Reach of the Gale

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 4:01pm

Last week was one of the worst of any year, that stretch of days leading to the morning the clocks fall back. It is never as bad in reality as in anticipation, come after days of looking at the darkening sky and thinking “next week it will be like this at . . .”

The impact was lessened this year by yet another end of October/start of November storm, “the witch of November come early.” It is silly how easy it has become to find the full lyric from which that line is taken; there is no having to search through old vinyl for a Gordon Lightfoot record I may or may not have saved, no slipping it onto the seldom used turntable and no waiting for a particular line in a word-rich song. A quick search yields me results and I read words I had forgotten, as appropriate to our waters as the Great Lake which took the ship Edmund Fitzgerald and her crew.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes

When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

Someone from the west side of the Neck commented this is the third year his journal entry for these days has been of storm and I was reminded of how extraordinarily cyclical our weather is. 2013 was stormy; Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012.

Our measure of weather is the boat and it stopped running Saturday morning. Sunday night at the north end of the part of the road we lost in Sandy, black sand was spilling onto the pavement. The beach comes up over the road in any bad storm but I seem to notice it more after the near loss of 2008 and theretofore unexperienced devastation that came two years ago.

The whole face of the beach changes from season to season, from year to year, its very level can alter one’s perception. Years ago I stood on the north end of Mansion Beach on a winter day and wondered whatever had happened — and when — to the dunes before realizing they were not lower, rather I was standing on sand that had not been there a week earlier.

The changes in the beach some years are all that account for the difference in how much of it is visible from the highway. It has not felt that way since Sandy. I know, not from memory but maps and photographs and recollections of those older than I, that there was once more land on the seaward side of Corn Neck Road. A jail sat there, something that seemed more a subject of postcard photographs than criminal justice. Built on sand, they said it was, and “inmates” — such as a tiny single room cell could hold — could easily dig their way to freedom.

In one picture there is even a dory behind it, the “get-away” boat already in place.

Then the storm was just another journal entry. Election Day morning the sun was rising earlier, if a bit more to the south, and the wind went calm, letting the mild envelop the earth unbothered. We’d gone from purple flag cold and gray to summertime dream.

The butter-and-eggs, bright yellow and orange wildflowers, rise happily in the field when I go out to throw Autumn her toy of the day, a bright street hockey ball, beach bounty. It has no bounce and its smooth surface slips and slides from her mouth but it is, for the moment, her favorite. That and the long loops of braiding that were once laced into a rug, the ones she tosses about the yard until she gets herself hopelessly tangled and comes inside and stands, waiting for me to free her, yet again.

The clocks have changed, the boat schedule is in the last weeks before the bare-bones of post-Thanksgiving and the transfer station hours have been reduced. I was so sure I knew what they were and loaded the trash I had been unable to take over the weekend in the bad weather. It is a part of living in a place with such a seasonal rhythm, these changing hours. Sure of the calendar I never looked at the sign at the head of the road and even reaching the first, closed, gate had a reaction I later realized was familiar, the total denial of closure I have both experienced and witnessed: the facility was not closed, only the traffic re-routed, I reasoned.

The second gate was shut and, finally, I looked at the sign. Closed on Tuesday. It has been a long time since I have been caught by this one. Usually I see vehicles on the Neck Road, headed south, their loads of trash intact. I would not have that particular journey, as would the several cars I met on my way back to the main road.

Experienced and witnessed.

Coming home, I notice again the big maple at the corner of the yard, the sky showing through its upper branches, stripped of leaves by the storm, while lower ones, on the leeward side, remain sparsely clad. It is always about the wind I think when I find the dog dish blown around the corner and the empty wheelbarrow run up against the heavier vegetation where the front field begins, but something else much lighter and far less stable still sitting atop a barrel around another corner, just beyond reach of the gale.

The worst of the storm had come from the north and the north-northwest, the winds from which I am partly protected by the hill of Clay Head. It was the noise of it, not the feel, that made me have to close and lock the window next to my bed, the one beyond which the upper branches of the canopy of another tree sway and whoosh.

It is closer to the house, less exposed, and a different variety, always greener earlier and later than the serviceable maple and it has leaves, still, but November winds have just begun to blow.