I inhaled deeply. The air, pungent with salt water, filled my lungs as I watched the birds frolicking above the waves, mesmerized by their dance. The diamond studded water, whose treasure was ignited by the hot August sun, was calm that day, which made the crossing swift and uneventful. Awe struck by the magical beauty and spirit of the experience, it was clear to me from the time the whistle announced our departure from Woods Hole, that this excursion to Martha’s Vineyard was more than an ordinary trip to find a weekend home. Much more. I was on a sacred journey to heal, led by angels.
I trusted my angels. They saved my life with their nagging and badgering, forcing me to recognize the existence of a potentially ominous red mark on my upper left arm. Out of nowhere, disguised as strangers in the gym, grocery line, the bank, they mysteriously appeared to warn me, to take heed, and then evaporated just as quickly. Their consistent and alarming counsel could not be ignored, and I did take heed. I took the initial action of seeing my internist who scanned my body and reported that the red mark was a benign birthmark. He declared with some certainty that I was fine, but also offered to refer me to a dermatologist at Yale if I wanted further validation. Angels. Angels. I couldn’t ignore the alarm bells they were ringing. I took the referral, made the appointment at Yale for a second opinion, and within the first 5 minutes of the doctor’s exam, later validated by a biopsy, I discovered I had invasive malignant melanoma, not on my arm but my lower right ankle.
As we pulled into Vineyard Haven that summer afternoon one year after my surgery, my body tingled with excitement and anticipation. I wasn’t sure why I was looking to buy a weekend home on this island that I had only briefly visited with my ex-husband decades earlier. But my first steps descending from the creaky and weathered ferry to the island confirmed my belief that I was here for a reason. This was my fate. The island’s energy permeated my soul and welcomed me to its quirky spiritual presence.
My agent showed me about twelve houses that day and by the end of the day, I made an offer on a darling cape just up the hill from town and the ferry terminal in Vineyard Haven. After the closing, it was a joy to paint and remodel and furnish my little island escape. I lived in Boston at the time and ventured down 95 each Friday, leaving all the stress of managing a large national sales force and the worries of the world, on the shores of Woods Hole. As I made my weekend crossings on the boat, I could feel the anxiety leave my body, my shoulders relaxing from tightly hugging my ears. Ah! Breathe in the fresh air and delight in the visual candy of this magical place.
After a few months, I ended up living full time in this little house on the island. Perhaps the work of angels, my Boston landlord put the Back Bay condo where I resided on the market. My house in Westport already rented for a couple of years, I had no option but to put all my belongings in a storage unit and take up residence as an Islander.
Walks on the beach, casual and cozy get togethers with new friends, the intimacy of the island beckoned me to let go of my pain and breathe, to be in partnership with nature. I soon left my corporate job, which was impossible to manage from the island, initially took some little jobs to get by, and then eventually started my own business. Immersing myself in this magical place was the happiest I’d ever been. Life was simple and mine flowed easily, merging with the rhythm of the waves.
I would awaken each morning to the sound of fog horns and ferry whistles from the harbor below my upstairs bedroom window. So mellow and sweet, they invited me each morning to re-enter the world and find my way downstairs for the first cup of freshly made coffee. I lived alone and knew no one when I first arrived, but I gradually formed friendships, and though some might feel isolated and lonely with island life, that sentiment never entered my consciousness. I had beauty to embrace me. I had peace and solitude to remind me of life’s essence and priorities.
Spring was spectacular with the palate of bright flowers dotting the landscape. Summers were busy and fun as the island came alive to welcome its seasonal guests. My children and friends loved the opportunity to visit and enjoy the captivating beaches, seductive sunsets, fresh seafood, and quaintness of the Vineyard. It was such a pleasure to share its beauty with loved ones.
The memory of these times now brings tears to my eyes and a deep ache in my soul, for years later when another illness forced me to move to the west coast, I had to let go of my island home. No longer manageable from 3,000 miles away, leaving the sweet cocoon that had welcomed me after a trauma that threatened my life was like losing a lover, a relationship so intimate, I still shudder at the loss. That exquisite little house represented a very special relationship I had with myself; the fresh awakening that evolved from having gratefully received a new lease on life and confidence in a future; a future where angels continue to lead me.