When I fell and broke my wrist in early August, my normal hectic routine — daily tennis, regular kayaking, and too many hours working at the computer — came to a screeching halt. With my left arm and hand encased in a high-tech black Exos cast, my choices at first seemed limited.
But this unexpected interruption of my Vineyard summer instead turned into an opportunity to explore the Island’s nooks and crannies from a whole new vantage point. I decided, in essence, to take a vacation from my vacation, relax and use my newfound time to do the Island things I never seemed to have time to do.
With a nod to David Letterman (a seasonal Edgartown resident), what follows are my top ten tips for the Labor Day weekend and beyond, including some familiar haunts and recent discoveries.
1. You don’t have to be sick to check out the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s outstanding permanent art collection. In my recent orthopedic visits, I’ve loved strolling past some of the 300 donated pieces by artists with an Island connection. Some photographic favorites include Guy Webster’s electrifying Bob Dylan shot, Mariana Cook’s casual 1996 photo of Barack and Michelle Obama, and David Fokos’s surreal Beach Comet sand landscape. There’s a virtual tour of the entire collection on the hospital website.
2. Take a vigorous hike or casual nature stroll on public conservation trails listed in Will Flender’s Walking Trails of Martha’s Vineyard, fourth edition, a handy pocket guide published by the Vineyard Conservation Society that’s available at many Island stores. My feet still work so I managed (barely) to keep up with friends on a recent five-mile round trip Chilmark walk from South to North Road, including lovely land bank paths along Tea Lane Farm and the Middle Line Woods Preserve.
3. Get into birding on Island trails, beaches or backyards. I was rained out this week for a private bird walk with Susan (Soo) Whiting, the Gazette’s authoritative Bird News columnist, something I’ve always wanted to do. Her website and book, Vineyard Birds 2, can help with self-guided tours. The Farm Institute and Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, both in Edgartown, are premier birding spots here.
4. Get into bees, too, at the Saturday morning West Tisbury Farmers’ Market. I bought a delicious jar of raw honey from Island Bee Company’s Edgartown hives and some fragrant herbal honey soaps (mandarin mint and summer citrus) from Breezy Pines Farm.
5. The Vineyard Artisans 18th annual Labor Day Festival at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury is the largest art show on the Island and a personal favorite. I’m partial to anything jewelry, Andrea Rogers’s lavender sachets and the colorful berry colanders from Up-Island Pottery.
6. Gallery hop to enjoy the Islandwide art riches. Don’t miss the permanent outdoor sculpture gallery featuring the late Tom Maley’s playful, beloved resin figures (“He loves me” is a classic) at the Field Gallery across from Alley’s in West Tisbury. Or photographer Alison Shaw’s dreamy new water landscapes at her own Oak Bluffs gallery as well as other Island galleries.
7. For bookstore hopping, head to the main streets of Vineyard Haven (Bunch of Grapes) or Edgartown (Edgartown Books). Skip the beach novels and ask for books by the Vineyard’s own noted authors (McCullough, Brooks, Horwitz, Just, Hunter-Gault and the Styron family come to mind). Writers such as Thomas Dresser (Women of Martha’s Vineyard) will be at the Artisans Festival this weekend.
8. Head to the outdoor terrace of Behind the Bookstore, the appropriately-named coffee bar and café in back of Edgartown Books. To die for: homemade black and white cookies from talented young baker Rachael Fox. Don’t rely on me: I was hanging out with cookbook/food guru Joan Nathan. She, too, broke her left wrist recently and now sports a blue Spiderman version of my high-tech cast.
9. The fair is over, but it is not too early to start thinking about the 2014 women’s skillet throw. I watched this year from the stands, of course. But once the cast is off, I’m thinking of buying a three pound, 11-ounce steel skillet and gearing up for next year’s competition.
10. I have no idea exactly where David Letterman lives here, nor do I want to find out. I do know where celebrity couples Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, and Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub live in Chilmark, but I’m not telling. It’s public knowledge where John Belushi and Lillian Hellman can be found: their gravesites are in Abel’s Hill Cemetery in Chilmark. My advice: Head for the beach and don’t even attempt a celebrity house (or grave) search. You’re likely to be thrown off the Island.
Cristine Russell is a 35-year seasonal resident of Chilmark.