Hat on a Hydrant

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 12:00pm

There was a gentle breeze this morning, the east wind that blows harsh and heavy in the winter bringing a welcome cooling change in late August. 

The sun has come around, I realized a few days ago when my house was unseasonably warm, more than it had been, when I came home as afternoon wound to evening. At first, I thought, impossibly, that visiting family, who insist on closing doors and blocking breezes — as well as turning the occupancy from one water-miser to one water-miser and five who don't know how to turn off faucets — was the factor. 

It was the sun, lower earlier and moving out of the north, falling more through west-facing windows. For the first time in months, I untied a curtain and pulled it closed, the loosely woven fabric not stopping all the light but enough to lessen the heat of direct sunlight, the same that I cherish in winter. 

Labor Day comes this weekend, an afterthought with so many schools on the mainland already open and the weekday crowds lessening. 

Back along in the season, I looked out one day to see a hat, squished, atop one of the trash cans on the corner. I fancied it blown from the head of someone passing on the wrong side of Rebecca, it falling under the wheels of an almost-intersecting vehicle, the bowed fiber broken. It sat there for awhile, then disappeared, I've no idea if it was put into the trash, or someone took it hoping it could be salvaged.

Yesterday, another hat, presumably from another wearer, graced the hydrant on the Manisses corner. The fixture has a narrow Turk's head knot encircling it, a sort of necklace less visible after a coat of bright red paint was applied, but there still for the looking.

A pale, pink lady's hat, woven with some sparkling thread bleached nearly invisible by the bright afternoon sun, was a suitable addition, a touch of whimsy in no way impacting access to the important fixture on the corner and providing a moment's distraction from the end of August grass, so sere it looks to be in pain. It happens every year, on the corner, in the little park below the church, everywhere there is no shade, the only solace the knowledge that every spring it has returned, verdant, and there is no indication next year will be any different.

The sun was strong again today, but the air less heavy, less humidity laden, but I am thinking only long after the sun has set and the night stilled that I never brought sun dried clothes in off the line. In another season I would hear them snapping, even through closed windows, but the night is still, and I hear only the tinny rackets of whatever creatures are occupying the blackberry vines beyond the east windows.

I wander into the kitchen, wondering if the dishes left in the sink by the departing family might, by some miracle, have washed themselves — which they have not — but I am rewarded by the sound from the south, the ocean on the summer sand, waves rolling up and breaking one upon the other.

Last night the sound was different, wilder, and had I not known the distance between me and it I would have imagined the surf was crashing within reach of my house. 

The beach has been steeply raked the past few days, narrower than usual, and overrun by a high tide reaching up toward the bases of the dunes out near town. It was one of my earliest lessons in the way of the wind, a gently sloped shore beach one day sliced the next, leaving a drop several inches high that caused my mother to remark there had been an east wind the night previous. It was not that I learned which way was east, oddly, I do not remember being without that certainty; that day forever erased any confusion whether the wind was named for its source or direction.

That I could know one and not understand the other makes little sense, but it was a very, very, very long time ago.

“It is August yet” has been the reminder the last several days, and now that the month is almost spent, as happens to me with every winter and spring — but not fall, the end of which means the return of the sun — I want to drag my feet and slow time. Yes, we can use a little rain and yes, September will be beautiful as it always is, beyond my remembrances, and yes, technically, we have three weeks of summer left, but everything is shifting, down-gearing — most notably the ultimate arbitrator of our lives, the boat schedule is shrinking.

It has been an historic month, the wind turbines off the southeast “corner” of the island grew from stubby yellow jackets barely reaching above the surface into great white birds, tall and elegant as the herons that arrive in the spring.

I can see one of the towers from the second floor of my house, out over my neighbor's field, rising from the ocean beyond the old barn. It was a surprise, despite my having watched the activity, especially at night, as this project has progressed, but it is only from one set of windows and only then when standing close to the glass, the lacy curtains that mute the daytime view, pushed aside.

Some would say my view is already ruined, in winter's dark I see fishing boats, white lights on black water, and year-round the ferries pass, audible especially in summer when the air tends to stillness and the windows are open. There is the weak blink of the Southeast Lighthouse on the far bluff, and the reassuring sparkle of the town across the shallow illusion of a bay.

I think, again, of the hat on the hydrant and wonder how long it remained where I saw it last.