Dear Martha:

No, this is not a Valentine and you knew this was coming. It’s over. I’m leaving you, taking the noon ferry tomorrow. Let’s make it easy for each other. I’ll be on South Beach at dawn for our last goodbye. You know where.

What a history, you and I! Remember The Winter Vineyard, my college thesis, in 1970? I fell in love with you through a camera lens, in the midst of that coldest winter in 50 years. Or all those years of running Martha ’72, on-Island or absentee. Or coaching soccer, photography for the Gazette, founding the Oar and Paddle Regatta, publishing Humanity, and now trying to end war (no less!). All these things fostered by your grace and grit, your sustaining embrace.

But you’ve changed. You’re not as much fun as when we met, no longer as warm or relaxed. You’re faster paced, crowded and even a bit self-important, distracted by adoration and celebrity. And way too expensive. You’ve become, in fact, high maintenance. It’s time to move on, old friend, to find another place to hold my heart.

You, of course, knew I would leave some day. You understood from the beginning that I was a man who demanded his own restless conversation with the world. I’m so lucky to be alive and healthy at 66. Now, as it did for Ulysses, that untraveled world gleams. I aim to explore the wildest horizons while I may, to maximize life with other friends. Imagine parting tent flaps in the early dawn to witness the ancient migration across the Serengeti!

How could you really miss me? After all, you have so many other admirers, ever in thrall to your sublime curves, to the mystery of your moods, to the sway of your landscape and the allure of your strand, to your unique Islandness — all of which you offer so easily every day.

So thank you, Martha. Yes, we were dreamers together, you and I, these past 44 years, but we did our best to keep a hard core of reality, to foster the possibility of a better life for all. So many friendships here, in fact, have a special, almost spiritual, overlay, so many relationships a ménage a trois with you.

Many others of course have tried and failed to leave, have come back to your inescapable charms. But for me, this is it, the end of a beautiful romance.


P.S. I was only teasing the other day when I called you “a drinking Island with a ferry problem.” Sorry about that. I know you took it to heart.

Tony Balis is founder and president of The Humanity Initiative. He lived on the Vineyard in 1972 and 1973, and year-round since 1994.