My last trip to the island was possibly my best to-date. More firsts on Martha’s Vineyard were checked off my list and more things were added to my to-do list! Just the way I like it. I returned to my actual home and, as I always do, crashed hard. Maybe I write my Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries as a way to escape the city for my spiritual home?When you return home from two weeks of perfect weather in your favourite place in the world, after seeing some of your favourite people in the world, It’s a long way down. Especially if you consider, what is really, the double-edged sword of the quick trip. On the one hand, getting there is easy and expeditious. What could be wrong with that, right?
Well, coming home—that’s what’s wrong with that. Within just a few hours, I went from breakfast at The Art Cliff Diner and walking on a Martha’s Vineyard beach with one of my best friends, to being in a cab under a highway overpass, surrounded by construction and car horns. As I said, it’s a long way down. But enough griping. My trip was amazing. The fact that I get to enjoy Martha’s Vineyard as often as I do is a miracle. Most people never get to go at all. I’m so grateful for each and every trip and all of my friends there. I thought I would attempt to go through my trip day-by-day. In my most recent post, June On Martha’s Vineyard, I covered the first two days. So, without further ado, I give you Saturday, June 9th, 2019. Well, the first half of it, anyway. It was a True Vineyard Day!
One Martha’s Vineyard Morning
By no means a first, I got up Saturday morning and headed over to The Black Dog Tavern for breakfast. I ate there a lot this past trip. I was staying, for the most part, in Vineyard Haven, and it was only a five minute walk away. I think I’ve extensively covered how much I love The Black Dog, so there is no need to go into it now…although I guess I kinda just did. Anyway, after breakfast, I met my friend, Lisa, and we headed up to the West Tisbury Farmers Market. Lisa needed to pick up some shiitake mushrooms and I had never been to the Farmers Market. Going with Lisa would be the perfect opportunity to check off another ‘first’ from my list! I also wanted to pick up a couple of things for the following weekend when I stayed with friends on Chappaquiddick. The West Tisbury Farmers Market might have just what I needed.
The Market is held on Saturdays at The Grange Hall. It’s a great thing to do on a Saturday morning because there is a lot to do in that neighbourhood. The Grange Hall itself, is a very cool building. It is one of the many structures owned and maintained by The Preservation Trust. The Grange Hall is a post and beam building that was built in 1859 by The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. The island used to hold the Agricultural Fair there until 1994. When the Preservation bought it, they completely restored it, and it’s a beautiful island landmark. Concerts are held there, art shows, weddings, and a myriad of other island activities—like The Farmers Market!
Most of the Market is outside. The vendors have tables and tents. You can buy art, jewellery, island grown vegetables, island made honey, and a lot more. Lisa picked up her mushrooms and I picked up some fantastic freshly made salsa! It was perfect for my stay on Chappy. I had already baked sugar cookies in the shape of Martha’s Vineyard (no really) so why not bring salsa made fresh on the Vineyard? Better than a jar of Tostitos!
Now, as I wrote previously, the West Tisbury Farmers Market is a terrific place to go in the morning because of its location. It’s beside the West Tisbury Town Hall, just down the road from Alley’s General Store and 7a Foods, and it’s right across the street from The Field Gallery! Add those up and you have a fantastic Martha’s Vineyard morning in the making!
One Market Down, So Much More To Go!
The West Tisbury Town Hall is another beautiful example of Martha’s Vineyard architecture. It is marked in front by the school bell that was used to ring children to school at Dukes County Academy from 1847 to 1924. You can still ring it if you so desire. Alley’s General Store is something of a legend on the island. Up until recently, it was known for being jammed with four or five stores worth of goods, but they have recently organized themselves a bit and their store looks great!
You can still buy just about anything within its walls—groceries, flags, toys, beach towels, kitchenware, novelties straight out of a fifties comic book, and just about anything else you can imagine. You might just want to stretch out on their front porch and relax too. Many spend the day doing just that. Behind Alley’s is 7a Foods. They serve great homemade wares and, according to my friend Geoff, the absolute best sandwiches on the island. I can’t say that I can argue with him. They are darn good. After Lisa and I left Alley’s, we walked slowly back toward the Market and the car. We dropped off our parcels and headed across the street to The Field Gallery.
