The Price of Privilege
Traveling the Neck Road can be an adventure in high summer, but it is early June. Yesterday, just south of Mansion Road, a truck was stopped, collecting cardboard which had fallen from a bed loaded with what appeared to be trash. At first I thought the driver had turned around to gather what had blown loose — the load was not covered but it was cardboard, not garbage that would scatter to the winds, and it was being collected. When he was done, and more cars than I expected were behind me, he continued south.
I readily admit to being challenged by the seasonal shifting of schedules but I know the dump hours, and it was way before closing time on Tuesday. It was a bit of a mystery, as was the traffic backed up so quickly.
Then, perhaps my favorite of the day, someone had pulled over to confer with someone working at the Bayside, the one-time boarding house across from Mitchell Farm. It happens all the time, usually, though, people pull over to the shoulder, they do not move into the other lane, squarely blocking all on-coming traffic.
And, of course, someone was coming from the south, so the line behind the truck, and me, got even longer. One of the lawn service trucks with a trailer was beside the road out by the Breakers, another one-time boarding house, which was no issue, and would probably not even have been memorable but for the truck with its precariously loaded cardboard, which still seemed to me to be going in the wrong direction, and the oddly positioned talker, and all the south bound traffic.
There was a fourth obstacle which I am not remembering, probably out by the Solviken, the site of another of those Swedish-cook-in-residence places, like the Bayside and the Breakers, belonging to an era fast fading when I was a child.
It was not until I saw the Town Manager that I heard there had been an incident at the transfer station, a reaction from pool chemicals tossed in the compactor, which caused the facility to be shut down for a bit, explaining the wrong-way truck and the oddly heavy traffic on the Neck Road.
Yesterday was also another in this endless spring of all-weather days, of warm and cool, of sunshine and shadow lost to the ambient light filtering through heavy cloud cover, of fog and rain that feeds the earth but, even this early, is doing little to subdue the dust. Later, when I came home, as has become habit, I sat in my car, sorting through the mail, most of which I had already determined to be junk and thrown in the recycle bin at the Post Office.
It was sprinkling, the sky over the harbor was dark, and then I heard a rumble of thunder and thought of the tree I had passed moments before.
It is a maple that has grown tall at the corner of the yard, one my mother, she of a tree-lined street in Massachusetts, dug up as a sprig that had self-seeded on the Mansion Road. It grew slowly, lost a part of itself to a long ago lightning strike, seemed more than not a lost cause during her lifetime.
Now, this time of year, it greets me, a great mass of lush, green leaves, tall and wonderful, the tree my mother wanted. When I am away from my yard, I see the horse chestnuts, with their creamy candles, and wish we had planted some of those, then I came home to this and forget my coveting.
Yesterday, the maple rose from a newly mowed yard, a mix of weeds and grass that for a brief and shining moment resembled a lawn, at least from a distance. The tall yellow iris are in bloom, not where they were tended, not in the one-time flower beds gone to grass but for the steadfast daffodils, rather out in the field, where I one year tossed extra bulbs, and by the old shed, where they were nearly consumed by invasive bittersweet and multiflora roses and whatever else grew amidst them.
The big tree had been a color softer than its usual vibrant deep green, and I realized its leaves had all flipped, their paler undersides turned upward, that supposed signal that rain was coming. And there I was, with rain falling, if sparsely, and thunder rolling, if only once.
Or so I thought. “Are you sure it wasn't the planes?” one of the horse tenders asked me later in the afternoon, and even as we stood in the pasture a jet, flying weirdly low, passed overhead, with that disconcerting sound of its engines coming from a place behind it in the sky.
Later, still, I went out, confounded by the too constant rumbling and walked into a world not solely of late spring birdsong and of leaves, too new and filled with moisture to rustle, fluttering gently against each other.
It was daylight yet, and nearly calm. The sound of mowers, working feverishly against the grass that grows so thick and fast, carried from somewhere on the other side of the Neck, and the sky, a low hanging blanket of heavy, blue clouds, was filled with the sound of planes. I walked out beyond the yard, out from under the canopy of that big maple and its companions, and still could not see the source of the rumble, too steady, too consistent, not to be from engines.
The sound was eerie and reminded me we were coming to the anniversary of D-Day, the extraordinary amphibious landings on the beaches of Normandy, the massive military action that firmly set the path to the Allied liberation of Europe which would come eleven months later.
The sounds reminded me we live where the only military planes we hear are ours, on maneuvers or, at worst, on search and rescue missions.
It is good to be reminded of the price of our privilege.