A vendor at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market has been selling mushrooms and dahlias this year. The dahlias come in elegant shades of pink and white, yellow and fuchsia. They’re normally a late-summer flower, but new growing methods have changed that.

Mushrooms and dahlias. Strawberries and peas. Six kinds of home-grown oysters pulled from the salty bays and ponds that rim the Island. Black sea bass caught from the Middle Ground. The summer bounty is in, and with it comes all the many other signs of high season on Martha’s Vineyard: ferries packed to the gunwales with arriving visitors, traffic jams in down-Island towns, clouds of dust kicked up on unpaved roads, coastal dunes dotted with rosa rugosa and colorful beach umbrellas, harbors brimming with sailboats of every description.

At the old farmhouse, a pair of indigo buntings have made camp, providing endless distractions from mundane chores.

Goodbye June, hello July.

As the Vineyard turns the page on a new season, suddenly everything is all in a rush. Businesses are fully open and the summer event calendar is bursting at the seams. Still, after two summers muted by the pandemic, Islanders are still getting their sea legs as they learn yet another version of new normal. It’s at once familiar and different.

The Fourth of July is Monday, and the Vineyard will join the rest of the nation in pausing to mark the national holiday.

This year marks a welcome return to some well-loved traditions, chief among them the Edgartown Fourth of July parade. It’s been called the best little small-town parade in America, and with good reason. Beginning Monday at five o’clock sharp, fire trucks, marching bands and all manner of floats bedecked in red, white and blue will wind their way around town. Later, when dusk falls, a fireworks display will light up the night sky over the outer harbor.

But even as Islanders hoist flags and drape patriotic bunting on picket fences, the fate of the nation’s democracy hangs in the balance.

“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” Frederick Douglass asked in 1852 in a speech that is read annually on the Island and elsewhere around Independence Day. Today, the same question might be asked of women, of people who believe in free and fair elections and indeed of all Americans who believe in the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence.

New revelations by witnesses called by the Jan. 6 Committee present a chilling picture of just how close the country came to chaos 18 months ago. And the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reverse a woman’s constitutional right to choose what to do with her own body has cast a dark shadow across a holiday dedicated to the cause of freedom.

Throughout the Vineyard community these issues hang over every conversation. What is to become of our country? Will people of conscience speak up against those who would subvert our system?

On a brilliant summer day on an Island eight miles offshore, it is possible to forget for a time that we owe our privilege to forebears who fought and died for self-determination. Democracy was and remains a fragile form of government, one that requires constant care. Sending out warmest wishes to all Gazette readers near and far for a safe and happy holiday.

Please slow down on Island roads, and remember not to drink and drive.