From the Vineyard Gazette edition of June 18, 1976:

It’s that time of year again when Vineyard vacationers are returning to find what ravages the elements and/or little creatures have inflicted upon summer homes we thought were so carefully winter-proofed last September.

Those of us who employ professional openers for removing blinds, vacuuming, and scrubbing in advance of our arrival may never know the unsettling effect of discovering a mouse nest in that old mattress in the store room, or worse yet, that brand new mattress in the guest room — the one labeled “firm” that conveyed all the warm hospitality of a concrete slab. Even the mice didn’t like it.

Each year as I skid across the sand blasted front bedrooms, I marvel that the force of a northeast storm could blow sand clear through hairline cracks around tightly locked double windows. I vow that next year I’ll hire some kind soul to remove all evidence of winter’s neglect before I ever set foot inside. Then I weigh that expense against some frivolous summer purchase, like new shingles on the garage, and frugality wins again.

From the moment the storm door is removed there is that smell, a nostalgic mustiness, to transport one back through a lifetime of summer cottages. Ours seems to retain it through August, but no matter. Mixed with a little cedar scented spray it’s not half bad.

Then there is the eager rush to remove enough blinds to let some daylight in. I leave this to the menfolk while I explore the kitchen to see if we really did leave that nine-cup coffee pot here last fall, or is it hidden somewhere at home? I’m reminded that we left the pressure cooker at home, but brought an electric blender — as a companion piece perhaps for the one we forgot was here? Someday when I’ve undergone a complete metamorphosis and become the totally organized, if not liberated, woman, I’m going to make lists of what’s here and what’s there.

I discover a bag of petrified garbage forgotten the morning of that frantic rush for the 7 a.m. ferry last September. We were going to toss it in a trash can at the dock rather than leave it outside for the crows. No crow would want it now!

And here under the sink is what must have been a bottle of soda, now exploded into a hundred sticky pieces. One forgets how low the temperature can drop on a January night.

Next I’ll get the beds ready for our weary bones. There’s a chill in the air, and as I unfold blankets from the top shelf of the linen closet I am bombarded with a shower of mothballs I had carefully hidden in the folds. The moths have the last laugh after all.

Finally I head back to the kitchen to prepare our supper. Having by now acquired a certain nonchalance, I flip a dead cricket out of the saucepan into the sink before warming a can of soup. After supper we’re ready to fall into bed, for tomorrow is another day. Time enough to tackle the cleaning, unpacking and remaining blinds. As we drop off to sleep, the scent of moth balls reminds us that another winter has passed, and it’s good to be back again.

Getting directions on the Vineyard in the summertime has proved quite difficult. Seeking them in Oak Bluffs earlier this week, we asked five pedestrians for assistance, all of whom looked at first glance as if they knew where they were and where they were going. None could help, though. We struck upon a Buckeye from Ohio, a Floridian, a Texan and a Californian. The fifth, a woman whose origins we’ll probably never know, cut our query off sharp and vigorously disavowed any knowledge of any sort.

“Don’t ask me nothing, because I just don’t know!” she fired before we could even get the question out of our mouth. Could it be that all these folks were lost or, like the pathfinder Daniel Boone, who asserted that he was never lost, but “just a mite bewildered”?

There are more “One Way” signs on the Vineyard this summer than ever before. Obviously we are closing in on what so long eluded Immanuel Kant, the Categorical Imperative.

The Island was long famous for cutting crosslots, and it had a large proportion of people, not dissidents, who occasionally or more than occasionally zigzagged. But now we are channelized, and the “One Way” signs are our buoys.

Pete Ogden says, “after recognizing that to bring the rest of the world up to North American standards would require consumption of about 20 times as much iron, copper, sulphur, timber, oil, and water, among other things, and that the world does not have 20 times as much of these resources, comments about ‘how close’ are simply banal.”

Of course they are, and that makes it so convenient to have the “One Way” signs. We need not worry where we are headed. We are on our way there, and altogether legally.

Compiled by Hilary Wall