Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

When passing by the row of pitch pines along State Road at the Polly Hill Arboretum, I often notice their picturesque beauty that represents the Vineyard sense of place. I enjoy knowing these trees were planted as seedlings purchased in 1929 for 10 cents each. Though I don’t know the exact circumstance of their planting, I imagine Howard Butcher Jr., perhaps with the help of his daughter, the future Polly Hill, planting the little trees with an old shovel and a watering can.

Large mature trees can be moved with huge trucks and earth-moving equipment and lots of money and fossil fuel, but it isn’t a healthy choice for the trees. Mature trees, dug and moved, take many, many years to return to normal growth. And that is only under optimal conditions. These stressed trees experience transplant shock and are much more susceptible to insects, disease, and drought. Small trees can be easily planted with a garden spade. They grow fast and adapt quickly to a new site.

In addition, removing large trees from our protected natural areas isn’t a wise or healthy choice for the environment, even when following a restoration plan. When massive, “unwanted” native trees are harvested from a natural site, the tree is saved — perhaps — but at what cost to the immediate environment? Along with the tree, the roots and the surrounding soil and soil organisms are removed, and the site is disturbed, which denigrates the ecosystem and makes way for invasive plants that cause further denigration.

As I read about the current controversy surrounding Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation properties, I can’t help but reflect on the lessons I have learned from Polly Hill that continue to be reflected at the Polly Hill Arboretum. Though not everyone has the persistence to grow trees from seed, there is value in starting small, with knowledge and patience. Polly wasn’t interested in the immediacy of results, but in the process of growing plants. In time trees mature, and as Polly quipped, you can enjoy the teenage years along the way. With proper explanation, even those initially interested in an instant landscape can be helped to understand the value of planting small trees.

Polly Hill felt there was an enduring bond between people, plants, and the land. I sense that connection on Martha’s Vineyard and I appreciate the organizations that preserve and protect our land. Polly also believed in considering mistakes as opportunities for learning — a lesson that leads to at least one positive outcome whenever mistakes are made. Polly is no longer with us, but the Polly Hill Arboretum (I disclose here that I am married to the director) continues to promote her legacy and share her wisdom and common sense. There is much satisfaction, and good sense, in planting small trees.

Laura Coit

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter was sent to Virginia (Nell) Coogan, associate counsel for the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Beacon Hill:

On behalf of the Tisbury School fifth grade, thank you for the unique opportunity you provided for us on June 4 during our visit to the Massachusetts State House. I eagerly accepted your invitation to bring my class there, as I knew it would make for a meaningful and enjoyable field trip. It far exceeded those expectations. We are greatly appreciative of your efforts to coordinate a tour above and beyond what other school groups receive.

Our students marveled at the state house itself, which is truly a remarkable building. But they were equally struck and impressed by the people they met and the stories they heard. They know that — thanks to you — they received an experience that most do not get. In particular, their day was highlighted by:

• Meeting and conversing with Senate President Therese Murray (the first woman to hold this post in Massachusetts).

• Touring both the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers, and getting a detailed history of these rooms from state house insiders.

• Receiving a formal welcome from the speaker’s chair while we sat in the House chambers as they prepared to go into session.

• Seeing a view of downtown Boston from the state House balcony (ordinarily off-limits).

• Viewing the Tisbury town flag in the state house hall of flags.

• Entering the governor’s office.

• Meeting Lieut. Gov. Tim Murray.

• Meeting our Rep. Eric T. Turkington.

• Having our class photo taken with Senate President Murray, Lieutenant Governor Murray, and Representative Turkington.

Undoubtedly, it was an enriching and memorable day for these fifth graders. For some, it inspired an even greater interest in civics and politics, subjects that this class already has a passion for. It was encouraging for them to hear several times from government officials that the state house is really the “people’s house,” for it allowed them to realize the role and responsibility of citizens in their government.

