Country roads

Tue, 07/17/2012 - 5:13pm

It seems that it has rained often, rained at day’s end. So when the sound rolled across the field, despite the fact there was no appearance of rain, I went outside, remembering stepping out into a sun shower last year.

There was no rain in the muted, shadowless afternoon, just a harmony of nature, crickets, surf, and a breeze making all the green leaves rub against each other. Later, it would pick up and would become so cool I would be lowering the windows, not to discourage the curious birds but to lessen the flow of the night air.

Yesterday was as flawless a summer day as ever happens. Like the solstice, it carried with it the sadness of perfection in knowing the immediate ideal will not be reached for another year. I remind myself such thoughts are nonsense, the sun rises long before 6 a.m. and sets after 8 p.m., there are about 15 minutes less of daylight — negligible —and much as I think I notice the difference, I think it is more that I have noticed the trend has reversed, like that day in December when the sunset stops coming earlier.

But the day was perfect, the one I would gladly take from Memorial to Columbus Day. It held Camelot night rain, a few soft showers just for the experience of steaming summer pavement, and the occasional lighting storm. That is the weather that is summer, in my mind anyway.

The water willow is high above the level of the pond and it is only mid-July; the grass is beginning to turn sear and brown, but the trees seem all to have grown over the winter. Coming back from the dump, my only forays north of the Mansion Road, it seems there is more shade than there has ever been, and I wonder when it was the maples in front of the old boarding house grew so lush.

Once, when I was very little, there was almost a clear view from that spot to the old farm above the beach, down across fields just beginning to slip from pasture to scrub brush. There were real wooly sheep in the Sheep’s Meadow, the Minister’s Lot was empty and there were only three houses on the road that ended at the Mansion.

Every spring the trees get a bit taller, and every summer I notice the broadening green canopies sprung from little more than random volunteer trees. The pines were the ones planted and planted and planted, the same that grew tall enough by the seventies to be bent and broken by the snow that used to fall, before the disease came to kill them once and for all, leaving wastelands of slowly rotting woods, havens for birds if nothing else.

It is in summer I notice that despite all this growth the road has widened, largely due to all the summer traffic and the many cars — or their drivers — that cannot be disabused of the notion that this is a two-lane road.

There is an odd, unnatural tunnel to the Mansion Road, where the land rises high on either side of the traveled way. I never understood it and no one ever explained it in a way that made any lasting sense and now, in summer especially, I think of it as a sort of Looking Glass, a passage from Corn Neck — and all that dump traffic — to this low country of muskrats and owls and the lone cow I’m beginning to miss when she is not in my yard when I come home.

There are days I want to throw out a match and burn off these overgrown fields, an image left from childhood when they still dared incinerate the fields; they were the greenest in the spring, the new shoots not having to fight their way through the last season’s dead brown grass, but I am afraid to put paper to flame even within reach of a long hose.

In the horrid and wonderful world that is not so far in the past, they used to burn the dump, then push the ashes back into the swamp and start over again. I am still not convinced it was, in theory, such a bad idea, at least while the materials being burned were papers and wood and fabric, before the proliferation of plastic everything.

Of course they also kept the dust on the road down with discarded crankcase oil. I have to wonder how much worse it was than this dreadful soy oil upon which rats feast. Lots worse, I would guess.

Everyone loves their country road, the summer dust more than a fair trade for not having snow or mud. There are blackberries along these roads, and little ponds, there for the looking. Maples overhang, offering shade in summer, pools of cool on the hottest days.

They sometimes feel as if they are all that is left of another time, and they are too often under siege by those who would turn them into boulevards under the general banner of “I love Block Island so much I want it to be just like [fill in the blank mainland town].”

So, today, imagine my horror when I met, not some hulking Suburban or less-than-courteous Jeep rental (do the drivers not know how easily they are identified?), but a stretch limousine. And not just a stretch limo, but a white stretch limo with, as a complete stranger offered as a complete explanation: “Connecticut plates!” It’s been around for awhile, I’ve seen the absurdly out-of-place vehicle in town, wending its way around Rebecca, looking... silly.

I have no idea how it stays so pristine or if its sole purpose is housing a crew that does nothing but clean it. In a town that can at least provide a minimal control of rental mopeds, we might innocently asked why there isn’t a law against such things.

On the Mansion Road, I want to hold onto every minute of summer, to not let it go easily. Here on the Mansion Road, I’m seeing August.