Summer Storm Tide

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 9:15am

There is a screen in my window. Not in all my windows, and the door remains open while I am home, but firmly in the one the that draws the most birds, regardless of the season.

It is the window at which I hear a thump and sometimes see a bird lying on the ground beneath the glass, generally stunned, even one last spring that hit with such force I jumped. It lay on the grass, still, one wing distended, dead, I was sure. When I checked a moment or two later, that wing was moving and a bit later the creature had righted itself and flown away.

It is, I have always thought, the old narrow house, with the one-room-wide ell creating for them an illusion of a tunnel of light, through which they could pass and fly out the other side. In summer, when many sashes are open, birds come in the door, fly though a few rooms and zip out the kitchen windows; they are not catbirds, they are not messy, they cause no harm, the dog isn't as interested in pursuing them as others have been, it's all part of living in the country.

They build nests in the open back and front entries, sometimes I knock them down before they are occupied, other years I see a broken egg on the concrete and know I have to wait until it is the fall to get to it. This year has been a bit different. There has been one especially loud wren pushing the limits. One day it was annoyingly dog-like and flew into the bathroom after me. Astonishingly, rather than sit on the shower curtain rod, with an impertinence that would put a cat to shame, it left when I told it to “get out of here!”

Another day, there had been the odd bit of grass bound twigs inside, by the window, but this big dog with her great wet feet and love of sticks is always tracking in something and I thought little of it. Even when I finally found the start of a nest in a wide-mouthed jar on a shelf in the bathroom I was only mildly miffed, and dumped the dried leaves in the waste basket thinking that would be that.

Then a day later I found a pile of grass and leaves and twigs on the bathroom rug, the wastebasket empty, the beginnings of another nest on the high shelf, between the wall and a stack of towels.

It seems late for nest building, unless this is a second round, but now the screen is in place. It is a newer window, not designed to hold this old-fashioned adjustable screen and I have imaginings of getting up in the morning to find the screen knocked out by the force of the darn wren trying to get inside, fallen to the ground where that stunned bird lay last spring.

It is dark and there is falling a soft summer shower I hear only upon going past that window and absently wondering if the music of the raindrops hitting the leaves of the trees in the yard would be greater were the mesh not there, tiny squares of wires blocking bits of sound.

The grass is green, the earth is soft, there is none of that charred look that we are usually experiencing by this time in July. I went out in the late afternoon, gray and blessedly cool after a few days of horrid heat and humidity that kept me checking how much worse it was other places. The swale in the north pasture, the low place where water collects in the wet seasons, shallow enough that it froze solid in the brief deep cold of last winter, enough that at least one of the horses skidded across the ice, the place where water spread wider than I remember in this spring of endless rains, was a long narrow strip of silver with some odd vegetation growing up from its middle.

I expect it to be dry in summer and am grateful for other birds, swallows, swooping about presumably harvesting insects from the air as they sail through it.

Time ago it was swallows, pretty barns with their buff fronts and iridescent blue-black backs and wings and forked tails, that would come in the living room in June, a sign of summer. They never over-stayed their welcome, they were happy to build their nests in the high rafters of the old shed.

Impertinent wrens.

The rain is heavier but still falling straight down and I am not hearing the surf that was chewing the empty east beach this afternoon, leaving that ledge that marks the reach of the hungry — but not so  ravenous it gnaws to the toe of the dune — summer storm tide. It was all muted blue-gray and white and angry, reminding me of the nearly forgotten squall of the morning, of pounding rains and the flood warnings that wrap us into Washington County, often citing the potential level of the Pawcatuck River that runs through downtown Westerly, the alert inclusion perhaps the by-product of a long ago, never corrected coding error.

It seemed we were coming out of that wild weather cycle, a sky filled with thunder and lightning last night, a cooler morning, the crazy downpour and looks-like-fall weather faded away to a cool and comfortable after-the-heat afternoon. Now, it look as though there will be more rain, all night, another bank of green and yellow moving up the coast on the radar.

As with the heat over the weekend, that was so much worse elsewhere, and last night's storm that apparently had great winds just aloft enough to do us no damage, and the morning squall that was throwing up waterspout and tornado warnings just northeast of us, and downed trees and caused power outages on the Cape, perhaps this will be less.

It all puts the annoyance of nesting wrens into perspective.