From the Vineyard Gazette editions of May 1980 by Polly Woollcott Murphy:
Right now, this very week, perhaps even this very day and this very minute, spring is at its wondrous peak of perfection. There is a breathtaking abundance of treasure in leaf and blossom, but there is still a delicacy, a restraint and fragility to the landscape that it must lose as leaves mature and summer arrives.
Lilac now is in full bloom, lavish in white and purple. Beach plum veils the dunes and the roadsides with bridal white, and the Scotch broom bursts in a cascade of brilliant yellow. Dogwood, wisteria, and azaleas blossom in the town, and in the meadows and woods, wild geraniums are pale lavender, and the precisely pointed star-flowers shine white.
The maples and the horse chestnuts seemed to leap into full leaf overnight, and suddenly there is deep shade as you round Brandy Brow, but the rest of the leaves are still young and small enough so that the returning birds are easily visible, and the view into the next pasture is not yet closed off. And what an incredible variety of greens and pinks, creams and silvers the young leaves show. All too soon the solid even green of summer closes in, but right now there is the fluid many-colored tapestry of late May that make you yearn for the power to command, “Hold it right there. Don’t add another thing. It’s perfect.”
It is a pleasure to see the return of so many old friends, and all looking so well. The oriole, perched atop the half an orange put out for him, looks more brilliant than ever, and was the indigo bunting really that miraculous shade of blue last year? Quawks hunker on rocks by the water, familiarly sinister, and little green herons sound their unmusical but welcome shriek. Robins, catbirds, humming birds, terns — good to have all of you on board.
Occasionally the birds even indicate — no, not that they’re glad to see us too — but at least we have our uses. There’s the lineup at the bird feeder, and the cat birds and the house finches are now taking over the oriole’s orange. But in the matter of housing as well, they don’t disdain a little cooperation.
When a pair of tree swallows kept eyeing the open door of a shed, one West Tisbury man nailed up a burned-out teakettle, a bright orange one, to the outside of the shed. He replaced the lid with a wooden disk in which he cut a swallow-sized hole, and sawed off part of the handle so that what was left made a convenient perch beside the hole. He pointed the spout downwards for sanitary drainage. The tenants moved in at once, industriously furnishing the kettle’s insides with grass and duck down from a nearby pond.
On Tiah’s Cove road, a professor and his bird-loving wife have a large and bold tribe of resident chickadees around their new feeder. When the dutiful wife recently cut her husband’s abundant snow-white hair outside, the chickadees descended and made off with all of it before she could tidy it away. Presumably a whole summer’s generation of young chickadees will grow up cradled in nests securely lined with professor of psychology hair. How symbiotic can we get?
Memorial Day weekend brought the kind of weather that event the most exacting vacationers could scarcely fault. A blossoming Island smiled in the sunshine for all three days of the holiday weekend, and warm temperatures brought out shorts and bathing suits and bare feet. The summer seemed officially launched as crowds jammed the ferries and homes were opened that had been closed since Labor Day. At Alley’s Store, on Sunday morning, the Partons figured that in three and a half hours they had served more than six hundred people. Slightly stunned but game, they agreed it was a change from February, when they officially took over the store.
Now in secret places in the woods, along old dirt roads, the lady’s-slipper is blooming. Also called moccasin flower, it is one of the many wild orchids, and while even its mother couldn’t call it beautiful, it has its own fascination. It has an evasiveness, a reticence, that makes one feel privileged to have come upon it, and its veined lavender pouch is distinctive and even disturbingly anatomical. It is a floral oddity and a part of late May on the Island.
Late May also brings columbine in the flower beds, and yellow water iris to the ponds’ edge. The Mill Pond’s swans have produced a fine bevy of cygnets, and asparagus continues to push up bounteously in the vegetable gardens. One West Tisbury summer resident from Scarsdale, a passionate devotee of flower-growing but new to vegetables, put in an asparagus bed last year and this year was ready to cut the asparagus from the branches of her asparagus bushes. Somehow no one had ever told her that you cut the spears as the come out of the ground.
Compiled by Hilary Wall