On Golden Pond

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 7:15pm

Last week feels to have been very long ago, indeed.

Thursday evening was windless, a beautifully golden end of day which found me on the edges of the New Harbor. The forecast was not good but there was none of that eerie calm before the storm feeling in the air; it was a perfect end-of-summer interlude. There were markedly fewer boats on the water than there had been, but it was the week after Labor Day and it was difficult to know how much open water was due to caution and how much was a product of the calendar.

It is the same every year, I find myself the week leading up to or immediately following Labor Day, finally experiencing summer, this time eating on a deck only several feet above and a swath of grass away from water that had to it the glow of the setting sun. A few boats were moving over its surface, their faint wakes and the slightest lapping of the tide on the shore giving the harbor more a look of textured stained glass than a flawless mirror.

Still the reflections were wonderful, the curved arms of the dinghy dock rails, the pilings, seamless between reality and mirror image, the hulls in and on the water and above it all clouds layering the sky.

It was setting the stage for a flaming red sunset, the stuff we hear is a “sailor's delight.” It was hard to believe out beyond that real weather lurked. The adage, I was later told, did not apply to “canes” — I've no idea if that had any basis or just sounded good at the time.

I am not a sunset chaser; I like to watch the sky transform slowly, the last light struggle against its own end, seeking out west facing windows, and white trim on gray shingled houses. Perhaps more it is that I want the day to linger, the fields to remain touched with gold, the white boats I can see from my field to shine brightly, the fluffy clouds in the east turn dark as the blue behind them fades to pale before nightfall.

And so for a few moments, I had that world I love, all softly golden, with just a wash of pink behind it, readying.

It was a strange reality that the named storm that had wreaked havoc in the Bahamas and long threatened Florida was moving up the eastern seaboard. It was forecast to veer off to the east and so it would, after touching land in the Carolinas, a blow of consequence but not of epic proportions

It seemed to follow the track of the temperature of the water, out and away from us, then decided to ignore that guide and charge north, to Canada, where an offshore weather buoy recorded wave heights equal to that of the Perfect Storm, one crest roughly equivalent to the height of an eight-story building. Even after being downgraded to a post-tropical storm, Dorian left half a million people without electricity in the Maritimes.

Here, while it rolled off to the east, we had some wind, a few cancelled boats, a little rain, and a few days of wedding party participants ranging from the very anxious to the full-speed-ahead-it'll-all-work-out stalwarts. Friday the boats did stop running as had been expected, but New England Airlines continued to fly through the gray, into the twilight, transporting load after load of passengers and luggage, and sending empty planes back to Westerly to be filled, again. Helicopter trips were made, private hires by the most nervous, rooms were found when there seemed to be none, and even dresses appeared to calm a particularly distraught mother or bride, or both, unnecessary in the end but displaying what can happen when this community decides to be its better self.

Saturday morning I looked out my window and saw one of the big white tents, visible all the way from a site off Spring Street. It had obviously been well fastened, and stood, proudly waiting to be hit by the sun.

And while I, as did most, expected the boats to resume service Saturday, that they started so early was a surprise. The day turned beautiful, Block Island presented itself clean and green as it can only after a rain, and literally hundreds of people had a tale to tell for years to come. I was reminded of the years I was by virtue of office a wedding officiant and told couples not to worry, that “we make thing work” having absolutely no idea how what I was promising could be accomplished but still having certainty I was telling the truth.

The only casualty of the storm I have noticed is a tree, one old and ready to fail, but a good provider of much needed shade, split at the edge of the little park below the church. Its trunk broke in two and it lay on the grass, bright raw wood exposed to the sun.

I am torn, I like the openness but I know we need shade and, more, it brings back to me the tree my mother and aunt were going plant in memory of my dad and his deceased brother, two of the seven siblings who deeded the land to the town. They wanted to create a shady spot, and my mother was standing there, thinking of where, exactly, they should locate it when the pastor who had been called stopped to tell her my aunt, her partner in the enterprise, had dropped dead in her garden.

My mother followed through with the tree, in memory of three instead of two, and it grew until it was cut down, purportedly dead when it was just late to come back to life. Eventually, another was put in its place, not the same kind, not one that has ever grown into the longed-for canopy that even the weedy maples in my yard cast.

I'd rather think of that golden pond.