Rolling spring

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 5:00pm

When I came inside yesterday afternoon the sparse forsythia scraping my window, the same that seems unable to recover from having been cut to the ground a few years ago, that refuses to do more than send ever taller shoots upward, glowed. Its yellow blossoms were like so many little suns on the other side of the glass.

It was the slanted light falling through the petals, creating an illusion not visible in the yard, when I was looking toward them, my back to the sun. Perhaps there is hope for the ancient shrub yet.

They — that great amorphous “they” — say we hear in the waves on the beach the sound of spring rolling in, and we have been doing just that, but it rolls, also, across the land. The forsythia at the head of the road, struggling a few days ago, looked to be surrounded by hopeless branches that will have their own season in the sun, will burst open and almost hide the red house behind them.

I've almost accustomed myself to the “red house” that was once white with dark shutters but now has been red for decades. For the longest time I thought people came down Mansion Road looking for the Clay Head Trail, probably not even so called back then, because of the geography and some long view I may have imagined, and their eagerness; that they were following the directions they had been given did not cross my mind.

They were turning at the first red house they came to, probably happy that it was closer than they had been told, perhaps taking directions from someone who never came down the Neck — sort of like me giving directions on the West Side — or just as likely someone who had the white paint imprinted on their memory. There were so many fewer houses, and most of them so much more visible than they are today, that those not of weathered shingles or painted white became landmarks.

There are points along the Mansion Road, ones I seem never to notice when leaving but always coming home, again, perhaps the light, the first daffodils and the forsythia, a wygelia that still looks as lifeless as bleached driftwood strewn on the beach, bright shrubs I will remember when they unfurl their fuschia leaves, rounds and rounds of new greening.

Spring brings surprises. There are clumps of dark green in the lot behind the house that once was an orchard. Some will prove themselves stands of stems that will turn to white flowers, one of those unexpected gifts of a new ISDS installed a few years back. Then, a top layer of earth, set aside when a trench was cut, was later spread out, and the forgotten bulbs within it grew, again, hidden by tall grass and weeds, feeding on their own greenery, waiting to be exposed to the sun.

They are good, if fleeting, distractions, these concrete reminders of the passage of time when “what day is it?” has become a common query, when even in the sunniest moments we feel a cloud, dark if out-of-sight, still hanging over us, waiting to douse us with reality.

It is the first day of April, one of those memorable dates, to recall a 1997 snowstorm, the last big one in an endless season of snowstorms, one worse than we have had now for quite a time. The neighbor came in on a high, yellow machine and shouted “this is not fun anymore!” before he plowed out, again, leaving a cleared road behind him. Another start of this month ten years ago found parts of Rhode Island underwater, the aerial photographs of the partly submerged cars in the mall parking lots in Warwick eerie reflections of the newscast shots of Route 95 after the Blizzard of 1978, when vehicles peeked out from feet of snow. Ponds were high, streams we didn't remember existed overflowed, basements and cellars flooded. It had rained much of March and the ground was sodden, unable to absorb another drop as buckets, bathtubs, whole tanker trucks, fell from the weeping sky.

There is rain in the forecast, there seems always to be rain in the forecast. We grab the sunny days, the sunny hours of the cliches, when they come our way, watching gratefully as diamonds are tossed on the ponds and into the waves, as the forsythia and daffodils shimmer with hope, and as we feel the new warmth of rolling spring, when we step out of the breeze.