By PETER OCHS
I used to live off Moshup Trail in Aquinnah, formerly Gay Head. We had a little ocean view — with the emphasis on little. Now we rent on Lighthouse Road, where we have a wide, blue view across the Sound. But the Sound is not the ocean, and Lighthouse Road is not Moshup Trail. But it’s still Gay Head. It’s always sunny in Gay Head. Okay, sometimes the rain does come down in buckets so thick you can’t see your hand in front of your face. But you can count on the Gay Head sun. It is cool even on the hottest days of summer. It is warm in the bitter cold of winter. The Gay Head sun is always just what you need.
Gay Head has other virtues too. There are no traffic jams here. And there are no corners — just miles of gentle curving scenic roads, inviting you to obey the speed limits. If you don’t, Randhi or Paul will pull you over. Gay Headers know where they hang out, but we obey the speed limits anyway. Got to deal with dead man’s curve, although that’s in Chilmark.
Gay Headers do have to drive through Chilmark if they want to get butter, milk and eggs and other provisions at the down-Island stores.
It’s been asked what do we do in Gay Head? The answer is we drive down-Island. As Tom Thatcher once remarked, be grateful for down-Island. If it wasn’t there, it would be here. So we use a little gas. It’s a cheap price to pay for living here, up-Island in Gay Head.
We love Gay Head for the wildlife — the deer, the rabbits, the birds.
The rabbits come and eat the strawberries in the big pot on the deck.
The deer do not eat the strawberries, but they hang around and leave their hoof prints in the driveway.
And there are lots of birds — gray birds, yellow birds, chickadees, swallows, birds with red patches, birds that are all red. They eat the birdseed we put out, and sit around on top of the telephone poles and power lines, adding their avian profiles to the view.
There are no power poles and lines at Moshup Trail thanks to a project that I was involved with to bury the lines some time back. Two thousand feet of cable, as thick as your wrist, good for 25,000 volts, was buried along the trail. Every time I looked out at my view, with its tiny bit of blue, with no poles or wires in the way, it gave me a warm feeling inside.
The house at Moshup Trail we called the inside-outside house, because it had so much glass, it seemed to us like the outside came right in. There was nature in all her wildness right through the windows — native holly trees, oaks and beetlebungs stunted and shaped by the salty wind off the ocean, marshlands with their constantly changing colors.
And of course the wildlife. The squirrels lay claim to a fair share of the birdseed. The swallows built their nest right over the front door, and dive-bombed us to protect their babies every time we went out.
The raccoons we did not view with such fondness. There was one big, ugly fellow with red eyes peering in at us from the catwalk. One night we forgot to close the glass doors. The screens were closed, but Mr. Raccoon reached in through the screen, worked the latch, and in the morning we found garbage all over the place. That was a bit more wildlife than we wanted to manage.
Pretty soon our little view began to shrink. I went to see David about it — he was the man who had sold me the land.
“David,” I said, “my view is disappearing. It’s shrinking. Trees have grown into it.”
“Trees will do that,” he said.
“But what do I do?”
“Take a chain saw, and cut them down.”
I’m no good with chain saws, and besides, the trees were not on my land.
So the view continued to shrink.
When we decided to sell the house, I realized that I wouldn’t have a Moshup Trail address anymore.
At the time Gay Head was putting up street signs and I had signed up for one. The letters of my last name took too much room. So the sign came out Ox Way. But they wouldn’t put the sign up at the end of my driveway, because it wasn’t my driveway anymore.
So now I carry it around, wherever I go. It makes me feel that I’m still a part of Gay Head, and Gay Head is still part of me.
Peter Ochs lives in Aquinnah and Austria.