BETTYE FOSTER BAKER
The sun has moved to a new trajectory. Leaves on the tomato and squash plants curl and brown. The dill and rocket have gone to flower. Only the kale and collards grow strong awaiting winter’s frost to sweeten each leaf. Summer flower and garden beds will be cleaned and composted; then bulbs will be planted and golden, red, and orange oak and maple, elm and eucalyptus will color as best they can from summer’s drought.
The message of fall is upon us and a new season will enter on schedule to satisfy our love of the peace and quiet of autumn when the Island is given back to a ritualistic solitude.
It is a time of travel for leaf-watchers, in anticipation of nature’s hand-painting and season’s change loved by those who shun warmer climates for fall and winter’s intrigue and frosty interludes. Wood piles will be replenished; children will eagerly return to classrooms for new adventures in spite of their reluctance to give up the freedom of summer. Island lovers will escape if only briefly to other islands in search of what they didn’t have time to enjoy here for summer’s three months. Fog will creep over the sea and steal what is left of clear sunny days. It will be a time to enjoy that harvest moon and a time to count our many blessings.
As a summer resident, the high season ended ever so spectacularly and questions spun dizzily around my head. What will I take home? What serious moments? What fascinations? Whose eyes will capture for me that instant when I understood the joy, pain, and triumph over disappointment in the unveiling of that truth I was unaware of? Whose laughter will I remember in that instant of joy?
For me, all of these questions and emotions surfaced when I met the Tulsa Race Riot survivors at the reception following their moving testimony and the film, Before They Die, which chronicled their journey for justice.
The reception held in Edgartown at the home of Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Barry Stein overlooking the Edgartown Great Pond was the perfect setting in which to consider the meaning of the day as the sun set over the quiet waters. There was a chance to search those eyes of the survivors and listen to their songs of hope. Mentally and physically sharp, vigorous beyond belief, we could barely understand fully their deeply scaring experience and the unimaginable brutality which they faced with courage. How affirming was their strength and the breadth of those shoulders on which we place our petitions for justice. We can thank Charles Ogletree, professor at the Harvard Law School, his staff and supporters for this fine program: A Gathering of the Elders: Sheroes, Heroes and Survivors, sponsored by the Harvard Law School Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. It was a tribute to these extraordinary Americans and a call to all to reclaim those principles of justice upon which we all rely.
In addition to this experience, I will also carry home those early June days as a time of wonder as birds sang gloriously during the mating and nesting period of spring; when the magnificent weather held sway over those days when it was important to cooperate; it was in fact all that the Island brings to souls who come for different reasons seeking much of what inspires and rejuvenates.
It was indeed a time when those savored moments disarmed innocence and held court in heart’s space. It was a time not to be concerned with the trappings of where people came from or who they were. A time when it was important to keep things simple; to leave behind those complicated agendas which impede the simple act of appreciation.
There is a cliché Island expression that, “You never know who you’re going to meet.” In this serendipitous case, it was Jackie Davis and Bill Walker of Wilmington, who came to my rescue at an important event after learning I’d left my camera at home. Bill and his wife Jackie were kind enough to drop off a CD of their photographs. As we chatted it was interesting to learn that both were graduates of Cornell, Jackie in engineering and Bill in mathematics.
During our conversation, I kept saying how familiar Jackie looked. She didn’t say a word. Then her husband said, “You may have seen her on HGTV.” Then to my surprise I learned that Jackie had transformed her engineering career into her own design company, Roomscape Interiors and is a regular on Decorating Cents, one of my few favorite television shows. She will be appearing on Decorating Cents on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 9:15 p.m. Bill has his own intellectual property company.
Then there was longtime summer Island resident, Karin Wilkinson, a spoken word performance artist and belly dancer extraordinaire who does empowerment workshops. She saluted the end of summer by teaching seven 21st Century women her special style of Mother Earth Belly Dancing at Waban Park. They were dressed in colorfully decorated hip skirts with jingling metal coins. Karen and her troupe were dancing to salsa, soul and Middle Eastern music. Each followed the three basic moves she taught with attitude. Having lived in Izmir, Turkey, for three years where belly dancing is an art form, it was great fun to watch these women as they tried to master the hip-thrust and shimmy. It had to be relaxing for these women who themselves have demanding careers. Cherine Anderson is the marketing director for the Broadway show, The Color Purple; Elaine Webley is a financial advisor; and Joan Allen is a journalist. All are from New York city. Julie Lawrence, a human resources consultant, Fatima Ali, a senior account manager for a global telecommunications company, and Kym Kennedy, director of the Georgia Alliance Boys and Girls Clubs of America were from Atlanta; and Karyn Thomas, an attorney recruiter for Arent Fox, LLP, is from Washington, D.C.
After the final move which was the creation of a human goddess statue, I asked Karin, “Why belly dancing?” She said she considers the form to be a natural healer, nurturing to the spirit, releasing the “guilt and shame for our sensuality — a time for being our authentic self.”
My Louisville, Ky., connection got together in Oak Bluffs over the weekend for their annual gumbo party hosted by Charles and Diane Wilkins of East Brunswick, N.J. The group has been coming to the Island for more than twenty years and participated in a variety of Island activities. Guests Pierre Loving from Oakland, Calif., Ted Rose from Athens, Ohio, Paula Hammond and Harold Comfort from Pennsauken, N.J., accompanied professor Robert Douglas of the University of Louisville and his wife Laura and the Wilkinseses to the Island. Dr. Ursula Parrish Daniels Wilson, her husband, Hubert Wilson, and Ursula’s mother, Frances Parrish, attended among other friends.
Not all Vineyarders come to the Island to play golf, but a fair number do and our Farm Neck links must be counted among the most beautiful on the island and especially enjoyable in fall. Debi Crews, an avid golfer, plays about four days a week and with outstanding results. This golf season was especially sweet for this longtime Oak Bluffs summer resident. Debi made history this summer when she became the first African American woman golfer to win in the members only women’s A Flight Farm Neck Club Championship. Debi won 3 and 2 against her opponent. She received a beautiful etched, crystal bowl trophy. Congratulations, Debi.
Through Sept. 14, Featherstone will feature Color Line Shape and Form, art by Anne Grandin, Peggy Thayer, Sheila Fane and Dawn Greeley.
On Sunday, Sept. 9 the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Walk for animals will take place. Jen Morgan, projects coordinator at the society, will sponsor the activity. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. The walk begins at noon beginning and ending on the grounds of the Edgartown School.
The cost is $25 and participants are encouraged to get sponsors for the fundraiser. There will be refreshments, raffles, contests, pet photos and an agility demonstration and some vendors. Registration forms can be picked up at the society. Please contact Jen Morgan at the 508-627-8662 if you need additional information.
Start getting ready for the Oak Bluffs Annual Tivoli Day Festival on Sept. 15. This is a festival the whole family will enjoy when all of the stores will open their doors for the yearly street fair and block party on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs. There will be live entertainment, food, arts and crafts from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Call 508-693-1850 for more information.
Renaissance House has extended its season to Sept. 21. Celebrity Fall Season will include several renowned performers and writers. Dr. Lesego Malepe, South African author of Matters of Life and Death, and internationally acclaimed singer, poet and performer Storme Webber, originally from Seattle, Wash., will be present during the week of Sept. 9. Guests for the week of Sept. 16 include actor LeVan D. Walker who returns to Renaissance House for his second year. He has incorporated his interests in acting, screenwriting, and public speaking into the solo performance genre. Fridays are the student group performances at 8 p.m. and delicious desserts and coffee are served. Admission is free.