love it. protect it. mv

The shoreline of Martha’s Vineyard looks very different from those of other popular destinations on the east coast. Instead of miles-long strips of houses and hotels, built upon pilings in the dunes and wetlands, our beaches remain unspoiled. The human footprint is lighter here, better able to share space with nature. 

For this, we have the political process – and the law – to thank. Back in 1965, when the Vineyard Conservation Society was founded, these shores had little legal protection. VCS advocated for the 1972 passage of the state Wetlands Protection Act, and then helped organize the creation of the conservation commissions that would administer it. Seven years later, the state office of Coastal Zone Management was formed to address the challenges of continued growth along the coast.

The new laws empowered local communities to implement stronger protections not only for wetlands, but for any land subject to tidal action, including beaches, banks, and dunes. Of course, more work remains, particularly in tightening our zoning bylaws to better manage the growing development pressure, all the more necessary today in the face of rising seas and more frequent coastal storms. 

We hope you enjoy the slideshow of the artworks we've received, and the wonderful writings below. Thank you to all who have participated, and please join in with our current theme!

Squibnocket Beach

Hard rattle of granite

shaken by waves—

ball mill miles long

making sand.


In the intermissions,

tiny birds feed between stones

that could kill

if they moved an inch.


Next wave breaks

and they race

up the beach together.

birds gain dry sand, safe.


Then new food draws

them back

to trace the edge

of just enough again.

—Warren Woessner

My Island Floats


My island knows no bounds yet grows them

The sea around it moves in waves of contradiction

Birthing and burying while roiling and calming


Washing feet of fishermen since they started keeping time

Ferrying travelers of every stripe, scale, skin

Buoying fleets of exploration, exile, warfare


Witnessing baptisms and shipwrecks by fiery light

Carrying life, death, the undegradable

Until they stop keeping time


No one changes the water

No one cleans the bowl

My island floats, fixed off a callous coast

Arnie Reisman  


This is a place of pixel elements –

grains of sand, sea spray, salt wind – 

the material of an impermanent beach.

Today sea and sky are the color

of shadows. A southwest gale rakes

the sea into spume and punches it ashore.

The island stretches twenty miles east

before this spot, and shoreline blunts

the running waves. But here

the beach takes a sharp angle,

and the sea rips.


Rips the sand which sloughs

and sluices. Rips the water. Churns

bait into broth for bluefish and bass. 

The flung pellets sting fishermen,

level departing footprints. Leave

only the swirl of elements.

—Don McLagan


As I walk the woods

a sound like moving water

strides with me.

Above my head

waves of light cross

a sea of deep space

and break into energies

on the breathing shore

of high green trees.


As I walk the water's edge

a voice like moving water

speaks to me.

Below my feet

waves of eternity cross

a sea of deep time

and crash endlessly

onto the shifting shore

of each new moment.


As I walk among others

a light like moving water

glows inside me.

Within its inner ocean

waves of oneness cross

a sea of deep harmony

and merge seamlessly

into the glistening shore

of each living thing.

Jeff Agnoli 

As the sun sets,

Sunbeams bisect the jetties.

Jetties bisect the beach,

Battling the losing war against erosion.

The group of friends sits 6 feet apart,

Quietly watching.

—Jennifer Blum

Towards the end of every winter, when we’ve had what seems to be the last big storm, I put on every bit of clothing I have and go to Moshup’s Beach, to pay my respects to the work of the Wampanoag giant who created this island for his people. The Native Americans who live here tell how he formed the island by dragging his toe across the sand to separate it from the mainland, and then colored the cliffs of Aquinnah in their distinctive russets and purples when dressing the whale meat he ate for dinner. Geologists have a different explanation: an island formed by the massive force of a glacier pushing a piece of mainland out into the ocean.

Both are stories of great power and energy, and it’s possible to hold both in the imagination as you walk under the cliffs, seeing what new raiment they will wear in the coming season, what new colors of clay have been exposed by the winter’s lashing of wind and tide.

It’s beautiful to see these changes, and it’s humbling. The cliffs are, of course, eroding, the ocean claiming back what giant or glacier created. As the wind sends grains of sand stinging against my cheeks, I smile with gratitude. What a thing it is, to be here now. To be alive for this moment of ephemeral beauty, this miracle of an island home.

—Geraldine Brooks