Ex Libris

Ex Libris

After our pal Ted died, my friend Katie and I decided to honor his being in our lives, with a road trip.

Ted used to grab his stick, and match a stylish hat to his shoes, and lift the plastic handicapped parking sign from the kitchen hook and into the truck we would climb to wander the island in search of painting ideas.

Ted knew everyone and every corner on Martha’s Vineyard. Even after he lost most of his sight, and all of his hearing, and none of his wits, he could still navigate us to the most god forsaken dirt road dead ends, and take three steps further, and be standing before beauty.

Gay Head lilies, at the end of a meadow, that we reached by marching straight through a woman’s yard to see.
Should we knock first Ted ? No, she won’t mind. Turns out she didn’t.

The towering brickyard chimney, at the bottom of the steepest rockiest dirt road the truck had ever seen, which all but bounced his own self into the heath. PG was in the front seat, and Ted was folded like a Gumby in the tiny back jumper.

Climbing to the top of Crick Hill, all the while swinging his cane dangerously close to my head,
to illustrate his historical narration.

Posing, unknowingly, at the top of the beach steps alongside
Pete in those weathered moccasins.

Like that.

And so, so much more.
So, anyway, Katie misses him too, so we are now doing Ted Trips.
On this one we did most of our looking from the car, because my new knee was still pretty new, but we did manage to climb around Cedar Tree Neck long enough to get the tick that gave me Lyme Disease, and we did some knitting parked at the beach in Menemsha eating our snack, and Katie wanted to take me to see the new library,
where she spends some quality time with friends and literature.
But it was closed.
We walked around the building, getting a glimpse here and there of the shiny new interior, but coming back up the hill to the car it was the big old grey mailbox that caught my eye.I had told her of my rambling idea of painting “Up Island Openings”, gates and windows and granite pillars and such. Not a theme yet, just a whisper of a concept really.

She thought the mailbox would fit right in, actually I think she was humoring me and inwardly suspected that the cheese was sliding off the sandwich. But she’s a gem and a kind soul…
and after some consideration her razor sharp brain came up with Portals.

Yep, that’s much better than openings.
This is the first in that whispered at series…
notice how I got it to fit into the more concretely thought out “Bird Series” ?

Thanks Katie
That was sorta fun.


It’s looking a lot like this painting outside my studio this week. The skies have clouded up and the copper leaves are swirling into eddies along the edges of the lane. Glimpses of blaze orange peek from beneath neighborhood decorations and the wind is picking up.

Here’s a ghost story for you from the archives…stay frosty out there my goblins…


Ghost Stories

     This just isn’t working. Thought it would be clever to write a Vineyard Ghost Story. Been writing and rewriting for days. A tale as told to me by Old Man Morse on Alley’s porch, late on a stormy autumn afternoon, about a seafaring captain who was never seen without a parrot on his shoulder. A story rich in long voyages on rough seas and the hint of warm trade winds and a couple of peg legged smarmy sailor types. And a dark secret. Turns out the captain couldn’t read. The bird who never left his shoulder and was often seen to whisper into his ear….was his enabler. They come one year to winter over on the island. Fierce and wicked weather freezes the harbors and the bird succumbs to the chill and passes on. The captain grieves the loss of his steadfast companion and literary interpreter. In the wake of his sadness, he decides one day to make his way along the snow covered roads to town. In West Tisbury he is welcomed by the lamps glowing on the library doorway. Short story shorter, the spinster librarian takes him under her wing, shameless pun, and teaches him to read for his very own self. How do I ever thank you, he says. Years ago I left my grandmother’s farm on the mainland to move here, she says, and I sure do miss her pumpkin pie. He vows to get her the gourd and when the spring comes and the harbors open he sails away returning months later with the promised orange globe. The captain walks all the way to her door only to find that the librarian had not survived a bout with the influenza. And to this day, there is one night each year, when a pumpkin mysteriously appears on the Library steps. Some even claim to have seen a ghostly reflection in the upper window on stormy nights in October.

     But it turns out I am not a writer of stories. I am a realist. I paint what I have come to know. These notes are mostly journal entries and serve as benchmarks along the creative path. So I turn to a higher power.

     One of my oldest and dearest friends Steph sent me a book at the beginning of the summer. When she was at the beginning of her chemo treatments. It is “Swimming at Suppertime by Carol Wasserman”. If you do not have this in your house right now you must go to the Bunch of Grapes and get it before dark. I have been portioning it out and yesterday read the chapter entitled Ghosts. Ms. Wasserman has found a most brilliantly simple elegant and graceful expression of the story of ghosts. I bow humbly to her artisanry and her spirit and lay the hallowed pumpkin at her feet. And I am grateful to my friend. Who is also a brilliant writer. Chronicling now her journey through a rough patch with her characteristic strength and humor reaching out to ease the fears of we who love her. And for those of you standing in the dark on this frosty late autumn evening waiting and watching at the end of the cobbled path, with scarves wrapped twice and steaming mugs of cocoa to warm your chilly hands … I offer these two lines from the end of C. W.’s story….. “Doesn’t love abide? Shouldn’t there be ghosts?” …… and maybe the odd pumpkin or two?