The pandemic and now this. I fear the moat that was the last defense against suburbanization has been breached and/or flooded out.

For Islanders of longstanding, the recent dramatic increase in real estate prices is probably the last straw in a year that has been difficult at best. My house is now worth so much that if I were to sell it I could probably buy a lovely estate somewhere with all sorts of natural amenities, perhaps in North Dakota or Wyoming.

But could I live without family and friends, daily views of the ocean and Vineyard Sound with the Elizabeth Islands off in the distance? Could I live without osprey, Carolina wrens and the succession of catbirds which have been begging raisins for their hatchlings every spring for 50 years or more at my back door? And how about herons, the solitary fishermen of the ponds? Would I miss mayflowers, the shadbush, day lilies, pink rambling roses, butterfly weed, the sound of the surf and even the roar of a northeaster? Of course I would, and along with that I would miss pinkletinks and red-winged black birds singing down in the swamps in the late winter, oysters and cherrystones, Vineyard sole and yellow tail along with early asparagus, tomatoes and other fruits of the soil. Gone would be the smell of the ocean and the camaraderie of a group of tightly knit Island communities (often at odds until the chips are down) whose residents have known some of their fellow Islanders since birth.

I would miss so many other Island habits as well: handfuls of blueberries right off a bush, my beloved hellebores and fritillaries, the sound of a bell buoy as it gently rocks in a sea swell, or the steam boat whistles that have been installed on some of the ferries. I would long for the best food ever, wonderful architecture like the Whaling Church or the other New England style churches, or the long views out to sea over the Keith farm fields or the sight of the fabulous wooden boat fleet in Vineyard Haven Harbor, or my most favorite Island mechanical object, the Fresnel lens from the Gay Head Light, now preserved in the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in such a way that you can both see it and learn about how it works and the importance of Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds in maritime history during the past several centuries.

Unfortunately in the tsunami of wealth and privilege that have washed over us, the Island that we have known and loved is gone and many people don’t even realize that what we knew and have cared for has been smothered by money. The boat loaded with Island culture, ethics and values has left the dock, the whistle has blown and it is hull down over the horizon. We have been infected with the Fisher island syndrome and there is no cure. Too many people for whom the Island is a commodity to be bought and sold (for a tidy profit) are in the game and they have millions of tax-advantaged dollars to play with. When I read that people are purchasing property for cash — lots of cash — I knew that it is all over. And when I read that the median selling prices have taken an 18 per cent leap in just a few short months, I realized that it may be time to make some choices about the future that one never expected to have to make.

Unfortunately all the choices are odious: accept the changes and learn to live with them; move to a place where the economy encourages modest, inexpensive houses — or even to another country. Canada doesn’t want us, Mexico isn’t extending a welcome either and we are persona non grata everywhere including Ireland, which would have been one of my first choices.

A friend responded that she and her husband are facing the same decision. She said: “If I leave it can’t be forever.”

I feel the same way — the thought of leaving is unbearably sad.

Virginia Crowell Jones

West Tisbury