It is Rhode Island Independence Day, a fact I feel obligated to share every May 4. I am greatly chagrined these words will not be printed until well after this date, as I am writing of it only after the fact. It did not fall off my calendar in the usual way of dates forgotten, rather this late-blooming spring, the imposition of a no-longer-new deadline- to which I will eventually adjust - and surely some other distraction simply let me think a week ago there was much more of April ahead of us.
Delaware calls itself the First State. It is a title to which that state can lay claim as Rhode Island, while first by two months of all the colonies to declare
independence, was the last of the new states to ratify the Constitution.
It is just a bit of Rhode Island trivia, which of late, and sadly, seems to be focused solely on quahogs, coffee milk and a brand name lemonade. And the unending game of who is related to whom, usually tied to municipal/state salaries and multiple pensions. Independence Day is more aligned with the fact of this smallest state that once had the longest name (for out-of-staters, it was The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations) of the whole 50 or of the great vast spaces of Alaska, our largest state, having a population smaller than ours. While we hang on the edge, there are still seven states that have fewer (one fewer, as many fewer as is possible) representatives in Congress than we.
Perhaps it’s all that coffee milk and lemonade but today Rhode Island seems to have fallen far from the Lively Experiment that Roger Williams, the founder of the colony, envisioned. We were a haven, a place of tolerance rooted in religious freedom. Even our motto, the shortest, aims for the stars, one for each
colony on the flag: hope.
It has been a long time since Samuel Slater’s understanding of machinery sparked the Industrial Revolution in the very new country and built here a textile
industry that drew waves of immigrants. I remember when the mills started moving south, before the shift overseas. We are overdue. Enter another industrial/
technological revolution, wind turbines off our shores. Perhaps this will help us turn a corner, restore to this state a collective sense of possibility.
It is cool, again, but there are signs of the possibility of spring. The shad at the edge of my backyard is trying, trying, trying, its pink buds growing more plump every day, the amount of sky visible behind it less visible it seems with each passing hour. Soon, much of the pond will be hidden from sight, the geese paddling across it a thing of memory.
It is warm enough, some days, to leave the door open, letting Autumn come and go as she pleases. I hear a particular crunch and know she has managed to bring a stalk of last year’s knotweed, fibrous, hollow and dry, inside to munch on. It will be in pieces in a few minutes, and I think, as I always do this time of year, I really should close the door before I have birds in the living room. Too late, a swallow made it in.
Most winters, if I do not knock the knotweed down in the fall, it dries in place, and a great wind pushes a good part of the stand over onto the grass. Finally, I gave in to reason and let the roots be dug out, now little red spears are poking from the earth but I am hopeful the exercise will prove successful.
Everything feels out of kilter. The forsythia is late, I realize when I see masses of yellow along the roadsides. Mine was cut to the ground last year and only now is it showing signs of life, little green shoots coming off the old wood. I was not sure it would survive, although that it did should not be a surprise, I have
chopped it before, when the fall winds made it bang against the window and, when left untended for too long, scrape the gutter. The flowering crab apple tree is sporting shiny new leaves without blossoming, and I wonder if I have misremembered the sequence of other years. It badly needs to be trimmed, another winter project undone by the long blanket of icy snow.
Everyone - it seems - is asking me if I suffer from allergies and, while I insist I do not, but am beginning to wonder if these odd cycles have created some
overlapping that has made me suddenly susceptible to whatever it is in the air that makes others sneeze and cough. So often I found myself not wanting the last days of winter, snow-covered but sunlit, cold but dry and clear, to end. Everyone - it more than seemed - thought me mad. My head is cloudy and I think
fondly of that time.
The moon, though, has been spectacular, the Full Flower Moon, a white orb caught by one local photographer “sitting” atop the crane still at the Old Harbor breakwater. Rising, it has thrown an ever-changing beam of white to lie on the surface of the dark ocean and from the sky has flooded the land and filled
rooms with pale light that seems not to recognize colors turning the world strangely monochromatic.
It is the moon that makes me think of friends and family in other places, a fancy forever imprinted on me by a 1987 movie I did not want to see. It is a moon
so bright a forgotten flashlight is of no matter exiting an oddly sedate meeting ended well after dark. It is the moon that turns the stars to mere background
decorations and makes one wonder how the oceans on the other side of the earth have not been drained dry by the sheer force of its white will.