Archive for August, 2021

Letter from the Vineyard 15 August 2021 Shadows in the sun…

August 15, 2021

Letter from the Vineyard

15 August 2021

Shadows in the sun…

A close-up of the sun

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Photo credit: Paul Doherty

As I begin to write, a bright day is fading, a soft wind rustling the bushes out my windows, a good beach day ending.

            My summer world is circumspect; I travel to and from the bookstore, an occasional foray to Stop & Shop for essentials, a weekly trip to Vineyard Haven to drop off and retrieve my laundry at Lapel’s, the island’s sole dry cleaner.  Rarely do I move beyond the confines of Edgartown.  One Wednesday I determined to explore the Chillmark Flea Market; made the journey through a grey day, came away with a small piece of art from Walker Roman, island born.

            Ella Fitzgerald lilts through the cottage, complemented now and again by the great Louis Armstrong, Ella my go-to when undecided about what music I want to hear.  It seems impossible to me, who cannot carry a tune, that a human being can create such beauty with the human voice. 

            We have entered the last two weeks of August; Labor Day is within reach, the official end of “the season.”  Normally, the island’s life becomes frenetic with summer revels, sailboats racing, beach parties, laughing groups dining al fresco, bus tours aplenty, small cruise ships docking, disgorging passengers, wearing nametags on lanyards, eloquently coiffed ladies shopping for jewelry in shops along Main Street, families and individuals scooping up books, Tom Dresser’s “Martha’s Vineyard: A History” marching out the door in the dozens.

            That is a normal Vineyard summer.  And it almost seemed that way.

  But now, ladies and gentlemen, the Delta variant is marching across our summer stage, changing the tune of the music playing in the background.

Dukes County has issued an advisory telling people to wear masks again inside, advice now mostly followed, but not at first.

You cannot come into the bookstore without one.  Last week, I had to tell someone they couldn’t be in the bookstore unless they were masked.  We provide them.  They left.

            Cautious people, including me, have worn masks all summer when negotiating the summer crush at Stop & Shop.  Cronig’s up in Vineyard Haven won’t let you through the door without one – they suffered a cluster last winter, are taking no chances. 

            The feel on the streets has changed.  From a laughing, unmasked world, feeling liberated, we have returned to a place more like the summer of 2020.  Retail ebullience has faded, people feeling threatened. According to reports, consumer confidence, especially among the vaccinated, has plummeted.

            The Delta variant…

It is also the crushing “Code Red” report from the UN on climate change; we may have passed the point of no return on some things.  There is still time to mitigate the worst, but will we?

            A heat dome has returned to the Pacific Northwest, fires burn, Europe is experiencing record breaking heat, Greek islands are aflame. Siberia has been burning.

            Haiti broken by another earthquake.

            Kabul is falling to the Taliban, echoing the humiliating end of Saigon. Helicopters are lifting people out of the Embassy in Kabul. Remember, if you are old enough, those photos from 1975 at the end in Saigon. If not old enough, google them.  We are facing another heart break.

We’re negotiating with the Taliban to agree to spare the Embassy.  How did it get to this?  How did this even begin?

Afghanistan has broken the back of every western power since Alexander the Great.  No one learns the lesson.  Pity the poor people of Afghanistan who must live, again, under the Taliban.  Pity the women, girls already being forced to marry Taliban soldiers.

Not sure about you but I am clutching for good news.  And there doesn’t seem to be much.

Nestled here on Martha’s Vineyard, I feel both separated and in the middle of what is happening.  

Obama’s birthday party, even scaled back, was still big.  I fell asleep listening to the fireworks erupt.  Friends who lived not far from his home said they heard the crowd long into the night.  Stephen Colbert, Henry Louis Gates were disinvited.  Ah, the Delta variant.

I am discouraged this sun-kissed evening.

The fall of Afghanistan echoes the pain of Vietnam.

The climate crisis has come home to roost.

The pandemic is still raging while we are caught in an insane politicized conundrum about vaccines and masks.  

Our summer of freedom has turned its back on us; doors seem to be closing faster than they are opening. 

Alas, Babylon…