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Community, Conversation, and Caring

The Language of the Heart

Women Take Care of Each Other

As a mother of three daughters and a grandmother of three girls, I have been thinking a lot lately about the world of women.  Over the years, I have met women in all of my travels, and I have been amazed at how much we have in common. Despite the fact that we don’t speak the same language or have the same heritage, we nevertheless often understand each other--even when we can’t understand a word the other is saying. 

One of my most memorable connections with women occurred when I was traveling alone in Morocco—something that I had been warned not to do—although I found it a wonderful, rewarding, and eminently safe experience.  I dressed conservatively, was respectful of the culture, and was enthusiastic about every experience, so I was fine.  I rode camels, went to the shore, traveled in the Atlas Mountains, and wandered in the media and the souks.  I met interesting people and found everyone warm, accepting, and helpful.   

In Marrakesh, however, everyone had a hand out for money.  No transaction came free.  If you wanted a picture of the snake charmer, you paid for it.  Henna ladies chased you through the media trying to decorate your hands, and--successful or not--they expected to be paid.  Fortune-tellers—hands out—told you the future even when you did not want to know it, and then they expected to be paid.  So, when I was lost in the souks on my way back from a museum, I was not surprised when two small boys held their hands out when I ask them for directions back to the main square.

As I dug in my purse for coins to hand to the boys, their mothers came along.  I don’t speak Arabic, and neither mother spoke either English or French.  Had these mothers spoken a bit of French, I might have been able to communicate to some degree, but they did not.  Language, however, was not a barrier.  I am fairly certain that these mothers told their sons, in no uncertain terms, that they were not little beggar boys, and they did not ask for money to give directions.  Each mother took one of my arms, and together they walked me to the square. We hugged in the square, and the women headed home with their sons, and I made my way back to my hotel. With no language in common, we nevertheless knew each other; we communicated on a deeper level that words.  We were women together, and no woman would allow another woman to be lost without helping.

Certainly the souks of Marrakesh are exotic, chaotic, and confusing, but I have found the same level of communication on the small and easily navigable island of Nantucket.  When I moved to Nantucket, I didn’t know anyone.  During all the many summers I had spent here, my world and my life centered around my family and a few summer visitors who left the Island at the end of August.  When I decided to move here full-time, I was afraid of being lonely.  What would I do in a big house out on Eel Point all by myself.  I suspect that my daughters had similar concerns for me.

Well, this proved to be an idle concern.  I have never been lonely for even a moment.  I have meet amazing women in Nantucket through my book groups, at the counter in Bookworks at ACKFresh, in exercise classes at the Westmoor Club, in my poetry group, or even in the chair next to me at the counter at Lola.  

We are women.  We love Nantucket.  We are tough.  We can weather the winters.  We walk on the beach even in the worst weather. When the power is out, we go to each other’s houses.  We entertain.  We stimulate our minds through book groups, film groups, and discussions.  We give our time to the Food Pantry or to a multitude of other philanthropic enterprises.    We take care of each other. 

Some of us are married.  Some of us are single.  We live in big houses on the water, or we live in small cottages that are nowhere near the beaches.  We live lives of luxury, or we work three jobs.  We deliver food to the Food Pantry, or we go there to get food because we can’t quite make ends meet despite the fact that we work many jobs.  We have lots of children, or we don’t have any children.  We are married, or we are single.  We go to exercise classes and have massages, or we lead exercise classes and give massages.  None of these differences matter.  We are women, and we share a common language.  We know each other, and we care about each other.  Like the women I met in Marrakesh, we guide each other to safe places, to “home.”  

I am blessed to live on this Island!

This is Pat Jones' first year living full time on Nantucket. After decades of teaching English at the high school and college level, she is now embarking on a new and challenging odyssey. Both retirement and Island life are new and exciting and occasionally daunting.  In this column she will share what it is like to live on Nantucket year round. As a poet, a writer, and a novice visual artist, her metaphor for the journey is “Throwing Paint.”