the way home I obeyed the speed limit. And I stopped and bought a Megabucks ticket.

Windows of the Vineyard World

I love the windows of the shops that are closed for the winter!

All over the island, instead of hollow eyes displaying somber racks and shelves stripped of their summer goodies, we get to see fun artwork created by – once again – the kids who live here.

School kids, kids from programs at the “Y”, Boys and Girls Club kids, they all seem to get involved in keeping the island colorful and interesting throughout the bleaker months.

Thanks, kids. The rest of us enjoy them!

Oh, and by the way, tonight is the big night…Christmas in Edgartown begins! The lighthouse will be lit in its holiday finery; there will be carolers and wagon rides and hot chocolate and cookies everywhere. The island comes alive. And I am excited because I am going to have a few friends visit to enjoy the show!

130 Voices

Confession: I wanted to go to the Island Community Chorus’ Holiday Concert Saturday night in order to hear the legendary acoustics inside the Old Whaling Church.

Result: Holy moly. Not only are the acoustics wonderful, but so was the chorus!

I was aware that, in order to be in the chorus all anyone needs to do is show up. No tense auditions. No nervous stomachs. No fear of being judged by others who surely will know they have a more beautiful voice than yours because, of course, they don’t hear you singing in the shower.

As with most things on the Vineyard, this chorus is all about community. People coming together, neighbors having fun, working hard, all reaching for the best result possible with the hopes they can at least stay in the right key.

They did. They were amazing. They’ve been doing this for 16 years now…all 130 lined up on risers sweeping the altar…all sounding as if they sing together every day instead of only 3 concerts a year. What a treat. (Speaking of treats, the goodies downstairs after the concert were pretty inspiring, too.)

Best of all, I did the math. 130 voices. About 200 packing the pews. Add to that 2 of my friends who I knew had been unable to attend…and this tells me that at least 332 people will be on the island this winter. Who says this place is only for tourists?

On the Road Again…

Heading back to the Vineyard in the morning…here is the photo I took from the boat when I left there just before Thanksgiving that, for some reason, I couldn’t upload at the time.

I am looking forward to seeing the harbor one more time…although it was fun to be back at the 99 Restaurant tonight, Wednesday night. There is nothing like a great waitress to make you feel at home. Thanks, Denise!