Up on Martha’s Vineyard I sleep with the windows open. It allows the tempo of time to continue like a cool jazz symphony with unexpected rhythms and riffs. The breezes play in the curtains, thunder arrives unexpectedly yet there’s always the ocean, always, in the distance, keeping pace with my breath. And every once in awhile the moon’s light fills the room.
It’s not my house, but it doesn’t matter. This island has never been about the you or the me or the ours or the theirs. I don’t own any part of it, but instead quite contently, together we form a perfect union. Like an old married couple we’ve taken advantage of a give and take relationship. I respect the low key volume necessary for it’s nature to exist, in return she let’s me do whatever I want to, whenever I want to.
For a few weeks every year I turn myself over to this house which sits by itself at the very tippy end of a narrow sandy road. Nothing much here but a sweet grass lawn tapering down to an oddly put together stone wall and then over the low scraggily scrub oaks the ocean. How lovely to arrive. I’m here, let’s open these windows.
There’s a small grey deck, the wood soft from the salt air. I can step out from the kitchen and don’t mind it’s size. All I need is room to let the hose splash off the sand brought up from the beach and enough space to place a chaise where it won’t sink in an ungainly manner on the grass. A round table with a lopsided faded umbrella takes up most of the area. It’s here on this deck I watch the sun slowly cross the sky hour by hour. And from my creaky lounge chair the stars begin to appear in the evening. There’s coffee in the morning, ice tea in the afternoon and maybe a vodka tonic in the evening. Whatever.
I have a history here, my childhood, a marriage, those I’ve loved now gone, others lost somewhere along the way. With a past comes memories. Though on this deck I choose to let the reflections come and go more like old friends I’m at ease with. In other places they seem to arrive with demands, emotions and needs for explanations. But for these few weeks I leave behind all the noise which accompanies my days during the year and in short time I adopt the easy sway of this island.
I read, I don’t read. I write and then I think about writing. There’s music from the house or sometimes simply in my head. I leave the outdoor shower reluctantly. I eat fresh clams sitting on the steps of the dock on Menemsha. How many shooting stars cross the sky at night and why can’t I wish on each one? I breathe.
Wasting my time? Oh, I don’t think so. Where else could I amble along the base of the red clay cliffs scanning the ocean for shark fins slicing the water, knowing I’ll probably never see one. Or walk the beach road every day and after years of doing this notice something new. And, oh, to sit on my beloved slanting deck arranging on the table, then re-arranging the stones and pebbles picked from the tide, each carefully chosen for a shape, a color, an edge. And where else, or nowhere else, can I sleep so soundly, so late to get up or so early to rise, with my windows flung open because I want the noise of a true life to surround me all the time.
I don’t really care to analyze why this island is my flush of peace. That would ruin everything and anyway it’s impossible, I’ve been coming up here too long for my own reasons which seem to change every year. It probably has something to do with the distant sound of the waves and the clouds which can move quickly, but really I don’t know what it is, and I don’t have any interest to wonder about it . For right now I’m right where I’m supposed to be. On this deck thinking or not thinking about anything or nothing.
My weeks pass. I feel I stand taller and not only is my body stronger, more importantly my heart is. It’s time to leave. I shut the windows. I lock the door. I’m ready.
About the Author: Priscilla Whitley has been a writer most of her life. She attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism as well as Fordham University where she majored in Creative Writing. Priscilla’s articles and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies across the country. As facilitator of the Candlewood Writer’s Group, Priscilla runs workshops for writer’s in Fairfield County Connecticut.
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