On my second night after moving to the Vineyard I heard the Old Whaling Church clock chime out the hour as I was falling asleep. That was when I realized this place was going to break my heart.

I could see then the outlines of my life here. I could see myself walking through town to work at the Gazette every day and hearing the Whaling Church clock marking my hours. I knew I would love it, and I knew it wouldn’t be forever.

I didn’t know yet about all the other things that would break my heart over these last few weeks, as I think about what I’ll miss as I prepare to leave the Island. I didn’t know about the spot where one of the green crosses on St. Elizabeth’s Church lines up with the Whaling Church steeple in a way that pleases me, the fence where the catbird perches in the summer, the birdsong that greeted me, along with Zoe, my neighbor’s cat, when I turned the corner onto my street. I didn’t know yet about the tree at Sheriff’s Pond where the red-winged blackbird sat in the summer, the swans I would watch nest and raise and lose cygnets every spring. I didn’t know about the stories I’d write, the people I’d meet, the sound of the press running on Thursdays, the early fall smell of ocean and wood smoke. I didn’t know about the sky so full of stars that I still catch my breath when I look up at night.

Sheriff's Pond. — Sara Brown

My corner of the Vineyard for the past six and half years was mostly within earshot of that clock bell, which I could hear from my desk at the Gazette and all the way out at the pond. I like to think about the town mapped out like the little village buildings that came with my dad’s old train set. Here is the town hall and across from that, the courthouse. Here are the four downtown churches, there’s the lighthouse.

Here is the newspaper office, in an 18th-century building with a quill-shaped weather vane that creaks in the wind. The old drawers of paper clippings made me think about reporters who wrote about whaling ships arriving at Edgartown ports, who covered the extinction of the heath hen. Like me they spent their days thinking and writing about this Island. Edgartown was my beat, and I watched years of selectmen’s meetings and Fourth of July parades, annual town meetings when the Whaling Church filled with golden hour light and townspeople. I covered controversies and tragedies. I talked to people at their best and worst moments. I was there the night town hall filled with firefighters, who clapped and cheered as the retiring chief walked out of the building and drove off into the sunset in a fire truck.

Two blocks off Main street was my dead-end street. I knew where to look for Jupiter, easiest to find in the early summer sky, right above the neighbor’s fence gate. That’s where I would find Zoe the cat, who welcomed me right after I moved in more than six years ago. She had an owner she loved, my landlord right next door, and friends up and down the street and blocks away. She was the feline mayor of Mill street, coming in and out of her house through a little cat door with steps leading down to the lawn. She was a calico with a black patch on her face and yellow snowy-owl eyes, relentlessly social, a free spirit, a fierce huntress.

Zoe died a couple summers ago, at age 15, and the whole neighborhood mourned.

When she wanted to visit me she scratched at the window or the screen door, and many mornings I was surprised to find her asleep on her blanket at the foot of the bed, forgetting I had let her in during the middle of the night. In the winter she left footprints in the snow, going to and from my door. In the summer she climbed trees while I looked at the stars.

One summer night I ran home in the rain after covering President Obama’s departure from Martha’s Vineyard Airport, and Zoe ran along with me for the last block or two. I filed my story as she sat next to me, having a bath.

The farthest I ever heard the Whaling Church bells was out at Sheriff’s Pond, which borders a smaller pond, a mudhole really, and then Eel Pond and Nantucket Sound. I walked there almost every day and looked for swans and herons, turtles and muskrats, and let out a deep breath. At sunset there, when the swans were dipping their necks into the water and the buoys were clanging out on the sound, everything felt right in the world.

On my last night in Edgartown I wrapped myself in a blanket and went outside in the early morning to look at the stars. I found Jupiter above the Whaling Church steeple. During my last weeks in Edgartown I’d been woken in the night, for the first time, to the hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo of a barred owl. That night it was quiet, just me and the landscape I’d mapped in my heart.

I had seen the heartbreak coming. So much happiness caught me by surprise.