Late this morning it seemed time was standing still. It took longer than I care to admit for me to realize it was the clock, or more accurately, the clock battery, that was the problem, and I had managed to lose almost three hours of a precious summer day out of town.
The days are markedly shorter, the sun does not clear the horizon until after six and slides back into the ocean before 7:30, below the tree line to the west of my house much before that. After dark, I think it is getting too late to call someone, and realize it isn’t yet eight o’clock. Summertime is fading away.
The weather was odd Saturday night, with a strange, localized darkness I’ve only noticed a few times, twice out toward town. It is Corn Neck but I like to call it the Beach Road, as if that whole Ocean vs. Beach Avenues isn’t confusing enough already.
And so Saturday, just after seven o’clock, I pulled over by the monument on the Beach Road, taken by the vista before me. That strange darkness engulfed the monument, and the little berm of sand beyond it, while behind them both stretched an oddly calm silver ocean, and the arm of the north end of the island, below a low bank of deep blue clouds, and over it all that more clouds, softly white, and pale pink and gold.
It is Block Island, only an hour earlier I had taken a picture of fluffy white clouds against a summer blue sky, the only hint of coming change a growing breeze.
Along the Beach Road it was beautiful and odd and foreboding, it was too dark too early, and suddenly I felt a threat of rain which worsened as I pulled back into the lane of traffic and headed north, realizing it was not a time to try to beat the approaching storm, rather to hope I made it despite adhering to the speed limit.
It was the first weekend of the augmented police force and many of them, state and local, were paying attention to everyone on the road.
The terrain changes quickly on our little island, and with each curve in the road, each rise and fall in the land beneath it, the impact of the sky changes. Away from the ocean, headed north, the long view to the mainland gone, I was surrounded by ever-darkening sky, waiting for the inevitable raindrops to start spattering the windshield.
In retrospect, it was foolishness, had a storm of the magnitude I was imagining been rolling toward us, the difference between the speed limit and my notion of fast, always tempered in summer by the possibility of unexpected traffic and/ or some police car, would unlikely have gotten me home before the rain.
By the time I turned down Mansion the sky was lightening again, the dark cloud was either gone or staying over there on the north side of Bush Lot Hill – or on the mainland, it’s fundamentally the same to me.
It never did rain.
Strangely, Monday felt like the end of August, or the way the end of August has come to feel over the past years, come too quickly — in a summer that cannot, by all measures, end too soon. The temperature was off, it was way too hot and the air was way too heavy, but there was descending quiet, an almost unsettling slide back toward normalcy, if we would even recognize such a thing.
It has been six months since February, and that Presidential birthday when we tell each other “the back of winter is broken” for no reason other than that’s what my dad’s cousin, John Robinson, used to say, and because it makes us feel better. The days are longer, the end is near.
Come the end of August we are, many of us, just tired, in the best of years. Now, six months after February, it would be nice if the back of this summer, this whole darn year of the pandemic, was broken.
Tempers are shortest when we need civility most, tongues sharpest when we need words of comfort, the concept of just being nice seems to be only that, a concept.
We have not shown our better selves this summer, the differences between the layers of the populace that inhabit this island, especially during the months of good weather and more frequent transport from the mainland, are more pronounced, like the layers of the sky on Saturday night.
If only they could be like the distinct portions of sky that knit back into one fabric after a rainbow.