I am just back from troubled Israel. There, an ultra-Orthodox Jew of the Haredi sect spat on an eight-year-old girl he deemed immodestly dressed and other ultra-orthodox members of that sect were insisting that women sit at the back of public buses. A settlement illegally built by ultra-orthodox Zionists on the Palestinian West Bank was demolished by Israeli Army soldiers. And the Israeli government, fearful of Iran’s nuclear capabilities, was hinting at making a pre-emptive strike against that country.

The preceding month, I was in earthquake-ravaged Christchurch, New Zealand. There, a year ago this week a 20-second quake left 180 dead and 1,000 buildings destroyed. So little remained of the city’s Gothic Revival landmark, its cathedral, that, for safety’s sake, it appeared that it too would have to be demolished.

I am always fascinated to travel — to see new places and meet new people. But it is always good to come back to the Vineyard. And this past sunny Sunday – after these saddening journeys — it was especially good. I tend to go walking most mornings soon after the sun has come up and the birds cheerily welcome it. Ordinarily, since I live on Music street, my walk is around the Panhandle or down the Middle Road, but this time I found myself on the Indian Hill Road.

A long time ago I spent one fall, winter and spring at the end of this road. A pheasant that frequented the neighboring woods was a highlight that autumn. Pinkletinks sang in swampy places, heralding the arrival of spring, while that winter a blizzard isolated us for a time, leaving us cozily indoors with glistening, billowing snowdrifts outside. But since I live now in the heart of West Tisbury, I tend to forget that Indian Hill is so near and so inviting to explore.

When I was a child, we would picnic at the top of Indian Hill and my father would tell apocryphal tales of Wampanoags holding powwows there in earlier days and building signal fires. My brother and I would climb up on the giant boulder and look out to the Vineyard Sound and pretend that we were signaling someone somewhere. We would often stop at the Mayhew Chapel on these excursions, and climb the hill and go up to the Praying Indian graveyard with its unmarked headstones and footstones.

This past Sunday, finding myself in the neighborhood, I set off on foot down the Christiantown Road. At the start, it was disturbingly paved. I didn’t remember its being that way, but it has been some years since I have walked it. But soon the paved road became a tawny dirt road. Fallen beech and oak leaves had made the landscape tawny, too, though bare tree limbs stretching upward to the blue sky were elephant gray. Far off in the woods a mourning dove cooed. A woodpecker busily drummed on an old tree. It has been so warm this winter that the leaves of rhododendrons here and there were uncurled and readying for spring. But there were still crisp leaves on the beech trees I passed and when the wind blew, there was music in their rustling and in the soughing of pines. Holly trees glistened and red berries peeked Christmas-like from under the leaves of some of them. It’s too late to bring Christmas holly indoors; Ash Wednesday arrived this week, announcing the prelude to Easter, but I liked that red and green touch in the woods all the same.

It took longer to reach the chapel than I had remembered, and there were houses I had never noticed before set back along the road. Happily, most were not pretentious the way so many new Island houses are. My walk was uneventful. A dog barked, but he was as far away as the pecking woodpecker. Once I heard the buzz of a chain saw, but never saw it.

On the boulder at the foot of the graveyard hill, I read how the Seacoast Defence Chapter of the DAR had built its tablet there to tell the story of the Takemmy sachem, Josias, who, in 1659-60 gave one square mile of land to four Christianized natives — the so-called Praying Indians — for a “praying town,” in exchange for 20 shillings a year. A decade later, when Thomas Mayhew was seeking to acquire Island land, there was controversy over the sachem’s grant, but in the end it was peacefully agreed that the property would remain with the Praying Indians and their heirs and the Rev. Thomas Mayhew was added to the list of owners. The chapel now on the property was built in 1829.

A path leads up the graveyard hill and I followed it, wandering through the grass and bull briars seeking out the headstones and footstones, and wondering again, as I had as a child, at how small the people buried between those stones must have been. I like the wild, but here and there, trees have fallen across the path and I hoped that come spring, they would be cleared away and the wild grasses cut shorter in deference to the dead who rest there. When I came down the graveyard hill, I crossed the road and followed land bank trails for awhile. Then I walked back to Indian Hill Road. There I found one of those very old trees that some say were bent as saplings by the Praying Indians (others say the trees were bent by farmers to make a fence).

When I am off-Island, I am often asked what we do on the Vineyard in the off-season when the sea snarls and the trees are bare, when there are no flowers in bloom and stores are closed along our towns’ main streets. I reply that, for me, winter is the very best of Vineyard times. Then it is all mine — a quiet, tranquil place of woods and fields and moors and white sand beaches. Although I know that all is not tranquility here now — even in winter — last Sunday, after my travels in religiously-troubled Israel and nature-ravaged New Zealand, I realized, again, how the Island in winter is a restorative place.