August 11, 2012

The Island of Staten

One of the reasons I am sad now to leave Martha's Vineyard is because I romanticize Staten Island to be as beautiful as the winding roads and old oak trees of this island I have come to visit each summer since 2010. Here, the islanders and travelers come to let go of the fast paced nature of contemporary daily life. They leave their cellphones for the beach, the leave their computer desks to hike an uncharted trail, they turn off the television (in fact, some houses probably do not have one to begin with) to see a live theater performance or visit an art gallery. 

This is the Staten Island of the early 1900's, the one my father even remembers from his childhood--- the Staten Island I will never see, though there are things that are faintly reminiscent. For instance, there is Snug Harbor which has the maritime museum and many acres of farmland and art galleries (well, we also have two of the only working farms in New York City, something I think is astounding). We also have a long boardwalk and beach which has seen a lot of revitalization efforts over the past twenty years. 

The arts are growing and remind me of Martha's Vineyard in that small town support the arts community (aspires to) give one another. Dancing at the Staten Island Dance Jam each Saturday reminds me of my mornings taking dance class at the Yard with many retired dancers and artists as my classmates. 

Sure, we have streetlights and many cars on the road (although there are no street lights, Martha's Vineyard has plenty of cars on the road, something I wish was not the case) but there are traces of that summer beach feeling in the island that is Staten. There is a long history of the naturalist, the artist, the vacationer here that reminds me of my summers on the Cape. The vibe is a bit more contemporary, a little less elitist, but the real face of both islands is the small niche communities that are open to welcome travelers and those passing by.

While I am really sad to leave (I think another week would suffice to do all that I want to do), I can say that this week I performed what has come to be a truly emotional dance inspired by the memory of Jenni Jenkins; dipped my feet in the cool but completely soothing Nantucket sound;  revitalized my soul beneath the sunset at Menemsha Beach and met such amazingly interesting travelers at the Martha's Vineyard International Youth Hostel.

Dear reader, I encourage you (implore you, even) to venture out into the world. Take a trip (even a short one) to gain some perspective, see some culture, and meet some people. Have a conversation with your neighbor; people are not always scary. And please: the next time you step on the Staten Island ferry, get off and walk around once docked. There are a lot of interesting, creative places and people just waiting to share a bit of Staten Island with you.

Traveling onward,


  1. I love your writing Melissa.........your comments about SI are why I moved here and stay here......I get my Ohio years from the 60's and 70's blended with the vitality of NYC.Keep on writing. Diana DKisto

  2. Great Writing Melissa. I never thought of Staten Island that way.