Heavy at Times

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 9:15am
We live in a small town, some of us have always lived in this small town, I think when crossing paths with someone, a younger brother of a classmate who will always be that, no matter that he is long grown, with a son of his own now in college. 

“Heavy at times” he remarks, a nod at the gentle rain falling onto the parking lot, as he passes through the airlock at the big market, a spot a friend and I have chosen — without thought — as a handy place to get under cover to talk. We were not thinking of the foot traffic that is near-constant, of the doors opening and closing, both for customers and for us as we take steps in the wrong direction, of baskets being restocked from the check-out line and carts being returned to their stalls. 

It is April and it was raining, not yet the downpour, the “heavy,” it would be later in the day. The man, which I begrudgingly have to call this forever-in-my-mind little brother, was wearing a bright slicker, a fleeting distraction from the echoes of other generations who would marvel at this gear even as they “harumppfed” at its modernity.

Then we were stuck, trying to go out the “in” door and having to wander out through the aisles, realizing, finally, that we each thought the other intent upon grocery shopping when neither of us had any such plan.

When the “heavy” arrived it was not sideways and pounding, but neither the rain of summer, straight and unnoticed until one walks into it. It came from the east and the north, darkening those sides of buildings with cedar shingles that show dampness, leaving the south and west sides almost dry, the south and west windows not washed clean. 

It is a lush time of year, with new grass growing so thick even the oldest yards, which will be dry and hard underfoot in August, are shimmering velvet after a first cutting. The forsythia is turning over to green leaves but the daffodils, the traditional flowers that have gained a new stature over the last decades, glow even when the sun does not shine.

Everyone always had daffodils, they are sturdy, iron flowers, they push up through the cold earth reaching for the sun, defying even the longest winters, they survive from year to year with even minimal attention. 

Daffodils, it seemed, turned the usually voracious deer picky, and more and more of the yellow blooms appeared, islands of springtime in some very unexpected places.

Spring on my mind, I go to the door to let the dog in — or out, it hardly matters which, one will be the other soon enough. There had been a clackety-clack out in the front lot, I am reminded when I breathe and am enveloped by the sweet scent of newly chopped vegetation, a bit of grass but mainly the scrub that grew so quickly in the front field. The neighbor had been over, riding his big red tractor, pulling a big green rotary mower, the source of the clackety-clack, making a few opening passes, swaths cut close to the ground, around and across the undulating land. It is a small town and I thought of his father performing this same task, looking over his shoulder in the same way, seeming to watch as much where he had been as where he was going, constantly monitoring progress.

It takes so little to make a great difference: near my turn onto Mansion Road the bit of ground leading to the vernal pond is clear, again, and the sole mallard is visible as he swims about, all puffed up in his glorious plumage. I stop, thinking to take a picture of the proud fellow but realize too late my attention is solely on him and I have failed to notice there is beneath my car door, between it and the edge of the road, a muddy puddle. My quickly withdrawn sneaker is only partly wet, not soaked or overflowing, when I pull it back, the duck already forgotten.

The shoe dried quickly — and this time of year I expect my feet to be always damp — and but for a scribbled note about the mallard I might not have remembered the improbable folly of stopping at the one place in which I would step into a puddle.

The air was still as heavy with moisture, as thick and gray as it had been in the morning. I could not see the early boat headed for the mainland, could not mark its progress by its appearance in successive dips in the land that afford me views open to the horizon. It was the sound of its horn that told me it was there at all, moving from south to north, a long, steady blast, approaching, and passing, then muffled by the land mass of Clay Head and finally, muted by distance.

It was foggy, when I went out at mid-day, into the heaviest of fogs, thick and white, a limited visibility that makes one cautious, even vigilant. It was oddly bright as well, especially out where the Neck Road runs between the low plain on the landward side of the dunes and the New Harbor, where the sky is wide and open. I blinked against the glare and wondered if this intensity of light was an illusion come from eyes-wide-open driving.

Big trucks seemed to come out of nowhere, plowing along, turning even the shallowest of puddles on the pavement to short-lived showers. It was an odd day, disconcerting, even without the sound of an invisible boat out there on the other side of a barely visible pasture. 

It is lovely, though, this spring fog. The forsythia and the yellow lines down the middle of the road strangely complementing each other, the roadside softly, deeply green, the trees budded, more brushing than scratching the sky, another measure of a world softened by the season.