An Island Christmas without sea chanties and stories of watery bravery and sailor gusto is like living on the mainland.


Eighty-seven year old Shirley Mayhew grew up in the Depression, remembers two wars, lived on Martha’s Vineyard in the good old days, and has traveled by herself to 27 different countries.

“None of my friends and family remember half the things I have experienced,” she said. “The Vietnam War is ancient history to my grandchildren.”

But one thing she hasn’t experienced? Telling a story on stage to 2,000 people.

Mark Lovewell is a journalist and photographer who has traveled all over the world and the Vineyard writing stories and chronicling aspects of the sea. He writes a fishing column and has charted his own course throughout his life, while keeping an Island base. More than anything, Mr. Lovewell wants to see the traditions and history of the seafaring community stay alive, which he does through his shanty songs and storytelling. As he likes to say, the kids he performs for will someday be in charge of the Vineyard.

When Diane Wolkstein’s book, The Magic Orange Tree and other Haitian Folktales was published in 1978, it became a favorite among American storytellers in the early years of a storytelling renaissance in which I have been privileged to participate. Sitting with Diane at a story event in Appalachia in 1981, she insisted I learn the song the way she’d heard it in Haiti, and gave me permission to tell and record the title story.

Diane, folklorist and mythologist and one of the foremost scholars of the contemporary storytelling movement in America, died Jan.