Sounds of Summer

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 12:00pm

The beach is empty, a surprise in late June, even early on a foggy morning with a forecast of impending rain. There are sounds in the thick air that in winter are masked by the wind. The halyards clang against my neighbor’s flagpole in other seasons but as a part of cacophony; now the ringing is a solo piece flowing down the hill to the shore. There is little surf, no roaring breakers, no rumbling rocks tumbling upon each other as they roll in the broken waves.

Down near Jerry’s Point, there is a tree, or what was a tree, a substantial trunk, topped by a few sparse branches, aimlessly drifting in the surf. It was surely fallen from a mainland river bank and carried out to sea, where it managed not to be hit by a boat or be taken under by the weight of the water. Now, by some joke of nature, it cannot get ashore, stopped a few yards out by those insignificant branches ramming into the sand, preventing the long, heavier body from rolling in, parallel to the shore.

It will happen sooner or later but I am impatient and Autumn, my golden retriever, has a surprising lack of interest; perhaps it is too quiet in the fog shrouded morning. We go home as I am mindful of the forecast of rain expected all day, the rain that they tell me fell straight and soundless only after dark that night, if it in fact even fell at my house.

Then there is an odd sound on another summer evening, mechanical, an unfamiliar motor noise that in winter would elicit a wave of panic over all the things it might mean have gone wrong in the systems of a creaky old house. Now, that visceral reaction passes quickly, before it has a chance to grab me by the throat. This is offshore.

Often I need only look to the east to see whatever boat is throwing its voice over the calm water, one of the big water carriers — as the PUC classifies our ferries — or a surprisingly small vessel making its way back to the mainland as day ends, tha-wapping as it jerkily makes its way home. That there is nothing in view does not disturb me, I know the sound, it is familiar, it is a part of summer. There is a boat somewhere out there, moving across the surface of the sea.

It is the same the next day, when hanging laundry I hear across the field the chug of the tractor. Were the sound slightly different I might think it the town crew working on the Mansion Road but I know this is the neighbor off cutting or tedding or raking or baling hay. I can almost smell the cut grass on the sunny breeze that shakes the sheets dry, it seems, by the time I have finished pinning socks to the other end of the line.

Autumn, who lives by the credo “nothing there, well I’d better bark at it” pays no more mind to these bigger noises, the boats and tractor and — so far — the linen flapping temptingly, than she did to the invader on the beach, although she does think it her duty to make herself known to a low flying plane. Generally, she focuses her attention on things I barely notice anymore, they are so familiar, construction up the road or the clang of metal at the more than a mile distant transfer station. One day it was the mourning dove sitting, motionless and mute on the ridgepole of the old shed, steadfastly ignoring the dog on the grass below it.

She apparently deems motionless and mute as good as “nothing.”

Winter was so long, spring so slow in coming, summer seems to have arrived by the back door and it is a shock to realize I am writing for an issue that will arrive in July, days into the month. I think “fireworks?!’ and look over at Autumn who, on cue, decides to woof at a bird chirping in the yard.

We have had neither significant fireworks nor thunderstorms since this dog came to live with me on the first day of fall last year. She will be a year old this month; my puppy in a grown-up body.

Now that the windows are open and the sounds of the season pour inside I am doing what I have always done, lean out the window into the yard to absorb the scent of summer and for it learn new things about this dog of mine. This week I realize there is no grass around the lace-cap hydrangea close to the house because she runs around it and around it and around it, for no reason I can see.

It is different in town, where the sounds come in great waves, a mobster of mopeds (rather like a murder of crows) splitting at Rebecca, some swarming up High Street needless of their companions on the little incline of Spring Street yelling “wrong way!” It is not so bothersome that they make U-turns, there is no traffic coming, it is the absolute abandon with which they do it, that crazy sense of entitlement probably exercised by a small minority of riders; unfortunately, they are the ones remembered.

Now, as June ends, the momentum of the Fourth of July has been building. Late Monday afternoon boats were rafted across the Old Harbor, the New Harbor filling, in anticipation of the holiday. There is chatter of floats being built this year and talk of others, already, for next season.

It does not seem possible, after that endless winter, that we are almost at the Fourth of July, but here we are, in the start of summer when no day seems shorter than the one before it, and briefly, we can believe it will last if not forever, a very long time.