White stars and pink roses
It was, by any definition, a wash-out of a long weekend. Yes, we needed the rain, and more that is forecast for tomorrow, and it is far too early in the season to be thinking such a thing. Some of the knotweed at the edge of my yard went over in the wind driven rain, more likely an occurrence of a summer storm, when the annoying weed has been sapped of the strength
of youth. The big maple, the tree at the corner of the yard grown from a seedling taken from the side of the Mansion Road when I was little, hit by lightning decades ago, that somehow, one day was big and strong if awkwardly multi-trunked from its base, is still dense and green, if diminished. It surprises me every year, coming into full and glorious bloom in late May, losing
leaves the whole of the summer and into the fall it seems.
It is fine but I do not expect the lawn to be as littered with solid maple leaves Memorial Day weekend as it was the week before with crab apple blossoms.
The water willow rimming the pond has yet to green and the bayberry that once dominated the landscape but now lurks beneath the shad and skulks behind the beach roses is slow, among the “are they dead or just late?” group of island flora.
The tent is gone from the lawn at the head of the road, the chairs and tables taken away, the final farewells to a longtime neighbor, one both seasonal, and year-round over the course of the years, said. A few nights earlier there had been a pop in the dark. “Fireworks?” was a question barely formulated before I remembered that her family was arriving for a delayed funeral service and gathering. I looked west and, as expected, saw a galaxy of white stars illuminating the black sky over what I’ve always known as the Homestead, the Mott house on the corner.
Today, trees carefully planted have grown tall, and created quite a buffer for a house on as busy a summer corner as can be found outside town; it is the way to Mansion Beach after all. I’ve no idea how visible the house is now, from the road, I see it because I know it is there, but I know it is not fully exposed as it was when I was little, and earlier, when the lady being honored was young and could see, from the same lawn, the boats arriving in both the Old and New Harbors.
I remember the house, a simple white Cape Cod, with red shutters. It startles me, now, to realize how far back one has to go to find photos of it looking so, and worse, the blank stares that meet my casual “it used to be white.” Of course, I saw it every day, year in and out, it was not just a background piece of a summer memory.
It was years and years ago, after the Laphams opened their land to walkers but before the marker on Corn Neck Road was set, that strangers would arrive here, the terminus of the soft left turn at the bottom of Mansion Road, looking for the trails on Clay Head. It never bothered me, most of them were truly appalled that they had driven onto private property, and I long wrote it off to the impossible, seeing Clay Head and taking the turn.
It was before the trees had grown thick, and people anxious to reach their destination, likely going by some vague down Corn Neck Road directions, with a guess of distance sealed with a definitive “turn right at the red house” had done just that, turned at the first red house.
I do not remember who pointed it out to me that the first red house was on the corner of Mansion but it was quite a revelation although I immediately absolved myself of any complicity, certain I would have added the qualifier of the red house on the right just past the yellow house on the left. Just beyond the Dump Road.
In any event, it was a lovely send off for a long life well lived. The yard was the rich green of spring, with the sound of great grandchildren playing just within range, and the beach roses that seem to hold the better soul of this place drifting from the road that ends at the shore.
We see the roses, in their just-before-the-season splendor, these crazy immigrant flowers that took root in our sandy New England earth. It was May 17 that I noticed the first bloom by the first access closest to town, and made a point of looking along the roadside, finding a scant few open.
Only two weeks later that first wave has come and been so battered by the rainy wind the flowers have almost flattened, looking like the native wild roses, pretty and pink, most easily distinguishable where they grow entwined with and anemic against their brighter, distant, cousins on paths of the beach.
We see only the roses until we stop, and notice brambles growing up among them, and that pesky but ground holding bayberry in the background, and past blossoming beach plum I know are there because I pass them every day. There are some new rose buds, offering promise, and there are petals on the sand, beaten away already by the storm.
Just beyond the low dunes there is more evidence of the storm, banks of seaweed washed in on a hard east wind, drifting down into the water, again. I watched it one year at Mansion, great mounds of it, filled with the flotsam and jetsam of the sea, drying, compressing, and being covered by the ultimate forgiveness, the south-westerlies that carry sand down from the dunes and restore the shore.