Twice yearly, from all over this very strongly female island (named for a woman, kept by women as their whaling husbands who sailed most of the year, and with a beach name for a woman–Lucy Vincent), scores of women gather to listen to each other and then share stories and insights. Women’s perspectives is not advertised in the papers and only by word of mouth did I, at least a part time island woman, have the good fortune to attend this year. Just hours after stepping off the ferry, my 90+ year old friend Gladys called and suggested I join her and two of her friends for this happening the next morning. I jumped at the chance.
The theme: “Unexpected Harvests.” The format: 4 speeches, 15 minutes each. Short break. Small discussion groups with reporting of each groups focus.
The warmth of the morning increased in concert with the warmth of the women who had come to create this happening. Voluntarily donations helped pay for the breakfast fare which was bountiful and delicious. Tea in hand, I headed off to find Gladys who had saved me a seat. Introductions made to her friends, we quieted to the moderator laying the ground rules–listen to the 4 speakers, no questions. Our turn to react would be during the small group discussions–our assignations on our name tags. I was in group 1, Gladys in 4.
Four women shared seriously personal themes of how their lives had yielded unexpected harvests. We heard of a young artist’s parent whose mental illness caused turmoil during childhood. Maturity and understanding later opened a world of creativity for this now mature artist–her unexpected harvest.
Another told of her later life “transplantation” from boring suburbia to a place of unknown opportunities. Her life as a caring social worker would be put to good use as she opened her heart to a community where “everyone I meet is interesting” and “so many can use my skills of caring and helping.”
Quite nervously and somberly, the next woman recounted a series of losses of girl children: her own to still birth, her grand daughter to a devastating neurological disease. Learning to re-define the relationship with the never-to-be-normal grandchild as one based on the all the wonderful things she could gain and give. As we do with our friends, defining them not by what they cannot do, but by what they can do, brought new meaning to her unexpected harvest .
And a woman who made choices she didn’t know existed–her harvest of transformational experiences born from a life of teaching and continued on an island where “her mind came alive.” She shared her journey of discovery through serendipity to meet the unexpected with open arms and heart.
And with this new mindset, I shared with the group the unexpected bounties the Island had given me. The morning’s outdoor shower brought a vision of nature never seen before by me–pumpkin colored leaves filling the yard as the sun hit the dew on them and brought forth a burst of orange I had had never seen in nature as I came in and out of the hot water against the cool air.
And then I told them of my unexpected harvest of our first vineyard hurricane, Bob in 1991–three days into our first trip to MV. With power outages three days long, we were desperate for a shower. So I called my audiologists, Leslie’s parents, Gladys and Stanley Segal, who had power and a hot shower. And the rest is history–20+ years of friendship grown from one small act of kindness–an unexpected harvest of disproportionate plantings.
That evening we went to eat at a popular restaurant. We had invited friends from Boston to join us that night. They couldn’t. We dined, not quite alone, since the tables are rather close. An an enticing desert just a whiff away gained us perfect entree into conversation with new home owners on Katama, like ourselves. We learned they had been cruising our isolated, dead end street checking out a house for sale next door to us for their friends. These were the people in the cool red car I saw that afternoon. I had called out to them and said hello as I came in from my bike ride. And here we were dining “together” and sharing emails with promises to find each other next summer. Disappointment from old friends led us to an unexpected harvest with potential new friends.
Life deals us many different hands. And after hearing the stories of women I will never know beyond these stories, I have learned so much from them about opening your heart to the unexpected and bringing home a bountiful harvest that will nourish and sustain for decades to come.