Fri, 06/16/2017 - 8:45am

The heat came back and with it the June bugs, the air-borne, armored, harmless but annoying creatures that fly through open windows, buzzing about aimlessly until I feel a touch, the slightest weight of one landed on my head, in my hair.

Then, all bets are off and the little tank of a beast is tossed across the room, to the delight then disappointment of the dog. 

They are not “bugs” rather beetles and scarab beetles at that, which makes me think for the first time in decades of a bracelet I had as a child, surely a present from some relative on the mainland, better tuned to the fads of the time than those of us on Block Island.

It must have come with some printed explanation, I knew it was a “scarab” bracelet and I knew a scarab was a sort of Egyptian beetle, as much as I knew the colored pieces on my wrist, despite the shell-like markings on them, were most certainly not, nor had they ever been, insects. 

That they were a trend in 2013 missed me completely, as happens with most trends.

It is June, time of big bugs, and baby birds loudly tweeting from the entry rafters, and turtles crossing the roads, the imprint of generational instinct guiding them from one pond to another, following the route blazed by their ancestors. 

A few days ago there was one on the Neck Road, perhaps immobilized by the sensation of something — my car —  approaching. I hoped it would stay put, felt no thump as I passed over it, then looked in my rearview mirror to see it moving faster than I would have guessed possible to the other side of the road and some unknown destination. 

One year, at the sometimes designated “Turtle Crossing,” I witnessed a snapper in motion. It was one of those prehistoric creatures we sometimes see lumbering these same routes, more often hunkered down, withdrawn into their heavy shells, offering an occasional half-hearted lunge, waiting for whatever nuisance is casting its shadow upon it to move along and let it be. This one took a chance, raised itself up on legs longer than I imagined it had, and galloped across the pavement.

Safe in the grass on the opposite shoulder it settled back to its slow, land bound self.

Yesterday was hot, the hot we knew would come, as it often does, in a slamming wall after a stretch of cool late spring days.

The pink flowers on the weigela on the Mansion Road raced past their prime and shriveled to brownish shadows of their former selves even as the white multiflora rose came into its annual, self-justifying bloom and the peonies by the front door finally exploded, great flowers springing from tight buds. 

Then a cold front blew though, the breeze picked up, and the early evening went from hot and humid to beautifully cool, especially where the air moved over green grass and through green leaves. Talk of sudden gusts and rough water and thunder boomers came from the mainland but, here, as so often happens, the thick cloud cover turned dark and ominous, only to settle and let the late day sun gild the edges of the heavy blue bank in the northwest. 

The sky rumbled, hours after dark, and I did think to go around closing what needed to be closed, unplugging what I thought the most vulnerable electronics, before going to bed. When the rain finally came, it was summer rain, the straight, gentle stuff I, in other seasons, wonder if real beyond my summertime dreams.

At first it sounds like a breeze in the trees outside my window, a soft rustling, a sort of white noise. It becomes a rat-a-tat and I run through the list of things it would be too late to close anyway, car windows, check, back door, check, downstairs windows, closed enough that it doesn't matter as it would in driving sideways rain. 

It was cool, the world was being washed clean, the green hills covered with tall grasses waving in the breeze, turning the land to a ground-swell sea, would soon shine. Someone who had been at the State House last night called to talk of events there. There was no rush to my morning, and I slowly went about restoring electricity and re-establishing my internet connection.

Everything is cyclical, the heat, the rain, the roses and, sadly, the news which I eventually heard and looked at the calendar. It was three days short of the anniversary of the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in the wake of which I wrote:

“How can I be concerned about something that happened in South Carolina I am asked and I can only think of not so long ago putting to someone whose opinion in such matters I respect, “what would happen if Sept. 11th happened today, would we all be as transfixed?” and not only because we have become immune to horror. Have we reached a point where we are unable to stand together as a nation, if only for a few days, have our attention spans become so short and has our polarization become so great. . .”

Then, two years ago, in South Carolina, the members of the families of those slain spoke, in the face of losing loved ones, in the face of some distorted proclamation that there was no racial motivation behind a shooting in a church with an African-American congregation, in the face of denial of hatred, and in reaction to their voices I had to ask:

“And how can we not be brought to our knees by the expressions of forgiveness offered by families of those killed?”

“Once in a great while there does shine that light of the world which American preachers and politicians since John Winthrop in 1630 have been using in City on a Hill speeches. It shouldn’t take nine dead to make us see it.” 

Nor should it have so quickly dimmed.