Take a stirring reading of Frederick Douglass in the stifling heat of a historic church, add the still-cold ocean waters of the Atlantic lapping against a gold sand beach and toss in the sis-boom-bah of an old-fashioned parade. Now you’ve got Fourth of July on Martha’s Vineyard: colorful, crowded, raucous, beachy, family-filled and fun.

The Island stage is set for summer.

Thankfully the holiday came off this year without a tragedy or serious accident. Emergency responders around the Island reported the day after that they were busy with calls but all were relatively minor, most of them heat-related. In the end people stayed safe, on the roads and on the water. Hopefully that trend will continue in the coming weeks. This is a time of year when Islanders are especially grateful for the hardworking men and women of the police, fire and EMS departments, who are on duty around the clock.

And amid the clamor this is also a time to pause and listen to the conversations: about freedom of the press, immigration, conservation, science, social justice and more. On the morning of Independence Day two noted economists sat streetside at a coffee shop in Vineyard Haven and pondered the future of the country. That these debates and discussions are taking place on the Vineyard, sometimes in historic places like the Union Chapel, the Tabernacle and the Old Whaling Church, other times at ordinary places like downtown sandwich shops, is a testament to the fact that the Island is not just a summer resort but a place where people come to live part of their lives — whether for twelve months, two weeks or two days.

They also come to enjoy and celebrate nature unspoiled, whether it’s walking a trail in the cool hush of a summer woodland or diving headlong into saltwater so clear you can see straight to the bottom.

“July is abundance on the land,” the nature essayist Hal Borland wrote. “Sometimes it seems that the further man gets from the soil, the less he understands about fundamental independence, which is a way of living as well as a way of thinking. You can’t argue a bushel of wheat or a bale of hay into being, and you can’t legislate an improvident man into affluence. No court has yet altered the march of the seasons. About all man can do is protect his own freedom to work and live with the world around him. Those who proclaimed this country’s independence still lived close enough to the land to know this. Every July provides a reminder, if we will only pause long enough to recognize it.”