Last week, this week

Fri, 08/19/2016 - 1:30pm

It is August hot on Block Island, the weather cycle everyone seems to forget exists. I forgot, until several years ago, going back through August columns, I found a recurring thread of hot, muggy, foggy, damp, doors swollen by the moisture in the air, coming back from the morning beach dripping wet without having gone in the ocean.

Today, it does not feel as damp as it has, but despite the cheerful “today is forecast to be cooler than yesterday” emblazoned on the weather site (a technicality if ever there was one, by one degree, one insignificant degree Fahrenheit), by noon what cool had come in the night had been vanquished, the early cool burned by the sun. I look to other places and find that, yes, New York and Providence are warmer, but only slightly so; more surprising, Austin, the one in Texas, is several degrees cooler, never mind it is under layers of flood watches and warnings.

This is a winter game, looking for places colder than we, not generally that difficult a task. Watching the weather at all is largely an off-season pursuit. I know to the minute the latest sunrise and earliest sunset, but in summer, when there is an abundance of light, there is no need to measure — to meter, to barter — it.

Night brings a damp breeze, one strong enough to knock the curtains from the south-facing windows upstairs. It doesn’t take that much, the rods lie atop, not in the curve of, the little brackets on the frames and it makes me feel better knowing the air is moving.

The damp would be oppressive in the summer sun of mid-day but now, in the moonlit night, it is coolly soft on my skin and I am hoping the wind does not blow so hard I have to lower the windows. How much damage can be done? One day, I came home to the paper towels, a roll nearly full, on a funky upright holder beside a kitchen window, unfurled, slipped down the counter onto the floor and out into the back hall. No harm, no foul, and I simply rewound them.

That was some time ago, the roll is far less full, there is less paper to catch the wind, almost as though there is no fun in the exercise. The sky is pale and there is moon shadow on the kitchen floor, the silhouettes of the old glass half-pint cream bottles on the window sill. I have thought of taking them down but they are heavy and unlikely to be moved by other than a hard blast; they are not the empty plastic containers that can bounce off the counter onto the floor with a breath.

I get up and lean out the window, to feel the breeze and listen to the night, the crickets and their tinny noise, the waves breaking on the shore and the sound of the leafy branches moving in the yard.  It has been hot and dry with storms moving well to the north of us, knocking out power on the mainland a few nights ago, and trees are not as lushly full as they were two months ago. At first I think I am seeing fireflies then realize it is lights of neighbors’ houses, appearing and disappearing as the foliage shifts.

The days and days of heat have had a cumulative effect; today was better then it has been and I felt more tired. The temperature has plateaued — still higher than Austin — with no indication it will go any lower all night. The distant possibility of overnight thunderstorms has moved from 2:15 to 3:45 to 4:15, with the chance of rain increasing only slightly.

A very long week ago I put my feet in the water of the cut by the Coast Guard Station and watched boats entering and departing the New Harbor. It was something I had never done before and I thought of the first time I visited my uncle in Southern California and he took me to the beach, to be sure I put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. That day I held the hem of a (different) denim skirt, keeping it dry, but remembered also I had stood on the sand and shed shoes and pantyhose with more ease than slipping off sneakers and little summer socks 28 years later.

It had been early November; the sand was not August hot in California...

A week ago it was summer hot and bright and the day left me with a face stiff from the sun and sheets sandy from feet shoved back into sneakers with little ceremony — from nowhere comes a memory of a friend of my mother’s trying in vain to wipe the beach from my feet before putting them into the red Mickey Mouse sandals, about which I have not thought for decades.

The visit to the cut began with a trip I could characterize as “going to the West Side” or as “making a pilgrimage to the land where my grandfather was born.” The latter has a much nicer ring — as well as a bit of mystery — to it. Great expanses of the old farm, and one adjoining, are protected habitat, untouched by all but tenders and scientists, open across walled fields running to the sea. There are no more resident cows or crops beyond the occasional garden, but even on the warmest, sunniest summer day, I think of the people who once tilled the earth and kept animals, battling the weather and living with the relentless winter wind.

It was not a real tourist day, despite the feet in the water and sun on the skin and lunch on an old porch overlooking the bluest of oceans. It was more a little tour of history and heritage that happened to take place on a beautiful day in an extraordinarily beautiful place I am blessed to call home.