It is important for young students to begin to understand the importance of the role government plays in our lives, as well as our responsibilities. Thank you for sharing this learning opportunity. It was made even more meaningful for them, knowing that you attended the Tisbury School and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Accordingly, there are many young students who aspire to follow in your footsteps, pursuing an interest in civics and government.

We appreciate your collaboration with the offices of Sen. Robert O’Leary, Mr. Turkington, Ms. Murray and Mr. Murray. Each office provided staff to meet with us, answer questions and make our tour even more rewarding. The itinerary you designed for us was thoughtful and creative. We are grateful.

Best wishes for an enjoyable summer. We look forward to seeing you on the Vineyard. Again, thank you so much for giving us an incredible and rare experience.

John Custer

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Regarding the Gazette story headlined “Complementary Medicine Means Never Wondering, Is a Doctor in the House?”

Julia Rappaport did a wonderful job of transcribing and conveying the heart and spirit of two men that I have the highest respect and warmest regard for. My grandfather was a country doctor who went through medical school with only three black shirts (they would not show the dirt), and quite often he attended to the sick pro bono. When I was a child our family doctor was like a father to me and any time I went into his office he always took time for me attending to all my concerns, physical, emotional, etc.

I was very concerned when Michael started rumbling about wanting to retire and go sailing. Who would take care of me? I met Gerry and was taken back to my childhood by his warm, gentle and caring manner. I so hoped he would join or take over for Michael at the clinic. It was touch and go, but now it looks as if it is all go! I am thrilled — and relieved. Gerry and Michael are every bit the kind of men Julia painted them to be and I thank them for their devotion to a lost art — truly caring about people.

Peter Fyler

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter was sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission:

I write this letter in opposition of Bradley Square not because I am against affordable housing or the arts district‚ but because of the monstrosity of this project and the impact it will have on the neighborhood overall. The fact that there is talk of making a major cut-through road on Masonic avenue and making Warwick avenue one-way — sending major traffic down this road that at one time was dirt not more than 15 years ago — is of concern. I travel both of these roads at least once a day if not more. Warwick avenue can barely take a large vehicle at its current size with parking on one side. So when there is a road race and traffic is redirected to use these streets, as happened over Memorial Day weekend, and you have Vineyard Transit Authority buses driving them, I just find it hard to believe it will be possible. I feel that the people making these suggestions and recommendations have not thought things totally through.

Tammy Deese

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Oak Bluffs road race is another success story for our Island community.

The mission statement of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard clearly states that we offer our services for free to all and that we are community supported. The Vineyard earned a huge gold star on Memorial Day weekend when many friends of hospice turned out for the 15th annual Memorial Day road race.

On the morning of May 25, a record 620 runners and walkers of all ages assembled at the Wesley Hotel. The weather was ideal and the runners and walkers ready. The number of families who registered to run this race together was certainly heartwarming.

Thanks to this year’s very generous presenting sponsor, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank and associate sponsors Tony’s Market, and E.C. Cottle Inc., Hospice will be able to use every supporting sponsor and registration dollar directly for patient care.

Thanks also to the many others who offered assistance and support and donated time, space, sponsor money and goods to the event.

A sincere thank you to the runners and walkers who participated, especially those little ones who give it their all in the one-mile fun run. You all make my day.

You see, we are truly community supported. Thank you for keeping the very important work of hospice in your hearts.

Terre D. Young

West Tisbury

Terre Young is executive director of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

At Sunday’s graduation ceremony for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, valedictorian Truman French reminded the class of 2008 that “it’s not about the money but about how you serve the community.” Those words capture much of what makes Martha’s Vineyard such a special place. For many people, life on the Vineyard is about helping others, safeguarding this beautiful Island and serving purposes beyond themselves. Many are able to give of their time and share their wisdom with organizations working to enhance Island life in different ways. Others are able to give their financial support. Last week, the generosity of the Vineyard community clearly was evident as 631 scholarships were announced at the high school’s 49th class night on Friday. With more than $950,000 in awards, it was an incredible outpouring of support and a very tangible expression of what this community values.

