Faux Lamb

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 7:30am

March came in gently, only to shed its soft lamb's wool coat and reveal itself to be a mangy, angry lion. 

There are very few days I do not leave my house at all; last Friday was one of those rarities. I, literally, did not step outside, remaining in the doorway, blessedly on the west and lee side of the house, the few times Autumn acquiesced to go out into windy rain, and only because she knew no matter how dirty her paws she would be rewarded with a rub-rub with one of the old towels kept by the door solely for that purpose.

Saturday I did go out of my house and the Neck, about an hour after the high tide, late enough to miss witnessing the walkway to the shore of the Great Salt Pond covered by water, but able still to see evidence the planking had been completely submerged. 

I travel the Neck Road, from Mansion Road to town almost every day, there are places I expect there to be great puddles after a rain, drifts of sand after a hard blow from the ocean. The beach parking lot will be a pool and after any substantial rain there is a pond in the road, spreading from the east to the west. Saturday, an hour after high tide, four days after perigee, two days after a full moon, there was no go-slowly puddle, there was a moat, a debris edged trough of a moat. 

It had rained, the tide had poured into the parking lot, climbed up to the road and, as happens in storms, the persistent high surf allowed no place for the water to retreat.  

The biggest boulder in the ocean, out from the beach behind the Surf Hotel, visible in nearly all weather, was hard to spot in the roiling gray and green and filled-with-sand tan waves. Pausing to look out over the water, I realized there was at the edge of the road one of those things that surface in storms, reminding us of other blows gone by, relegated to history until something unmistakably assigned a date appears. 

In this case, it was a pot shaped clump, the root “ball” of one of the doomed rose bushes hurriedly planted in the created low dunes as work crews raced the clock to complete their task of rebuilding the south end of the Neck Road before the end of 2012. A row of would-be roses topped that new berm of sand for a few days, until an end-of-year storm flung them onto the newly paved road.  

Saturday, there was spray coming over Spring Street, keeping wet the rocks and sand thrown up by the sea. A truck ahead of me turned around instead of driving through it and, at first, I thought how silly, remembering the Perfect Storm, when chunks of the road were gone, and I was one in a line of vehicles passing and re-passing, our windshield wipers flashing back and forth.  

Last Saturday, I turned around and did not continue up Spring Street, and did the same at the New Harbor, where the tide was still across the road at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and West Side Road. There would still be a moat at the beach which I would have to cross to get home and I did not want to tempt fate going through more salt water than necessary.  

Any storm in which I do not lose power makes me feel I have won the lottery — less a comment on recent experience more of a reflection of the general I'm-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere unease that comes with major weather events. Still, although my electricity did not fail, my absorption in forecasts and on-going updates from the local power company, left me completely unaware of the magnitude of outages on the mainland which stunned me.

The ocean roared, I could see the cresting waves on the other side of the hill to the east. It boiled up the east beach and reached the toe of the dunes. Monday, when the sky was blue and the sun bright, I finally walked down to Mansion Beach, Autumn dashing ahead of me, her leash in my pocket, listening to that lingering thunder of surf, and found what I expected.

There was the usual trash from the sea that is left deposited by a storm tide, pieces of unidentifiable wood and dead seaweed, high, beyond the usual wrack line. The water, though, was blue, the cresting waves glowing in the afternoon sun.  

The storm wind had been a bit more to the north than hard northeast and that bit of beach between the entrance to it and Jerry's Point looked much as it does on many winter and spring days. The dunes below the old farm showed sloping faces, not the sheered wall left by a ravaging tide driven by a relentless wind. There were scattered stones on the beach, but it was more sand than not, and the expanse of rock below and beyond the point was normal for March.

A bit to the south, the entrance to path to the Minister's Lot was a sandy hill, not the shoulder-high perpendicular face it had been after Sandy. There were some outcroppings of big rocks, all familiar from a lifetime of watching the sand rise and fall, and out toward Scotch I know the earthen bank had been gnawed. 

It is all a matter of the wind, I was reminded when I turned, into the wind that had been at my back, away from the sun that had been warm on my face. A chilly day became cold, and as grateful I was to have worn a hat I regretted not picking up gloves.  

It was 40 with the ever-present “feels like” qualification, that day 32. There was still salt water across the road at the Beach House, another storm was approaching, but the incoming tide was turning the cobbles at the water's edge to polished stone glistening in the bright afternoon sun.