I threw in the towel on Martha’s Vineyard winters 10 years ago and never looked back. I traded in the gray Januaries, the icy roads of February and the interminable crawl through March first for the white winters of Concord and later for the damp, slushy ones of Providence, R.I.
Away at boarding school in Concord, I discovered the true meaning of down comforters, down jackets and layering. Hats were a necessity, boots a must and my hair froze on the short walk from my dormitory to the cafeteria in the morning. For four years, I braved the cold and the snow, but only on the rarest occasion did I miss the Vineyard in winter.
Don’t get me wrong. I had fond memories of the Vineyard in winter. On days when the snow began to accumulate, my father would come home from work early and together we would trudge over to Mink Meadows golf course. We sledded down the empty hills, blazing trails behind us. Winter afternoons by the fireplace could not happen in a dormitory and there were no winter beach walks in the suburb of Concord. But my teenage self found winter an insufferable season made only worse by the scant offerings of the Island: no multiplex to while away the cold afternoons, no malls with warm wool sweaters for sale.
After I graduated from high school, I experienced my first Providence winter. These winters — I braved five of them — were more like those on the Vineyard. There were more days of gray skies than blue, more ice-lined sidewalks than salted and a constant dampness that made it impossible to warm up. But what the Vineyard lacked in wintertime social activities, the city of Providence made up for in abundance. There were movies to attend, hot plates of Mexican, Thai and Cuban food to eat and a slew of bars ready to fend off the winter blues.
And so it was with great surprise that I found myself back on Island for the winter 10 years after swearing off it. I came back in April to write for the Gazette. Summer was busy and when the nights began turning cooler, I looked forward to the peace September promised. After the corn and tomatoes were gone, October came with local pumpkins and apples from Tiasquin Orchard.
In November, I made the move to a winter rental and began to get nervous. Stores started to close, friends packed their bags for Costa Rica and Bali and I worried the novelty of Sundays spent making soups and chilies was wearing off. But then a funny thing happened. December rolled in and I discovered new trails to walk on. With the trees bare, the Island looked different and new.
After the New Year, I really started to panic. I kept waiting for the day when I would discover the true meaning of the winter doldrums and remember why I had left in the first place. With each passing week, however, I found something new. Crowds descended on Offshore Ale for oysters and wings on Friday nights; all ages gathered in Chilmark for potlucks and live music and the Capawock Theatre brought opera to the Island. I had my planner marked for weeks to come — the Chili Festival at January’s end, the Vineyard Conservation Society’s winter walk series in February, the film festival in March.
As I sit and write this, I am cuddled inside with a comforter. Outside, the sky is gray. Typical. But, today that gray sky is dumping buckets of snow; the branches outside are covered with the stuff. Inside, with a pot of soup simmering on the stove, I could not be happier to be just where I am.