Simon Hickman puts up arbors with the same ease and frequency that I put up excuses. When you tour the grounds surrounding his home on Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury, they’re as abundant as sparrows and each has its own distinct personality.
A gymnast poses mid-split – head and hands straight down, legs up and splayed improbably in the air above – while the balance beam below seems to be floating. A man plays a piano in a suggestively intimate manner; saying where one ends and the other begins is impossible in this passionate melding of instrument and musician. A figure vaults high over a lichen-covered rock in the middle of a field, arms thrust backward in exaggerated exertion, the energy of that moment captured in perpetuity.
Brookside Farm is one of those Island spots at which the tour busses slow down so passengers can admire its rural charms. With its pair of oxen grazing in a lush field surrounded by stone walls, its blossoming fruit trees, and its hillsides sloping down to a serene pond along the Tiasquam River, it is the embodiment of up-Island Vineyard beauty.
Tucked away near the Lobster Hatchery in Oak Bluffs is a home that was, sixty years ago, the only one for acres around. Kerry Alley’s grandfather owned it – a campsite with a basic house, a crude toilet, and a water pump. Kerry Alley and Pat Hurley graduated one year apart from the Oak Bluffs High School, he in 1955 and she in 1956, each in a class of about twenty students. Though the couple, now married for forty-seven years, weren’t sweethearts then.
At the end of a West Tisbury dirt lane, on the edge of a silver-gold pond, grows Nina’s Garden. It has been there nearly three decades now, designed by an artist whose three-dimensional work was never finished, because each day when she rose and looked at it, she would see a new shape or color that it needed. But to the hundreds of viewers who have traveled to the end of the road to admire it, Nina’s Garden is a complete masterwork. It soothes. It inspires.
Composting may seem like old news, but doing it with a bin full of worms probably doesn’t. Red wiggler worms offer great benefits to the organic gardener, producing both a natural fertilizer and an effective pesticide. And they eat your kitchen scraps.
A hand-painted wood box with the words “Holly Lane” serves as an invitation not only to the road off Old County Road in West Tisbury, but to learn the story of Janice Haynes and Jeremiah Brown, who live in the house on that corner. The creative couple fashioned the street sign using recycled materials, which is emblematic of the inventive style that marks their home and yard.
When I first saw the Chappaquiddick land that would become my home one day, it was covered with low brush and scrub oak. Along one side of the acre and a half was an overgrown peat bog. Up a rise from the bog was a small clearing with a few white and red oaks growing around its perimeter. Beyond the clearing, down a hill, was a grassy valley with four gnarled apple trees. I thought: I’ll put my house there in the clearing on the rise facing the bog, with the oaks on three sides and the apple trees behind.