Martha's Vineyard and the Inkwell

It was a simple question, with a simple answer, or so I thought.   Surprisingly, my friend chose not to answer the question, pretending that she didn’t know.  Later she shared that she wasn’t in the mood to have “that” discussion. I was disappointed.  I wasn’t there, because had I been there, I would have answered the woman’s question.

I’m writing this blog at the Inkwell, with the ocean just ten yards from my feet.  The forecast predicted a seventy percent chance of rain today, a perfect day to pause and resuscitate my unintentional forty day sabbatical from blogging, brought on by the helter skelter pace of my life including the excitement of final review edits of the last four novels in my series.  I’ve had an action packed summer. This years family camp excursion has been a working vacation for all in our brood of framily (friends who are like family.) My husband has spent hours on conference calls and others have had to pause from our beach parties to nurture the passion (or the beast) that pays for this time in the sun.

The forecast was wrong.  It’s eighty and sunny and my naked limbs are baking in the sun begging for a sunscreen blanket.  I’m tempted to call it and retreat to the shade of an inland park, but the allure of the ocean beckons.  So in love with the ocean am I that my daily exercise regimen always includes the ocean as my dance partner.  Some days my ocean dance involves another partner who has also awakened early to enjoy some physical “me” time before our sleeping houses awaken.  Other times it’s just me and the deep blue sea. I don’t even listen to my Ipod for inspiration, preferring the sound of the waves, and realizing that it’s wise to be able to hear the “on your left” cries from the line of cyclists who are whizzing by on their island trek.  

As I contemplate running for shade, I’m  reminded that I’m awaiting my eleven year old’s arrival after her solo jog from our house.  In this magical place, we allow children as young as ten the freedom to roam the island unaccompanied by an adult or older siblings, fully confident that the island will nurture them safely to their destination and back.

There’s something magical, frightening and peaceful about the ocean.  It’s frightening watching young swimmers boogie board or body surf in four foot waves, praying that the undercurrent is resting.  It’s magical and peaceful when floating in the salt water and watching as your usually straight hair is quickly transformed into something new and foreign.  

I smile as my hair conscious daughters cringe when my ocean massaged Vineyard hair kicks in and I embrace India Arie’s adage that ‘I am not my hair.’  “Do you know how much self confidence it takes to parade around with your hair all over your head and not care?” I boast proudly. They have heard this speech before, so they roll their eyes and attempt to smooth my mane.  Under the embarrassed pressure of their looks of disapproval, I will sometimes apply light make-up and my contact lenses so that I am not in complete violation of the rule of three.

The rule of three is a beauty regimen that I best practiced from a friend.  The basic premise is this: you can not have the following things out of order simultaneously:  bad hair, no make-up and glasses. If you are having a bad hair day, apply make-up and wear contacts.  If you are wearing your glasses, your hair should be done and you should have on make-up. You get the idea.  It’s quite shallow, but it’s a rule that I try to follow. But while on vacation, I have been known to receive a three strikes citation from my daughters.  I wear my citations with pride and like any self respecting rule violator, I toss the tickets into the glove compartment and ignore them.

The woman on the beach asked my friend if she knew the origin of the name Inkwell.  Many years ago, the Inkwell was the only beach on the island where people of color (mostly black servants) were allowed to enjoy the beauty of the ocean.  Since the color of ink is dark, this particular section of beach was dubbed the Inkwell. My friend’s answer could have been that succinct. She knew this history and chose not to share it.    It was a teachable moment, an opportunity to educate and enlighten without being apologetic or preachy. The woman who asked the question was merely curious. She was also white, and my friend was not which made her uncomfortable having “that” conversation.

Years later, the Inkwell is quite diverse even though it’s by far one of the most undesirable stretches of beach on the island.  The sand is rocky, and the shoreline is small, but its location is ideal. It’s steps away from the ferry, so many vacationers frolic on the Inkwell as their last opportunity to enjoy the sand before heading back to the concrete jungles of post vacation life.  The Inkwell is also close to town so you can enjoy a day at the beach and send a group of children on an excursion to one of the mom and pop emporiums to pick up lunch or snacks.

It saddens me when people are afraid that answering a simple question might lead to a controversial and uncomfortable discussion about race.  A curious person by nature, when I want to know the answer to something, I ask, whether or not the person to whom I am asking the question looks like me or not.  Similarly, I often get asked questions about my poofie, curly mane of vacation hair. I answer them and educate on the differences between black hair texture and white.  In the final four books in my series, Chemistry & Chaos, Dancing with God’s Grace, Sunshine on Sunday and Love, Secrets & Pearls, issues of race are not celebrated or ignored, just shared as part of the fabric of life.  

Borrowing from LeeAnn Womack’s song ‘I Hope You Dance’-”I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.  Whenever one door closes I hope one door opens. Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance. And when you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you’ll dance.”

I feel very small writing beside the ocean.  I can’t dance, but I dance anyway. If you get the chance to enlighten, educate and inform, take it and answer the question.