Mid-July

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 8:00pm
Category: 

There are banks of roses around the island, ramblers I have always called them, probably because my mother did, flowers in varying shades of pink that bloom after the multiflora has faded and fallen, long after the first, the most stunningly dramatic round of beach roses has passed.

They spill over stone walls, and climb the sides of old buildings where the wood has weathered to uneven planks and shingles, filled with notches and bumps where the vines find purchase. There seem to be more along the Neck Road than there once were, a natural occurrence or the product of cultivation I do not know, nor do I care.

I think of them fading by mid-July and where they are exposed to full sunlight many, especially those a darker shade of pink, have browned around the edges and will soon be discolored onion skin. Others, such as those at the turn onto Mansion Road, are in shade, can hold onto the Camelot only-at-night rains we have been having, and remain vibrant.

But it is mid-July when it takes no more than a few days of unfiltered sunshine to dry the earth. It is green, still, around my yard and out into the fields, but the dust is billowing off the Mansion Road, easily coating whatever is growing along its edges with a layer of chalky tan. The traffic can be heavy at the wrong time of day, and when I am coming home, not headed out to be somewhere at a given time, I just pull over and wait and wait, certain there will be a parking space where I am headed, and however few minutes I am there are not being lost from my finite beach vacation hours.

It is sunny and feels hotter than the thermometer indicates it should so I stand by my kitchen sink, inside, out of the sun, but savoring the breeze, marveling at the green field that dips and rises before meeting the far wall. The land is nearly clear, a bit of a miracle given that two years ago it was thick green scrub preparing to host a return to brush.

The breeze is sweet with everything that is summer, the smell of dry grass cut by the ever-present salt of the sea. Late yesterday I lingered outside in that glorious time after the heat of the day has passed, while the sun is golden in the sky, and the sounds that belong only to this time of year floated on the air, everything from the neighbor on his tractor to the hooves of an Icelandic horse going through his varied  gaits, carrying a new-to-him rider around a sort of ring, a bit of relatively level land encircled by white cord.

I don't always go out but it was that sort of evening, and after a long day and week — all sense of “week” evaporates on Block Island in summer — it felt right to do nothing more than watch a girl on a horse, working toward mastering the subtle commands the animal understands, and listen to the earth.

The breeze was up, that calm that often comes with first dark, giving bugs an opportunity to swarm, hadn't settled. “Is that the ocean?” someone unfamiliar with this little pocket of the island asked of the soft sound around the edges of the early, sunlit evening. It was, of course, no louder than it is elsewhere, but perhaps less blanketed by what my mother would call the Sounds of the City, back when even in high-season our little town was not especially noisy. There was a greater volume out there, as remains the case, although now there are many more automobiles, more air traffic, more boats racing back and forth between us and the mainland.

And there is a peculiar roll to the land that guides whatever the sound of the beach, be it surf, laughter, music, up to where we were standing, on a slightly elevated spot west of my house. The sound of the announcement of the departing ferry as it slips from the protection of the stone jetties to the open sea can come all the way from Old Harbor.

As sunset approached, tonight, the breeze felt heavier, damper, and while there is no forecast of rain I decided to go out and close the car windows. Autumn ran ahead, dashing into the empty orchard seeing, I guessed, the deer that has been meandering in the pond lot for a few hours. She stopped, my dog, undecided. Then the egret rose, its wide white wings a final flash of day as it swooped over the pond, passing greens still vibrant, in wildly varying shades, speaking more of June than mid-July.

The breeze takes me back to my kitchen window. The paper towels, on their vertical pole that have unrolled when left on their usual perch atop the microwave, have been set in a safer place. The sill, open to this summer breeze, holds a very few pieces much of the year. There are two glass cream bottles, miniature milk bottles with orange writing on them, where there once were three before another summer's gust knocked one into the sink, or propelled it on a suicide mission, shattering one of those supposedly unbreakable cereal bowls as it met its own demise.

I like the little bottles, of another era, when milk was separated. The loss of one reminds me of a line from a song, “everything breaks except the things you don't want anyway.”

There are three shot glasses; I think there were four, the missing one also broken by the wind. It it is sum total of my windowsill collection, there are no plants to die in the low winter sun, no other trinkets, no shells from the beach, none of the stuff that could collect there and might, if I lived in a place where open windows did not bring this blessing of summer wind.