As it has for the past 24 years, the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard, the Island’s community foundation, was proud to be a part of this effort to make higher education attainable for students in our community. Although our funds supported 57 scholarships totaling more than $143,000, we were just one of more than 100 organizations reaching out to help. Each individual effort was a powerful expression of hope for the future and a demonstration of how we care for each other.

For Truman French, growing up on the Island taught him the importance of community. How lucky we all are to be members of the community known as Martha’s Vineyard.

Ralinda Lurie

Oak Bluffs

Ralinda Lurie is executive director of the Permanent Endowment Fund.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I find it amusing that some Americans are complaining about the costs of gas at the pump and food at the grocery store as if this unforeseen reality simply hijacked us by surprise. This inevitable reality has manifested itself while our country has been busy waging war in Iraq, giving useless and unwanted foreign advice to other sovereign nations, neglecting the needs of the poor and the downtrodden here in the U.S. and abroad, and of course the biggie, choosing to ignore the desperate need to fund national projects to explore and harness other types of energy sources that might have reduced, if not completely diminished, our addiction to petroleum based fuels.

Our situation today results from our chosen inaction yesterday. And although many people would like to use Mr. Bush and his administration as the primary scapegoats for these events, they are not the true culprits. Mr. Bush and his cronies did drive the Greyhound bus out of the parking lot and map quest a route to their liking, but we the American people and paying consumers never seemed to care that this route was full of potholes. Like simple sheep, we put on our seatbelts and sang national patriotic songs in the bus.

Now after two terms in office, eight years later, and having not arrived at our final destination, Mr. Bush and his administration vehemently pledge to stay the course. We get cranky. We complain and moan. Our money is running out and so is our patience. Many, if not all of us, want to get off this damn bus.

Sadly, we cannot. We might have been able to stop the bus had we pursued Presidential impeachment hearings. We chose to watch as Mr. Bush and his cronies ignored the U.S. Constitution and the American people and instead explored and harnessed questionable methods of giving the Presidency unimaginable powers foreign to a pure democracy. Our one and only certitude, however, is that Mr. Bush has been unable to create a way, like Hugo Chávez, to remain in office for more than two terms.

Indeed the time has come for a radical change from the status quo. And only one presidential candidate represents a break from the old paradigm of politicking. If the American people choose to elect another George W. Bush in the form of John McCain, then our legacy to our children will simply be that yes we had a problem, we denied it, and therefore we never enrolled in a rehabilitation program.

Everyone talks about experience as if it is the absolute measuring unit of one’s ability to do something. Everyone assumes that experience translates into an asset, something good. That is simply nonsense. I wonder how many of us have endured, or more appropriately suffered through, an uninteresting course taught by an experienced teacher who could not teach. Or perhaps we got sick and visited a physician who has practiced medicine for years only to be misdiagnosed. How many seasoned investment brokers have lost thousands, if not millions, of dollars for their clients? How many experienced attorneys have failed to always protect their client’s best interests? To quote the late Sonny Bono, “And the beat goes on . . .”

Somehow we have become a nation of apathetic imbeciles. This may sound harsh but it is most definitely true. We are worse than sheep. Sheep would have exited the bus and bypassed the severely charred burning Bush and never looked back. Continuing this Biblical metaphor, since religion is the only thing considered by many people these days, an olive branch has been extended to us. A piece of manna has once again fallen from the sky. Barrack Obama is a candidate who truly represents something freshly unique and who has the potential, if supported by the American people, to rebuild, refortify, rehabilitate, and repair all the damage done by corrupt experienced politicians. Can we afford to bypass yet another opportunity to map quest a new route for our nation? If we deny an honest radical break from the status quo, trust me, the cost of gas and food will be the least of our concerns.

Bryan D. Freehling