Fallen Butterfly

Sun, 10/09/2016 - 2:45pm

For a moment it seemed as though Autumn, my sweet golden dog, had finally come to the realization that the vacuum cleaner is not a beast with its own mind and energies, one bound and determined to attack her. At some point in her growing and shedding youth, I merely pushed it to the side of the room, knowing I would need it again the next day, if not that afternoon, and she would run past as though it was lying in wait, ready to suck a fluffy puppy to oblivion.

Today, she stood in the door between the living and dining rooms, old names that have little to do with today's usages, watching, albeit warily, as the machine was pushed into place and the power switch flicked. Even after the foot pedal, which somehow causes the rolling brush to engage, was touched, and a second noise sounded, she waited, weighing her options until the beast moved slightly toward her.  

Then she turned tail and trotted toward the front door still open to the yard, leaving a cloud of pale hairs floating in the lowering sun, an unintended why-are-you-even-bothering taunt.

The air is cooler, it has rained, the windows have not been as wide open as in summer, the distant but dustproducing beach traffic has abated as has the southwest wind which lifted it across the fields, to funnel up my little road. There is less grit, less dirt to weigh down the silky fibers drawn up the vacuum hose. It is oddly easier to vacuum dog hair and dirt, the latter adhering to the former, than to pick up wisps, even layers of wisps, of soft gold.

The wind is from the east, as promised by the Equinox, churning the ocean beyond the hills, reaching out from the beach. It was a day of alternating gray and sun, of jacket-clenching cool in the shadows, jacket-shedding warm beyond them, in afternoon when we went to the beach.

The short walk down one road, onto another, then down the old path to the shore ran between climates, sunny lee and windy shade. Autumn was delighted to be off, dancing ahead of me, carrying one of her heavy rope toys, this one white and green, never buried or long left in the dirt. She wanted it thrown until it was, then her attention waned, and there it lay in the road waiting for our return.

There were people on the beach, several tucked up near the dunes, trying to find a spot in the sun but out of the wind, a tricky proposition when the wind is rolling off the ocean. Others were walking on the sand, hardly a crowd but enough to propel the dog from one to another without settling and turning into an annoyance.

It was motion off shore that drew my attention, a single gossamer sail navigating the blue and white water, a windsurfer I realized, remembering them out near the mouth of the Old Harbor on days such as this one, and wondered if there were many left. It seems the world has turned to kayaks and paddle boards; windsurfers, from another era, now populate Block Island Bulletin Board. 

Picking up a stick to tempt this supposed retriever of mine, I headed for Jerry's Point, pausing to toss it, watching the sail, a single winged butterfly, cutting across the waves, driving into the shore. It moved as surely as black-clad surfers I see in winter, riding past the rocks all the way to the shallows at the north end of the beach.

It is a very short walk, past the dune below the old farm, cut by Sandy, gradually rebuilding, and to the rise of the bank below the pasture where sheep once roamed.

Turning back I see the windsurfer on the sand, poor fallen — and temporarily abandoned — butterfly. Its sail has a modern look, all shiny and bright, with a great awkward foot attached. 

The people have either left or relocated, I can see a group of something that could be sand-sitters a bit down the beach, but only in silhouette, reminding me of the southward march of the sun.

The turbines, three of them, are still a surprise, and I am struck, again, of the impression they give, not of something new and out of place, rather of my having been transported to another land, not my usual reaction to construction. They are new, I suppose, in the way electricity itself once was, or lighted boats offshore.

Later, at home, I go upstairs and look out across farmland and see the blades are turning, catching the sun, more and then less as they make a revolution so slow it is, at first, not obvious. Later, still, I go back to look for the red lights that top the towers, knowing now where to stand, where to look, and remain unsure if I am seeing the first three or the first, third, and fourth turbines. They were in a row from the beach, but I cannot tell if, from my house, one is obscured by the tall old barn next door, an unlikely survivor of the '38 hurricane, which took so many of its sisters around the island.

It is October, the days are shorter, and as much as everyone but me insists “fall is best,” and as much as the season does surprise me every year with its bittersweet beauty, its blue water and white groundsel blossoms and red take-your-pick leaves and lingering yellow wildflowers and even roses, it is spring that I love the best. My minority state of mind is reinforced by a discovered comment, someone else's dream of endless light, living north of here in summer and at the far reach of South America in our winter. My mind jumps to a photo of a mariner cousin, appearing to be conversing with a penguin, somewhere fractionally north of Antarctica, as I recall.

A faraway place by any measure, suited for my mind in October.