The Meaning of Vineyard by April Knight

The Meaning of Vineyard
by April Knight

Words have meaning beyond the definition. Martha’s Vineyard, better known as “The Vineyard” to locals and visitors, is no exception. For many it symbolizes a place where relationships were built, foundations of financial stability were possible and for some, it is home sweet home with all of its dysfunctional quirks.  Regardless of where you are while reading these words, you probably have some awareness of The Vineyard’s real essence. It may even be a part of your story. Whether you are a new addition just off the boat, or a lifelong inhabitant, it’s a place where relationships and experiences will inevitably shape your values, your preferences and in some instances your social circle. It is not a stretch to describe The Vineyard as a phenomenon that is intricate and complex. It is a brand to some who use the name as a symbol of status or privilege.  To others, it represents seasons of laughter and quality time with family and friends.  To others like myself, it represents a community of people that value interdependence, shared Vineyard context, the quality of relational conversations, and the knowledge that you’re never alone in your struggles.


Conflict of summer is not the traffic with the influx of tourists, it is the multitude of these various worldviews being pushed into close proximity.  This includes a range of visitors with various financial backgrounds and family circumstances from seasonal and year-round residents as well as weekly visitors. This is inclusive of young workers who come here with the hopes of earning enough to accomplish goals and dreams. The Vineyard is not one-dimensional, but it does hold a different meaning for all of these individuals. Irritability arises when one feels this Island is not mimicking or reflecting one’s expectations. For example, if the timing of dinner doesn’t match the timing of the sunset, or an order is delayed, if traffic is slow, or cyclists force a level of awareness on the road that you’re not accustomed to.

But the reality is this; if you want The Vineyard to be a part of your narrative, the very story you’re creating for yourself, not all of your needs will be met.  In moments of frustration or spite, it’s best to re-examine what The Vineyard symbolizes to you.  Imperfection is part of the journey, for every expectation that’s not met, a flexibility in thinking arises. This is perhaps what Islanders wholeheartedly understand. Unpredictability, flexibility, creativity and community are the tenants of surviving on the Vineyard year-round. If you view the Vineyard as a brand, you may be disappointed as interactions may contradict symbolism. If you view The Vineyard as a place of opportunity, intense natural beauty, and can find humor in the chaos and the unexpected, then you are in the right place. Your preferences and your values will be challenged on the Island because this community is unassumingly absent of hierarchy and it rarely cares about how many digits are in your bank account. Some of you might find your reason why, your “what’s next”. For others, this is simply your quiet place. Or the complete opposite, representing chronic frustration and personal irritability. Wherever you fall within the Island’s narrative, this is your story and your application of meaning. My only advice is to allow the Island to impact your life for the better. It will let you, if you let it.

April Knight Headshot.jpg

Author, April Knight is a life-long resident of Martha's Vineyard and has worked on the Island for over twenty years in educational and mental health settings. She has a private practice and is finishing her PhD at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. In 2016 April was awarded the Vineyard Vision Fellowship Award, a doctoral fellowship to continue her studies in the field of International Psychology. In 2015 she received a Cultural Council Award for Publishing Writing for her poetry and in 1999 Clark University’s Outstanding Secondary Educator Award. She sits on various Non-profit Vineyard boards and consults for organizations internationally on organizational systems.