It’s An Island

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 9:15am

The last few years the prevalent theme of my columns written in early May has been centered on green and gray, underscored with a protest that it should not be this way.

My easily recalled memories of the start of this month are all golden sunshine, long afternoons and verdant hills. While I do not doubt those snapshots, visually detailed to the colors of the cotton dresses I was wearing, I know the words I have written, to be true by the force of a weekly deadline, to be less selective.

An aunt who lived here for a couple of years when I was in junior high was a teacher of the lower grades and brought with her that sunny approach that makes the classrooms of the younger children bright and happy even when empty. She taught kindergarten and insisted on celebrating May Day, complete with a pole wound with long strips of cloth, probably old white sheets that she had dyed the cheerful pastels of spring.

May Day was not on our calendar. It was something celebrated in Russia, with grand shows of military strength my dad, even then, doubted were backed by reality, as was later proven. May Fourth, of course, was our special holiday, the commemoration of our little colony declaring independence from the crown. 

But, for two years, we gamely went along with greeting the new month with great fanfare, setting forever in my mind that late April, dank and drear, would be pushed aside at the last minute for a bright and beautiful May First. 

Now the daffodils are gone by and the forsythia has turned from yellow petals to green leaves.

The shad, the flowering trees that bloom in late April and early May, covering the hillsides with white blossoms, proclaiming their presence before retreating into the anonymity of wild green brush, are passing as well. 

It is time for lilacs, lovely, old-fashioned clusters of purple, down the lane, by the road, in yards of older houses around the island.

And at that moment I realized I had no idea where Autumn had gone. She comes, generally, in her own fashion, when I call, running in from the field when I start down the road, or up the road when I head out to the field. Sometimes she is simply there, upstairs, ignoring me, or in the yard, ignoring me.

There was a noise down by the pond, where it is too overgrown to walk, and I heard geese, I thought, making the racket they do when disturbed by anything that is not one of them. Soon enough, she appeared, her feet black with mud, carrying something cherished, I could tell by the way she dropped it upon seeing me, hopeful I had not noticed the treasure.

It was, I should have known, what had to be a deer bone, some slender piece of leg. It was bare, without a trace of hair, but it was not, as is generally the case with skeletons in the fields, bleached by the weather, rather, it was rusty and slippery, taken, I am sure, from the edge of the one-time peat bog pond. It looked fragile and I took it from the grass and carried it inside while she looked on, her golden retriever eyes going from hopeful to stricken as her “find” vanished for my fear of bone splinters becoming lodged in her throat or stomach or digestive tract. Those wolf forebears were many generations back.

It is early May, time for paving and road striping. I forewent the front street, today, but saw the market parking lot, all screaming new paint, yellow and blue, making the old, that had seemed merely faded, look anemic indeed. Perhaps it is the new leaves but I noticed, again, the trees planted when the area was reconfigured, part of a carefully drawn landscaping plan. They soon found themselves bent by the salt wind from the ocean. I have no idea if they came from a nursery too far inland, if the timing was wrong, or if it was just one of those things that happens when Nature decides to show us that who is boss is not negotiable.

The trees dotting the market parking lot tell of the reality of winter, salt-burn marking their now bare seaward sides as new green unfurls from less exposed branches. They made me think of a line in the editorial in this paper last week, the simply put “And, it's an island!” a point which cannot be too strongly made in this search for a new Town Manager. The position is, as the headline stated, “a serious job.”

It was heartening to see the local paper, the de facto record of the town, does, for lack of a more eloquent term, “get it.” All the improved technologies, expanded boat services, increased public facilities, all those in some plan — or dream — will not alter one fundamental fact of geography: we are an island and we are an island with what feels to be a dwindling full-time October to May population. 

I applaud and thank all who worked to get the word of the Manager position opening out. My fundamental philosophy is cast as wide a net as possible, by whatever means available. We know from long experience word of mouth, or in this case social media, is one of a number of methods of capture. However, many of the responses to Facebook postings were lighthearted to the point of frivolity. They would be easy to dismiss without additional comment but for the fact I have long lived here, and have seen round upon round of people come and go when the reality of this place did not meet some fanciful expectation. Others, like those trees take the blow but learn to flourish despite it.  

This is an extraordinary place we all call home, but we need be honest with all comers; it is not always May.