From a June Just a Thought column by Arthur Railton:
It’s that time of year again: we’re being invaded. Each June we get a taste, just a tiny taste, of how the Indians must have felt when those palefaces from Watertown came ashore in 1643. “There goes the neighborhood,” the “savages” must have whispered as they huddled among the grapevines, watching “civilization” arrive, its muskets at the ready. Goodbye to the good life, to the freedom to wander, to fish and to hunt and plant maize anywhere we wish. The fences will soon be going up.
And so, for us, the “civilized,” each year about now, we moan as the crowds pour off the ferry, fill the tour buses, mount the bicycles and mopeds, and swarm over our quiet, relaxed Island. And with each swarm, our sympathy for the Indian mounts.
We’re lucky, of course. These latter day invaders are just visitors. They don’t take over, they just occupy, filling our parking spaces and our dumps. We’ve seen the movie many times so we know that in September, they’ll ride off into the sunset, leaving us to pick up their litter and make the Island ours again.
Each year I steel myself for the onslaught, complaining, wondering why they don’t leave us alone. The Cape is a lovely place, why not stop there? Then, and it happens every year, one of the “invaders” does something, or says something, or simply smiles, and my objection crumbles.
I watch a visitor aiming his camera at a house or vista that I walk past every day, never giving it a second glance. Why is he taking that picture? I ask myself. That’s not worth the fuss. And then, the next time I pass, I’ll look at what he had photographed and, for the first time, I will see its beauty. I had walked past it a hundred times and had never really seen it before.
Often I’ll pass an artist putting on her canvas an array of flowers in a window box, or a fence covered with yellow roses, or just a doorway. I walk past that same scene daily and never see anything special. Now, as I glance over the artist’s shoulder at the canvas, I see it differently. She has taught me something and every day thereafter, as I walk past that spot, I see it for the first time.
Or when I’m hurrying along Main Street, dodging the stream of strolling vacationers, I’m tempted to push them aside, wish them away. And then I listen to their happy talk, to their exclamations of delight, and see the happy smiles on their faces. I ask myself, “Who’s having fun — and why aren’t you?”
When you’re feeling down, for whatever reason, just hike yourself along any one of the Island’s main streets in the early evening. Listen to the bubbly chatter, watch the animated faces, drink in the smiles, soak up the ambience. You’ll feel better instantly.
Driving to Quitsa this week, we passed a group of excited bicyclists standing alongside the stone wall overlooking Allen’s farm. I slowed down, wondering if someone was hurt. No need to worry; they were all smiles. Their cameras were clicking as they marveled at scores of sheep and lambs nibbling the grasses in the pasture. The ocean mist was pouring in. It was a memorable foggy moment. And a memorable scene we would have driven past, unaware of its beauty, except for the cyclists.
Along the Beach Road to Oak Bluffs on a windy day this month I saw a couple standing in the vines photographing the wild roses. I had driven along there countless times this spring and never even noticed they were blooming. From then on, I did.
Last week I was walking down to Edgartown Lighthouse, past the Lovell’s jewel box. On the causeway, I waited as a woman took a picture of the harbor. It was late in the afternoon, the water sparkled. Edgartown was breathtaking. The visitor finished her picture-taking and I walked by, saying, “It’s a lovely spot, isn’t it?”
Identifying me by my rundown sneakers, my paint-stained chinos and tired cap as no summer visitor, she replied, her voice dripping with envy, “How lucky you are to live here.”
I’ll gladly give up my parking space all summer for moments such as these.
Compiled by Cynthia Meisner