An Invitation to the Vineyard

 

When one conjures up an image of Martha’s Vineyard, it is not unusual to picture a man, maybe named Trent, wearing pastel salmon colored shorts eating a lobster roll the size of his ego while humming the “all lives matter” theme song. And yes, while the Trents do exist (and in good health) so do an array of far more curious residents, from former presidents to Wampanoags to Carly Simon. I entered the vineyard Kennedy style, walking down a set of stairs directly from the plane to vineyard soil. As if I was possessed by a Wampanoag Pope, my hand shot up and compulsively waved to a sea of strangers while descending. And for a brief moment, I felt like a majority-based loved republican President. 

As I ventured the grounds of Aquinnah, I discovered a land that prevailed far before the likes of Martha. In fact, the Vineyard, pre-colonization, holds many compelling tails of myth and relic. As I walked along the clay cliffs surrounding the still Atlantic Ocean, I couldn't help but cover my entire face in a sludge of milky, gloppy clay. The Wampanoags believed in “Moshup,” a giant semi-deity, who would eat full whales and then throw them against the cliffs to feed the islanders, explaining the clay’s reddish hue. Just about everywhere you go in Martha’s Vineyard, you can find a trail of Wampanoag history. Look carefully in the sand and you will unearth the indigenous wampum shell. These fragmented shells of purple and white, about the size of a nail bed, riddle the beaches in wealth. The Wampanoags once used these shells as commerce, and even today you can find artisans selling wampum jewelry all across the island. In fact, I serendipitously stumbled across one of the Wampanoag artisan festivals myself. Live tribal music filled the air with rhythmic percussion and dexterous chanting. I ended up composing a souvenir of my name spelled out in shells, presently hanging in my room. There was even a whisper in the crowd that Jake Gyllenhaal was walking on these same floors. I then proceeded to yell his name out from a nearby hill overlooking the fair. He didn’t come.

Driving on the plump plant filled terrain of the vineyard with my Uncle Jeff revealed a wampum covered box of insight. Before living in Laguna Beach, Uncle Jeff was a full time resident of the vineyard. During the car ride to the fish market, Uncle Jeff explained to us the life he had with his cat Rocky Raccoon (for those of you who are Beatles fans, yes, so are we, and also, so is the world. You’re not a music prodigy for making a connection). The story of Jeff and Rocky was one of Marry and her little lamb. Rocky followed Jeff just about everywhere. And the irony is that Uncle Jeff is severely allergic to cats. Rocky knew this. Rocky persisted. As I glazed my eyes on the window onto passing trees, ox and just about the cutest little houses you would ever know, Uncle Jeff tells me something out of an absurd dream from the likes of a 9 year old history buff. “My cat Rocky threw up on Jackie O.” It’s true. Rocky and Jackie Onassis were quite the pair. You see, Uncle Jeff often traveled back and forth from the vineyard to NY and so would our dear Jackie. And it just so happened that the two hit it off on said flights, so much so that Jackie O knew the cat on first name basis. Rocky then granted Jackie with the age old cat greeting of reverence by throwing up on her lap. The car had stopped and we were ready to pick which lobsters seemed the most prepared for an imminent death. The outcome was Trent lobster roll worthy.

If you were to ask me, “Viana, should I plan a trip to Martha’s Vineyard?” I would say “hahahaa” and then I would pause. And then I would say, “Yes! But it would behoove you to know someone.” But after having read this, I feel as though you, the reader, now know me and my Uncle Jeff. I feel a sense of bondage. So I invite you to come with me next time, on a virtual journey by following me on instagram @veeverrz. “No shame. Never feel shame.” -Jake Gyllenhaal.

 
Viana Kalili