By Nicole Galland>

We recently moved into a place of almost inexpressible beauty. There are many such on Martha’s Vineyard. I appreciate that beauty; it adds to my love of the place. But it is not the sum of my love. What makes this place so special is the essential Vineyardness of both the home and our relationship to it.

It is a rental. A one-bedroom guest house off Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury, sharing five acres with a main house and lots of lovely landscaping. Our house (much older than the main house) was designed and built decades ago by its original occupant, who had a singular but well-developed aesthetic sensibility; it is quirkily customized in every detail. Broad-beamed maple floors are everywhere, including the laundry room in the basement; the carpentry details of contrasting inlaid wood belong in a high-end mansion yet the place lacks, almost completely, any finish trim. There is a solarium running along one side, and all the rooms on that side – kitchen, bathroom, bedroom – open onto it from the waist up. I write in the solarium; my husband fixes me tea and snacks, and hands them to me at my desk without leaving the kitchen. (He can also, while shaving, glance out the bathroom window over my shoulder to see what I’m working on.)

Most of the space is one large open room, with 18-foot-high ceilings and vertical skylights near the top. It is lofty, spacious, airy, full of light – and yet made up of cozy, intimate nooks and corners. It is both modernist and rustic: the finished basement has a working brick fireplace and exposed post-and-beam construction that is actually construction, not just decoration. The house is passive solar, extremely tight, and full of whimsy. It is the quintessential owner-built Vineyard house from the era just before the housing boom began.

Far more striking than the house, though, is what you find just off the deck: a lotus pond. This was built 30 years ago and flourishes although it is notoriously difficult to grow lotuses. It was merely a lily pond in springtime, when we first moved in, and that was fabulous enough. It’s about a hundred feet across, and from the deck there are five flat, broad boulders that allow us to walk out into almost the middle of the pond. It is clearly manmade, but nature has largely claimed it now, and with its intimate, intricate ecosystem, it has given us a world to explore that evolves almost every morning. Around the pond are fearless deer, rabbits, squirrels and a recently-adopted duck named Jezebel; below the surface are innumerable bullfrogs, turtles, and fish; more important, there is a vast army of dragonflies, who dine on the mosquito larvae. We are pondside every evening, but there have been only two reports of mosquito attacks all summer.

And in July, the wonder of the lotuses began. Poking up and up and up above the surface of the water, and then unfurling like emerald parasols, the lotus leaves grew in such great profusion that we soon could hardly see the pond itself. A few weeks later, stalks appeared, rising above even the leaves, with tiny buds that grew quickly into larger buds and then exploded into translucent, spicy-fragrant blossoms as large as dinner plates. Most of the south wall of the house is glass, and so the lotuses are on view nearly every moment we’re awake. Awed, even humbled, by the unusual beauty opening before us, we threw a party just to share the view; it would have been selfish to keep it to ourselves. After three months in residence, I still wake up every morning thinking that surely we’re just house-sitting in some jet-setter’s custom-ordered pied-a-terre; regular folk don’t get to live in a place this immensely beautiful.

But as I said, there are many beautiful, peaceful places on Martha’s Vineyard. I am sure there are even a few with lotus ponds in their backyards. What makes this space extra special to me is the homegrown serendipity that led us here.

The house and pond were built some 30 years ago by Dixon, a close friend of my father. By “built,” I mean he actually built it, himself, like people used to do here in the good old days. My dad used to visit Dixon and feed raw hamburger to the bullfrogs. My family attended Dixon’s wedding here (he and his bride, Laurie, exchanged vows standing on the most outlying rock in the pond). The property has been known to my family since its inception.

But that has absolutely nothing to do with our living here. Dixon sold the property years ago to Lynn and Philip Dwane, and moved off-Island. The Dwanes built a larger house on the property and used Dixon’s small home as Lynn’s reiki studio. That was the end of my family’s connection to the house.

It is famously difficult to find year-round housing on the Vineyard, especially in the springtime when most landlords (understandably) want to cash in on the summer rental market. We needed to find housing. We pursued leads via the papers, Craigslist, and friends of friends, but nothing was working out. We were on the verge of decamping to our condo in Jamaica Plain. In a final attempt to remain here, where I grew up, I posted on Facebook asking for leads.

Lynn Dwane, nee Packish, was a regional high school classmate of mine (class of 1983). She responded to my post, offering to rent us Dixon’s former home, year-round, at a price we could afford. By another coincidence, Philip Dwane and my husband both hail from Dublin. The two men, upon meeting, immediately began to “talk Irish,” as Lynn and I watched, grinning. Everyone’s decision to move forward with the rental was based on chemistry and trust. There was no rental application to fill out, no background check; they took a very small security deposit because we have a dog, but seemed almost sheepish to even ask for it. Having signed a handwritten hold-harmless agreement, we are free to use Philip’s tractor/backhoe to create a garden plot for ourselves. How many tenants can say that?

Between us, my husband and I have lived in many places, under many different and singular circumstances, but I’m fairly confident that only on the Vineyard could we have come home the way we have, to where we have.