Season of White
Another week and I look to the horizon, clear and sharp, deeply blue below a pale cloud-spattered dome. It has been raining in Providence, “torrential” they are saying, while we have enjoyed a day moving back and forth between pure sunshine and the muted shadows of an overcast sky.
The rain is moving, oddly on the radar, coming down from the north, so far disappearing as it hits the ocean.
Rain fell here, heavily, over the weekend, knocking new maple leaves to the earth, battering the bright peonies at my doorway, bending the tall grasses at the edge of the yard and filling the road shoulders that have yet to be trimmed. Even the knotweed is bent, not from the weather, perhaps from deer, but I think more likely the doing of the great marauding cow who seems to like my yard best out of all the places covering many, many acres she could roam at will.
Thankfully, she is red with a good deal of white, visible when I drive in at night, or when I take the visiting dog out in the dark. He is excited at the prospect and I try to tell him she doesn’t care and her lumbering off is a dismissal, not an invitation to play. She leaves behind the big brown pies cows leave, and I wait for the rain to wash them into the earth.
The cow has been around too much, I realize when I spot one of her gifts to Nature in the grassy middle of my neighbor’s road. It moves and I understand that it is a muskrat, greedily devouring the white clover.
The sun shone yesterday and the mowers, hampered by several days of rain, were out in force, an army leaving in their wake grass clippings spilling onto roads and clinging to shoes in the early morning damp. The new day came sunny and calm, the scent of all these cuttings filling the air.
The shad and the beach plum have gone by, the apple blossoms have fallen and the creamy candles of the grand horse chestnuts have shriveled to brown. More flowers have bloomed, pink roses and glorious rhododendrons, yard shrubs lavender and magenta, the last hurrahs of spring, lush after the recent rains.
We have come back to another season of white, of the daisies that used to fill meadows where houses now stand. As children, we picked them by the armload to be woven into the ferns laced into chicken wire frames. It was part of the ritual of graduation; adapted from the days when ladies of the town labored all day preparing the vast interior of the Baptist Church on Chapel Street for the ceremony.
The church burned on a windy December night in 1944 and graduation was moved to the then nearly new school on High Street. Floor to ceiling folding doors separating two class rooms were opened and a sort of auditorium created. A stage filled one end, and the flats of wire stood at the back of it, behind the podium and the chairs where the graduates and honored guests would be seated.
Ferns have a short life once they have been cut and we went out in the morning, to places impossible to drive today, and filled the trunk of my mother’s old black car with ferns as tall as we. The older kids pushed them into the spaces in the wire, with the daisies outlining the year in white and yellow.
Later, in the evening, when we were seated below the stage and expected to be quiet throughout the proceedings, we watched the ferns start to droop as the speakers droned on and on and on. But we were quiet, the music and primary school teacher were one and the same and we knew better than to incur her wrath.
One year someone decided it would be easier to just use paper, napkins perhaps, stuffed into those same wire squares. I do not know when they ceased to be used, perhaps when graduation moved to the Spring House. It was all history by the time my class graduated from the stage of the Empire Theatre, wrapped in the cool damp of a building never really open to the sunshine.
It is the still season of white roses that fill the morning, the tiny multiflora that cascade over the stone walls and climb every tree-shrub to which they manage to attach themselves, bayberry, old apples, dead pine and strangled maples. They are everywhere, covering the few old stone foundations that remain, reminders of the farms that once dominated the island.
Over the weekend the ocean was high, and when it looked to be settled the list of the boat coming into the harbor betrayed the all but invisible swell. Then, I looked beyond and saw a tail of white reaching out from Clay Head and finally noticed a fine white spray falling over the long east wall running out to the green light.
The tides were high. I have come to love the high tides best of all, the ones that come up this time of year, covering the marshes, leaving only the top of the highest green grasses visible. Time ago it was the low tides I cherished, those rare extremes that made it possible to cross from the Neck Road to the Hog Pen on dry land and uncovered remnants, the edge of an old bridge, these lows that made me so aware of the power of the moon.
Later in the evening, when it seemed we had eluded the storm, it arrived, not the whole storm but simple rain and a few distant rumbles of thunder. In the morning there will be white petals on the ground and more grass will be leaning, its heavy seed reaching for the comfort of the earth.
The road will still be lined with wild roses, walls of white among the green.