Muddy Water

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 2:00pm

It is cool this morning, and breezy, but bright, a beautiful day when the green, green grass will not be parched quickly by the high June sun. Yesterday, it rained but there is no great puddle in the barnyard, only a depression of darkened, dampened earth, reminding me of what was there.

Not a week ago I made one of my infrequent with-the-car trips to the mainland. All winter, when the schedule is sparse, long-term forecasts of bad weather which rarely materializes tend to keep me island bound, a circumstance compounded his year by a puppy. It is almost summer, I had an appointment made six months ago, and paid little attention to “it’s supposed to rain on Thursday” because I had an appointment and it is almost summer and the weather is going to do what it is going to do.

It was one of those days when people ask “how was the boat ride?” in a certain tone, hoping to hear of a near disaster that never quite happens or we’d, none of us — or very, very few — would ever leave the island. It was fine, but for the expected roll leaving the mouth of the Old Harbor, calm and not even gray, more a passage on a matte silver sea.

Years ago on the way to New York (I had the train tickets, I had to go that day!) I was in southern Rhode Island on a day of light snow and the roads were empty, the stores mine. Rain, apparently, is not such a deterrent, and parking spaces close to doors were not available and, of course, while I was inside buying a very big crate for my golden retriever, Autumn, the skies opened up. It was Job Lot, a place like Benny’s where there is still, thankfully, always someone to help carry a big purchase, even in the rain.

I have long lived in Rhode Island and remember when the trees on the median on Route 1 between Wakefield and Westerly were new and small, when there were particular houses along the way that were noticeable and notable. Now, in early June, even in a spring so cold and late, those ornamentals are too big, all lush and green, allowing only tiny glimpses of places that were once familiar mileposts.

Still, it would have been a good day to enjoy all that new life but for the rain which was falling in great pounding sheets, making me realize the longest I drive in such weather is a very few miles of familiar road, and usually even between my house and the harbor the force of the downpour greatly varies. I do not know of another time when I have run my windshield wipers at top speed for more than a few seconds; that day the distraction of them was negated by necessity.

I tried not to think of Autumn left outside on a lead. She had had very clear instructions that she could go under a thickly leafed out tree or, if the rain turned heavy, into the entryway, but I had never left her for so long. It wasn’t that bad in the early morning, perhaps the line of the storm was somewhere just north of Sandy Point, perhaps she was not getting drenched.

It was not that cold, I kept telling myself, and she is for all intents and purposes, a golden retriever.

My destination was Westerly, near the hospital. When we were kids and there were no three-boat days in winter and no one had a car in Galilee and the Sprigg Carroll carried maybe three automobiles, people flew to Westerly, took a cab to the doctor’s or to the walkable downtown shopping district. There was Rexall drugstore with a soda fountain, a sporting goods shop, several clothiers, a movie theater, even a Woolworth’s. The train stopped and we boarded it for rare trips to Providence and visits to relatives in Massachusetts.

Now it is Everytown, with a street of beautiful historic buildings struggling against the sprawl that begins east of Dunn’s Corners and on this rainy day I did not even get there, if only to drive around the nationally recognized Wilcox Park behind the library. The last time I checked the one train that made it possible to go to New York on a reasonable schedule no longer stopped at the painstakingly restored station.

Every time it seemed the rain had let up it had not. The appointment that was the reason for the trip out of the way, another made six months hence, I headed back to Wakefield, for a few last odds and ends before the requisite stop at the gas station and the boat. The trip home was, again, calm, and the weather was clearing when we docked.

Autumn was outside but, to my amazement and delight, she was not soaking wet, not wet at all above her knees, a circumstance she soon remedied with a visit to that great puddle in the barnyard, filled after a day’s rain. She cavorted, as though she had been waiting all day for the chance and I let her romp, chasing some imaginary creature, while I unloaded the car.

Romping was not enough, she must have dived into the inches of muddy water when I wasn’t looking; she came to me all wagging tail and wagging body, happy and dirty and very, very wet.

She is, for all intents and purposes, a golden retriever with that genetic disposition to tennis balls and water, the muddier the better. She also has a fondness for black plastic, my computer mouse and yesterday an alarm clock I had unplugged and but for the trailing cord might not have noticed she had. Perhaps it is the texture, she has discovered turtles that she can carry in her mouth, sure I will want them as much as the mouse or clock or remote control.

I had best go find my phone...