Look-at-me-yellow

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 9:00am
Category: 

My forsythia needs more attention than I have been willing to give it. The roots are old, the flowering shrub sprung from them has soared back toward the sun after several severe cuttings over the years.

It always grew at an absurdly rapid pace, tall and lush, scraping the old wooden gutters that have been gone more than fifteen years, a great cloud of sunshine which a neighbor of sorts, a lady who lived in a house west of me, on a road off Corn Neck, could see from her wide, east-facing windows. She had a long nursery background and cautioned me not to cut it until it had completed its annual growth cycle, to wait even until fall to be safe. 

I would forget and it would make one of those startling sounds that seems new every fall, scratching against a nearby window and then it would be winter and then it would be spring again and budding... Still, there were years I did get to it and was rewarded, probably after a year of recovery, with masses of April color. 

This time it is not coming back in force, perhaps weakened by the past seasons of oddly warm weather — and my inattention — and, truth be told, a summer cutting. It is offering only a few sprigs of delicate flowers, a noble attempt at bright and cheerful, filled with the look-at-me-yellow laughter of April.

Behind the house there are pussy willows, taller than I ever imagined they would become, a rare success from inches-high mail-order plants. The ocean and the sky are pale today, running between light blue and colorless, and I can see the buds of those trees and wild shad, against the clouds, waiting to open and obscure my view and always I think of my mother not wanting trees lest they disturb the wide vista open to the horizon.

The land, open and clear, farmed and grazed, is striking in old photographs. Long memories are rift with seeming impossibilities; the lady whose family has always owned the Homestead, the old Cape at the head of the Mansion Road, recalls being able to see boats coming into both the Old and New Harbors from her lawn. It seems unlikely, then she shows me a copy of an old photo with the long-gone Mansion a speck of white in the distance and I am a believer. 

Houses were built, brush grew, and trees were planted, thousands of Black Pine, on Mansion Road and all over the island, for reasons that now defy explanation but at the time seemed the right thing to do. They grew, fast and weak, their long needles falling in ever-deepening carpets, burying old pasture grass, and then they began to break, when laden with heavy snows, and to be strangled by wild vines.

Beetles and disease came and the decay was accelerated, the common trees started dying, turning brown, and we saw the well-intended but ill-fated folly of attempting to rush a forest. 

There were trees a generation before those, orchards that show on a certain series of old maps, black dots in walled sections near farmhouses. Many were uprooted by the great hurricane in 1938 and few were re-planted. Older houses have yards, with trees, the grandest are the horse chestnuts that will soon produce creamy candles, their own celebration of spring.

I have nothing of great stature; the maples that show in the few photographs from the 1920s had disappeared before I was born, casualties I was told, of that great 1938 fall gale, along with what I presume were apples in an empty lot my dad and his siblings refused to call anything but The Orchard never mind it was such only in their memories. 

There is too much ocean for all of it within my view to be leafed out, but the big pond behind my house, the one reaching south from the lowest point of the Clay Head Trail, will be hidden.

It is April and I no longer draw the curtains across even the oldest windows at night and so I happened to look up and see the Pink Moon just a few hours before its official early morning full-dom. It had cleared the horizon and was high enough in the sky that it fully illuminated the pond, and the ocean beyond the hill, both with a silver light touched with gold.

The water was crinkled, the ripple of a slight breeze and the view beyond my window had an eerie resemblance to coldest winter mornings, when the sun rises from the south east, when vapor pours off the sea, and the same trees are winter bare and backlit, as colorless as in moonlight. 

Everything has to be just right: the moon has to rise from a particular point on the horizon, and into a cloudless sky; there cannot be leaves on the trees; and I have to look before it has risen too high and the angle lessens its intensity on the water.

And, of course it is all lights and mirrors to start, the sun reflected in the moon, the moon reflected in the ocean and pond, moon magic.

It was a “pink” moon I read, for the color of ground phlox, flowers in bloom somewhere. Here, that spring came too soon then ran away confronted with the reality of a Block Island March is more a footnote than a factor.

April is always the yellow that is my struggling forsythia, and the joyful trumpets of rows and rows of daffodils, it is the color of the sun that underlies the newest, brightest greens.

I look out on a dull but hopeful April day and see a flash of white, the great egret that always appears — or I first notice — in April, gliding, its wings wide. White and yellow, silver and gold, the colors of the light of the Full Pink Moon, the first after the Equinox, the moon that brings us to Easter and true spring.