The Field Gallery is one of the three locations that make up the Granary Gallery Family. I think I’m saying that right. There is The Field Gallery, The Granary Gallery (also in west Tisbury), and The North Water Gallery (my favourite art gallery in Edgartown by far). The Field Gallery is a place of magic and whimsy. It’s near impossible to go to the Field Gallery and not feel like a child again. It washes away any last bits of stress that have been desperately clinging to you since you disembarked the ferry. There are always brilliant island artists on exhibit inside, creatively organized, and curated. There is art of every form—paintings, drawing, sculptures, and table settings, and housewares. Bright summer colours let you know that it is summer on Martha’s Vineyard, and you are more than welcome to stay on island forever.
What The Field Gallery is most famous for is their outdoor sculpture exhibit. Local artist Jay Lagemann among others display their wares on the lawn. I don’t think any of them are actually for sale, but I could be wrong. They have been there as long as I can remember. Eight foot, fifteen foot, sculptures of dancing women and fishermen in the throws of a fantastic catch! The positive energy at Field Gallery is a perfect example of the reason we all go to Martha’s Vineyard again and again. They’re happiness embodied. It’s that simple.
Lisa and I walked back to the car. When we jumped in, I said, “I still want to go to Polly Hill Arboretum at some point. Isn’t that around here somewhere?” Lisa looked at me with her typical exuberance. “You want to go now? Let’s go!” Of course, we went.
Polly Hill Arboretum
Arboretum: A place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for the purpose of scientific and educational purposes.
There is a lot of history behind the Polly Hill Arboretum. Polly hill was a real person. I actually thought that it was an arboretum located on Polly Hill, but I was wrong. It wasn’t the first time and I guarantee you it won’t be the last. Polly Hill’s family purchased this farm in 1926, but the farm itself has an historical record that dates back to 1669. That’s pretty amazing. The original homestead is still standing. In fact, it is now used as the arboretum’s offices. Lectures and events are still held in the historic barn and what was once the cowbarn is now the library.
When we walked from the parking lot to the entrance, we were met by a really impressive Visitor’s Center. I was surprised! I had not expected anything quite so elaborate. We were welcomed by a well-informed and very friendly volunteer. Who gave us a little history about the property and gave us a map and some helpful directions. One of my favourite things about Martha’s Vineyard, one of the things that truly conveys the sense of community that I think so much of the world has lost, is the number of volunteers everywhere you go. The island is important to its people and they don’t mind stepping up and helping out. It’s important to give your time. It’s more precious than money. It cannot be replaced.
Lisa and I, armed with a map, walked into the arboretum. Field after field of trees and shrubs, all in various state of bloom, were labelled for our edification. We had a magnificent day for it and we took our time. I saw varieties of peonies that I had never seen. I saw rhododendron “bushes” that were the size of a house. Sometimes a walk through a green space with a friend is all you need to set you on the right course. It clears out the cobwebs. I think we were in there for about an hour. I am not really sure. I remember getting into an argument with a turkey, but it was not my fault. The turkey started it! I’m not even kidding.
When we were finished, we started our drive back to Lisa’s house for lunch. As we drove, I noticed the mini-putt in Vineyard Haven. That is another thing I have yet to do on-island. I have added it to my ever-growing list. People often ask me how I can go back to Martha’s Vineyard over and over again. I don’t understand the question. Even if I did the same things over and over again, you know, lobster rolls, beaches, and sailing, would that be so bad? Not at all. The fact is though that there are one-hundred-square-miles of island and I still haven’t seen it all or done it all. Not even close.
Lisa made us the most amazing salad entirely from vegetables out of her garden plus, of course, the shiitake mushrooms. I headed out to meet my friend Dave at Nancy’s Restaurant for a couple of drinks at the rail. Reggae played, we watched the ocean roll, and the sun beat down on us. It was hot. Turned out that Dave had never had a Dirty Banana before!! “What???” I shrieked! “How have you been coming here all this time and you’ve never had a Dirty Banana?” He didn’t even know what one was. I’m not even kidding. We fixed that right quick. I had one too…you know, for moral support. See? There’s another first. Check it off. Hey, it’s the Vineyard!