Fallen Leaves

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 8:00am

The last Monday in September, the first Monday of fall, it did not seem it would be as difficult as it proved to be to find the scant few seconds it required to take a photo of the Water Street curb, with no foot or vehicular traffic in the frame.

It looked, strangely, like fall on the mainland, where trees shed their leaves and are raked into the gutter awaiting collection, at least they are where my brother lives on a tree lined street in a Michigan suburb, a town old enough that the trees are tall and the grass between the sidewalk and street wide.

Except, I realized, there are none of those grand trees on Water Street, and I looked more closely at the little buffer of leaves and realized they were small, more the size of privet, blown from another place to the little stretch where there are buildings on both sides of the pavement, where they, somehow, settled. 

They were quite unlike the blanket of leaves on the grass outside The Block Island Times — and in my own yard — loosed by the storm, but holding mottled colors, ranging from near spring green, rustling but still soft underfoot. On Water Street, the gutter was filled with small bits of summer gone by, crinkled and brown, early casualties of the salt spray that has been floating up from the ocean for more than ten days, now.

Last week there was no boat Tuesday, Wednesday, late Thursday or Friday. There is yet a high surf advisory posted, expected now, to be removed late tomorrow, another Thursday in another week.

The sound of the ocean pours through the open windows, strangely out of place on a night still almost summer warm. It rolls up through the fog that has settled this past few days, somewhere in the distance while I tried to take another photograph from the Harbor Church hill on sunny-between-the-fogbanks Monday. It is carried on a cool breeze from the east and I pull out a long-sleeved shirt, despite the relatively warm reading on the thermometer. 

In the morning, the damp is so thick it runs in streams on the screens and drips from an intricately woven spider web, spun during the night. The surf rumbles and beyond, from the depths of the fog, comes the deep, mournful horn of the boat back on its regular schedule. A fog advisory has been added to the high surf warning and I wonder how many of these advisories there are that I never see, going to weather sites only where there is some hint of a storm system turning into to a possible threat. 

Maria, which looks close to shore on a world map is solidly south of us, off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia and is, finally, charted on a near-east course, inching to the north as it spins down across the Atlantic. Lee, a surprisingly strong hurricane for one so out of the news, is already south of Newfoundland. 

It is strange to live in this land where hurricanes are rare but have been so severe we think every year without one is a gift. Jose was never a threat, I knew it was not a threat, yet when it stopped moving, then began backtracking I scrounged around until I found my battered copy of The Perfect Storm, solely for the map I knew printed in it, showing a single line of the track of the storm that looped around and became part of a frightful collision of systems that hung over us for days and did myriad damage along the coast.

It is strange, as well, to live on an island where we suffered no serious hardship for not having a boat for a few days, and hear the news filled with talk of the difficulty in mobilizing disaster assistance to islands down south as though the fact of islands being surrounded by water is a revelation.

Here we were spared, once again, only to be set adrift in a sea of fog. 

It can be very beautiful, this early fall fog, that is always shifting, rising and falling, making parts of the island disappear and shrouding the churning high-surf advisory ocean and turning surfers into mystical beings gliding in and out of sight on the water. It is a greedy, hungry beast, devouring whole hill tops; it can be disruptive, throwing walls up across roads; at sea, where there are no landmarks, no stone walls lining roads, no recognizable curves and gateposts, it can be disorienting. 

Sound that rolls though hollows and bounces, echoing, off hillsides on the best of days, becomes an ambient, enveloping being, feeding on the damp. It holds. . . stuff, pollen or dust or some undefinable bother, in its wet grasp. It increases the humidity and doors that never quite accomplished their usual August swell are sticking. 

The fog settles on the tree canopy, left after the salty blow. It condenses on the leaves to turn into a sort of rain falling on the road, leaving damp spots in the same places that are darkened by shadow on sunny days. I am almost under the tree before I think it might be an interesting image to capture with my phone camera. There is traffic steadily passing on the nearby Mansion Road, but the day is gray and foggy, not a beach day, and it is late morning and Wednesday, the one year-round day of dump certainty.

And so I stop, again, as I did on Water Street, and, again, it is not as easy as I think it should be, there is an even more constant stream of cars passing north and south than I expected; I am again working around the traffic. 

It is foggy and late morning and near the end of September but, of course a car comes up behind me, a beach walker or a renter, or just an explorer. 

I hope the occupants noticed the darkening of the road.