As a consummate cruiser and lover of all things coastal, I’ve visited many scenic locales over the years. From the breathtaking teal waters of Grand Cayman to the sparkling pink sands of Bermuda, I thought I’d seen it all. Still, nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed firsthand during an impulsive three-day getaway to Martha’s Vineyard this past fall.
In many ways, I did not choose the Vineyard; it chose me. I certainly had no prior attachment to this quaint island, short of news stories about the rich and famous who vacationed there. In fact, I’d never even been to Boston, its near neighbor to the north. When I was blessed with the opportunity to write one of the books in the Mysteries of Martha’s Vineyard series I couldn’t resist a little research trip. What a trip it turned out to be!
By way of backstory, I am a full-time caregiver for my mother, 81, who has Alzheimer’s, stage six. We live in the Houston area, a galaxy far, far away from Martha’s Vineyard. Mom has always loved to see the world and, until this past summer, was my ever-faithful traveling companion. By the fall, however, her condition had deteriorated to the point where I knew she couldn’t handle the trip. Family members offered to care for her while I slipped away for three days of R&R with my good friend and fellow author, Crystal Barnes.
Turns out, Crystal’s skills far exceed book work. She excels in the art of navigation and served as the perfect sidekick to guide me to the various locations on the island. We started with the lighthouse at West Chop in the town of Tisbury. As I stared at the romantic storybook cottage nestled under the shadow of the impressively tall lighthouse, I dreamed of what it would be like to live in such a place. I could almost picture my characters traveling from room to room in this cozy house. From the craggy shore just beyond the cottage, I took note of the sunlight rippling off of the expansive waters of the harbor. They set the imagination to flight. What would it be like, I wondered, to enjoy that view every day? To travel the narrow, winding streets of the Vineyard, canopied by arching trees overhead?
Crystal and I made it our task to visit every lighthouse on the island. Many are over 100 years old and have stood the test of time. The storms of life have not taken them down, though a couple are weathered in appearance. These sturdy structures served as a reminder that my situation back at home, no matter how difficult, would not leave me upended. With God giving me his strength, his tenacity, I could shine my light as brightly as ever, no matter how tough the storm. The winds, though ferocious at times, would not take me down.
Crystal and I journeyed through the interior of the island, rich with farmland. Here, we almost forgot we were even on an island. The twisting road straightened out, and served as a reminder that even in the very center of my situation God could give me the ability to forget the jagged edges and focus on the straight and narrow path He had placed before me.
This comfortable road emptied out on the island’s far west end where we witnessed the most startling view yet, the Gay Head cliffs at Aquinnah. There we located our final lighthouse, completely different in color from all of the others. While the others rose pristine and white, this one stood dark and foreboding.
From the magnificent scenic overlook, we caught our first glimpse of the waters below, where the Vineyard Sound converged with the Atlantic Ocean. We could literally see the spot where the water changed colors at the point of their seamless merger. Neither was muddied by the other. Each body of water had a beauty all its own. Yet, in their intertwining, the point of intersection, the waters took on a color that simply defied explanation.
Not that we wanted our gaze to linger for long. There was far too much to see on the other side: a grassy perch tipping out onto rugged cliffs that hovered over a breathtaking white sand beach, begging for footprints.
In this majestic spot, I could literally feel God’s presence. I could picture Him at creation, his fingertip carving out the picturesque cliffs, the whisper of his breath causing ocean waves to rise. If the God of creation could make something beautiful out of all of this with just a word, just a touch, what could He do in my life? If He could take two bodies of water and merge them into one, could he somehow merge the carefree years of my pre-caregiver life with the overwhelming burdens of my current situation? Would He choose to craft them into a scene as beautiful as the one in the waters below?
Crystal and I traveled from Aquinnah back to Tisbury where we had lunch at the sweetest little bakery I’d ever seen. I knew this place would have to play a role in my story, and so it has. There we nibbled on yummy sandwiches and sweet treats as we scrolled through our photos, sighing all the while.
We hated to leave the island but had to board our ferry by mid-afternoon. As we pulled away from this special island, I was overcome by feelings I’ve never before experienced. How could you love a place you’d never even known until now? Suddenly, I could hardly wait to get back to Martha’s Vineyard.
In the months since returning to Texas, God has shown me that the message of Martha’s Vineyard was much more than I once thought. He is teaching me that this season of my life, difficult as it might be, can be filled with as many exquisite memories as those I carried away from the island. I never pictured myself visiting Martha’s Vineyard. Likewise, I never anticipated being a caregiver to someone whose memory is as foggy as the morning skies over the cliffs at Aquinnah. But God, with just a whisper, will guide me through each jagged place. And this miraculous journey I’m currently taking with the woman who gave me birth, will, I would imagine, overwhelm me with unexpected points of beauty, much like those I experienced on Martha’s Vineyard, an island that forever holds a special place in my heart.