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I Can See Clearly Now

7/5/2005 12:00:00 AM

Tags: island life

I couldn’t get online for a whole week. It was disconcerting at first, then heavenly. Four days on Martha’s Vineyard without access to the real world . . .

I visited Martha’s Vineyard, that idyllic island off the Massachusetts coast, to help shoot an incredible house built by South Mountain Company, which we’ll feature next summer. I invited my husband and kids along as it’s just not fair to go to Martha’s Vineyard (even on assignment) by myself. It rained all week, and that was fine. There was so much to explore and discover on this little island that we didn’t feel miss a thing by not spending our days at the beach.

We got a taste of real island life—and real island people—by staying in the community house at Island Cohousing in West Tisbury, affectionately known among residents and locals as “Coho.” I’ve always loved this concept of intentional community, and it was an honor to step into the fabric of this vibrant, thriving example of how it works. On Monday night we feasted on strawberries from the community garden, popping them into our mouths direct from the vine. Every afternoon at 4, we had to be quiet as a yoga class met downstairs.

The sixteen-home community’s purpose, according to its Guiding Principles, is “to enhance the social and economic quality of life of the residents and have a safe and beautiful place to live.” And that’s evident. Several houses are subsidized to make room for diverse incomes and financial abilities—no small matter on an island that attracts the East Coast’s upper crust and where real estate prices have soared exponentially (even before the Clintons summered here). Our host John Abrams, president of South Mountain Company and one of the founders of Island Cohousing, has been instrumental in creating affordable housing across the island, helping people who would otherwise be completely priced out of this idyllic place to stay here. He told us over dinner that it really takes only three dedicated people in a community to “tap into the river of available money” and make the island accessible to all—not just the privileged.

Island Cohousing was also built sustainably—another great example for island residents—and my son Stacey (who just spent the last couple of months helping his school become a zero-waste site) was amazed by the Clivus Multrum composting toilet in our bathroom. He thinks we should have one at home. I think maybe we should just move to Coho.

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