The sky was the color of snow when I set out for Menemsha, but not the clean, stark white of Christmas Day’s first dusting. No, it was the dingy gray of old snowmelt, with bits of muddy pavement peeking through.

Where sky met forest, the trees’ leafless bodies were laid bare as dull fractals coated in damp, stringy lichen. The only pop of color came from those youthful oaks still desperately holding on to their foliage in mid-winter, the color of tarnished copper.   

But still, the crows were cawing energetically that morning and I was in a rather good mood.

Living on an Island makes you realize just how restricted your physical world can become. Growing up in the suburban heartland of central Florida, I made near-daily use of the interstate highway system, and long drives were frequent. Now, living in Edgartown, I rarely find the need to travel past Alley’s.

Albert O. Fischer

So, on a recent Saturday, determined to break free of my down-Island bubble, I decided to make the trip to Menemsha in winter — in other words, the end of the world.

After a scenic drive through forests and pastures along South Road, I pulled into the empty parking lot at Menemsha Beach. It was very bright and very lonely. The wind was fiercer and the air colder than in Edgartown, and my fireplace far away.

It was at this point when I first stopped to ask the question: “What does one do in Menemsha in January?”

Well, I thought, the emptiness of the village should have no bearing on the beauty of its harbor. And so, I first strolled out to the beach to take in the view.

I didn’t last long; the wind was too much. I took note of the ocean birds, the thin sliver of open sky along the horizon and the clear view of the Elizabeth Islands. Then, quickly, I marched towards Dutcher Dock, the fish shops a welcome buffer against the wind.

Albert O. Fischer

The retail scene in off-season Menemsha is rather sparse. Salt Rock Chocolate and Martha's Vineyard Coffee held their last winter pop-ups a few weeks ago. With them, Creekville Antiques closed for the season and Colin Ruel’s weekly campfires at his eponymous gallery had ended. Foc’s’le Locker, Ginny Jones’s bookstore, will soon close for good. When I peeked in the window, I saw many boxes.

Even off-season staple Menemsha Fish Market is closed while Stanley Larsen takes a well-deserved break.

There are, of course, a few warm havens in the village still open. At Copperworks, you can still find Scott McDowell tinkering away at metallic fish chandeliers.

“We stay busy, but at our own pace,” said Annette Cingle, Mr. McDowell’s partner. “It’s a nice pause.”

And there is the ever-reliable Menemsha Texaco, open for a cup of coffee or a gallon of gasoline.

Albert O. Fischer

But even if nothing were open, it would still be worth the trip. It is worth it for the silence. To see weathered fishing boats bob on the water. To glimpse bubbly green seaweed wave in a crystal-clear current. To watch sparrows flit between crusty lobster pots and greenbrier brambles. To smell the refreshing decomposition of the marshland. To feel the crunch of crushed scallop shells beneath your feet.

To look out from the beach and to see the ducks and to try to count them, even if it is far too cold.

More pictures.