Letter from the Vineyard 4 November 2019 Autumnal Dreams…




Three perfect fall days, fulfilling wishes for such autumn days, with the light sharp and focused, drawing perfect shadows on the ground of trees still surrendering leaves; occasional fierce winds scattering fallen leaves, an autumnal dream when there are no bad things, and nothing wicked this way comes.

So, it has been here on Martha’s Vineyard, called by author Susan Branch, “Isle of Dreams,” after several lashings from storms and days so drear it almost felt as we were all living in Narnia, when it was always winter but never Christmas.  Then came these glorious days, banishing the drear and raising the spirits of everyone from visitors to residents.

Sitting at the desk at Edgartown Books, there has been a slow but steady stream of folks who visit the island now, specifically this time of year, because it is quiet, the crowds are gone, the air is crisp, enough restaurants open, hotel rates down, and islanders relieved of August stress.

Today, is the first day people announced they were Christmas shopping, a grandmother buying gift certificates for each grandson, another woman buying books by Cynthia Riggs to give as presents to her mother.  I’ve put leaf lights around the store to give it a fall festive feel, featuring some cookbooks on the center table, with other “fall-ish” items.  We have most of the current bestsellers on our shelves.  While I am here, I tend to play jazz with a gentleman yesterday declaring: there is nothing like big band jazz.

At my side is “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” which I am currently reading, by Ocean Vuong, a poet’s first novel, worth the read. When I am dust in the wind, he’ll be a Nobel Laureate if he keeps writing like this.

Next week, I’ll be off to Dublin to celebrate my birthday with Lionel and Pierre; Lionel has already made dinner reservations at some of his favorite places.  Today they leave for Delhi, which is worrisome as the air there is so, so bad, as if you were smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.  Not joking, I told them to wear gas masks.

Settling in, I have joined St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, pastored by Father Chip, which made me think he was from a long line of preppy people but, in fact, he is Canadian – though preppy might well be a thing there.

Preppy has been on my mind since Lisa Birnbach was in the store, co-author of the 1980 bestseller, “The Official Preppy Handbook,” having met her in that long-ago, when she was interviewed by Gary Owens for his show on KMPC Radio, where I worked.  We were nostalgic over him.

Two other customers, island natives, were in, chatting about the books on our “Great Reads” shelves and discussing what was “happening back in America,” as if ‘there “was a different country from “here.”

It is what being on an island does, separates you from “there,” wherever there is from here.  People come here to escape, rest from the turmoil of whatever there they are from, devouring our local newspapers as they are filled with stories of the Vineyard Derby, a month long fishing contest won this year by a ten year old, six years away from being able to drive the Grand Prize, a new Subaru.

Those kinds of things feel more real, more tangible than all the confusing who-ha that is coming from almost every other place, seeping into the soul like the noxious fumes of Delhi air.

There are upsides and downsides to island life; I am sure I will discover them all but here I am, on Susan’s “Isle of Dreams,” doing what several friends have told me is their dream – to be on the Vineyard and in a bookstore.


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