Shimmering October blue

Thu, 10/15/2020 - 5:15pm

The boats did not run yesterday. The long spell of good summer weather was, I think, more a blessing than a curse. While it surely lured more people to Block Island, it also kept life outside, windows stayed wide open, air circulated and for all that went terribly wrong the over-riding fear of the summer, a bloom of the pandemic, did not happen.

(Yet, the daily numbers for Rhode Island are not good, and we can only speculate on the causes; I worry about the changing weather and oncoming cool.)

It didn’t much rain but as a friend said years ago, toward the end of a dry July and August “it’s summer, it’s not supposed to rain!” one of those statements of the obvious which left me wondering when this all shifted, when we moved from this little fishing and farming community that lived off the land. Crops were plentiful when there were only dug wells and cisterns, and some springs and streams, not yet covered with layers of vegetation.

I grew up with a dug well, a stone-lined hole in the ground set by some miracle in the path of an underground stream. It sits at the edge of the peat bog pond and for years I wondered how it could be that clear water came from the murky pond. Then the well needed to be cleaned and I saw the flow into it from the landward side, capturing that vein of water on its way to the pond and ultimately the ocean.

Yesterday was the second day I was supposed to go to the mainland for a follow-up to the surgery on my broken arm, still a strange, alien, phrase to me. It has been two weeks, I am stunned to realize, almost as long since I had been beyond my yard, I was reminded on the futile trip to the landing yesterday morning.

The worst of the weather was supposed to pass by daylight and with a boat here overnight there was not the early call that has to be made before the 6:30 a.m. departure from Galilee. Still, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to a blasting wind and thought the likelihood of travel diminishing. It was still supposed to get better as the day went on, so maybe, if it let up a bit...

It was raining as well as blowing when we left the house but I was distracted by the novelty of being out, beyond my yard, and struck, again, by how long it had been when I saw the fencing at the beach. Last time I went past, paying attention, before my focus was on my arm, the cable re-burying equipment was just arriving.

Fifteen minutes after the notice had said the status of the boat schedule would be announced the purple flag had not been raised, although the sea was crashing over the east wall, and none of the very few cars waiting had been allowed into the line-up lot.

Then the alert came through, first boat cancelled, as the rest would be. Planes were not flying, I was stuck on Block Island.

The day did not improve, the ceiling did not lift, the ocean calmed only marginally. We were “stranded,” someone in the mainland doctor’s office said, a word I would not have chosen, but accurate.

It rained and blew off and on, a blustery but increasingly mild day, the hard chill of the weekend a faint memory.

The weekend, the last holiday weekend of the season, I missed completely. The boat schedule was disrupted by weather, as it had not been for any of the summer holidays. It was not the time I expect, the overall gloriousness despite the compressed sunlight of mid-October days.

Today, we are shimmering October blue, the ocean bright, the line of the horizon straight, not serrated by distant choppy water. The forsythia holds on, full and lush, snug against the living room window, but the big maple at the corner of the yard, exposed to every wind, is nearly bare. I can leave the door open, again, and let the dog come and go as she pleases.

The yard is thankful and green, although it never was brown and sear, with its plentitude of weeds and old grass, sheltering the new, a combination of liberal application of seed during a damp spring after a mild winter. The brush is burnished, especially bordering the ponds, our golds and reds, the ends of goldenrod and the popping of fall berries, the colors there for the looking, more subtle than the flaming trees of the mainland, but clearly the hues of autumn, and the groundsel, the forgotten bookend, the fall counterpoint of the spring’s shad, is white, especially around the shores of the New Harbor.

We may not have the calendar colors of Autumn in New England but colors are here for the finding.