Autumn Gold

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 10:30am

One poor pair of socks wasn’t quite dry when I brought laundry in some time last week. “Tomorrow,” I thought, knowing I’d likely forget.

They are there yet, two socks made of material that cannot fade in the sun or be harmed by rounds of heavy rain.

My yard is a jungle. At first I try to tell myself it has all happened since the rain, I could not have been so oblivious as to have missed it all along, but I know from experience the only thing that grows that fast is knotweed. This tangle is the always-surprising result of a dry summer when bad stuff grows like the proverbial weed in adverse weather. I go out with the loppers, just to free the drainpipe, and wonder if I will ever again have any of this under control.

It has gotten warm, the humidity of the day not yet gone, and back inside I stop by the open kitchen windows, looking out over the sea of goldenrod that is the front field. It is summer by the echo of the surf, cascading waves of sound that roll up from the beach, a wonder of this natural world around us. The winking red light of the telephone tower shows through the white mist enveloping the south end of the island, and a bit of land close to the harbor is more visible than it was a week ago; leaves are falling, the brush is less dense.

My windows were not completely cleaned by the rain, but much of the gray salt left by the start-of-month surf was finally washed away. There are a few puddles in the road, but the last deluge was quickly absorbed by the parched earth. It did not rain all day as was predicted; while the radar showed great masses of green we were in that odd little pocket of clear we so often occupy, a sort of reverse of trough snow that can inexplicably fall in a narrow swath.

There has been fog drifting about all day. Coming home, I pulled over where the road runs so close to the water and looked north to nothing at all beyond Scotch Beach, a bank of white that would have been something mystical a few decades ago, a dream of a fantastical kingdom always beyond reach, the end of a rainbow, or shadow of memory. A great ship, wraith-like, might have emerged from it, sails full despite the lack of any real breeze, or even a black warship ready to level the town with great guns on her bow.

Today was all that, or a bad post-production or printing job, a technical error, leaving a great blank space.

Earlier, it was mist over the Old Harbor, on a day slow enough that pulling over in front of The National to marvel at it was an option, there were parking spaces for the taking. People were standing on the seaward side of Front Street, their phones in the air. A month ago they would have been walking along, viewing the scene through their devices, rather than stopping to try to capture the magic they had already witnessed. The pace has changed, visitors are not rushing in September. 

A bit later I notice the glow in the sky to the east and go out only to find I am too late to get a photo; that solitary pair of very damp socks still on the line is in deep shadow. But it is wonderfully sky-blue-pink out over Clay Head, with sprays of scaly, almost mauve clouds in the north, and there is more ground mist rising from low places.

I wander around the house, following the light and come to layers of gold across the western sky, a great old-fashioned mirror of slightly imperfect glass reflecting the glow of the sun already fallen below the tree line.

It would be a perfect coda to a summer of extraordinary sunsets but for the fact it is Tuesday and we do not slide into fall until Thursday morning. I think, absently, not with a curiosity that will lead me to seeking answers, of time and distance, of how easy it is on such a night to feel enveloped by color drenched clouds that have about as much substance as old-fashioned cotton candy, sugar spun full of air, a mouthful dissolving to no more than a sweet aftertaste.

It is too grand to watch die and I come back inside, followed by a dog ready for her dinner.

Summer is slipping away, and will be gone when this paper is printed. The Autumnal Equinox was on the same date three years ago, but on a Sunday — four days earlier thanks to the Leap Year bump — when the last boat home landed in the dark and a puppy who had slept all the way from Northfield to Galilee, and from Galilee to Block Island, my new Autumn, suddenly came alive.

Poor little thing, I worried on that Sunday, taken from her litter mates and mother, brought to this new world, away from her tree-lined street and house filled with children and activity, suffering the horror of a never-before worn collar. By Thursday morning she had managed to navigate the steep uncarpeted back stairs and — stretched on her tippy-toes — just got her black puppy nose to the edge of my bed with a tiny whimper.

Two years I would believe — but three does not seem possible. She has gotten into some mischief but nothing catastrophic, at least not in hindsight, I know what to keep out of reach, and where to look for certain things she still takes, but never far. 

And now she easily bounds up and down those same stairs every morning, until I finally stir to her satisfaction, and she reacts with golden retriever joy I choose to translate as “you’re alive, you’re alive!”

Perhaps it was an early golden Autumn sky.