The First Weekend of Summer
“Cloudy in the Capital City” they have been saying all day. On Block Island it has been beautiful, not in the way of a bleak winter morning when the sun can barely creep over the horizon to scoot low across the southern sky; or a raging fall storm, all power and glory and crashing white water.
Any day on Block Island, we say, is beautiful, but May has to be viewed through a very special lens. September, everyone says, is the best, but September brings days darkening around the edges. May we see through a very special lens — through the emerald glasses distributed at the gates of Oz.
Early, it was gray and calm, the horizon the most imaginary of lines off to the east, the pond a silver mirror too smooth to be isinglass, the grass new and young and proud, thick with moisture. A pale fog floated over the south end of the island but the rain forecast for the day drifted elsewhere making those words spoken in a radio studio not all that many miles away seem from a distant and alien land.
Later, the sun began to shine through and a wall of white, a solid bank of clouds, rose out over the ocean, an unyielding façade, a castle fortification behind which any sort of civilization might live. It is the sort of barrier through which great ships might pass on their way from one adventure to another, from one world to the next, at their helms creatures belonging to no world.
Armed with an old-fashioned weed whip I went out to do battle with the knotweed, a futile venture in any circumstance, this made even more so by ignoring the lesson of a successful containment of a single stand over years, decades, by no more than simple cutting.
Roots, I would attack the roots, I decided a few years ago, foolishly dumping them on the grass.
Knotweed roots are evil, lacking any redeeming qualities. They do not sprout vines that in turn produce plump, juicy blackberries or sweet, purple grapes; they do not send out thorny shoots from which white flowers erupt. I will not trouble myself with evil roots on this day bordering on the glorious, instead just chop down the hollow stalks that have grown to the low eave of the north roof of my old house. They fall easily, great green leaves fluttering, and old wooden shingles damp from all this rain and mist gathering vegetation, come back to the air, to dry.
What to do with these slain soldiers is always the question so I leave them, lying atop each other, the very way this problem began in the first place when I uprooted others. Tomorrow, or the next day, or after the weekend, certainly before they take root, again, I will move them.
It is easy to be distracted this time of year, by the late lilacs, purple edged with white, newly in bloom, and the blue flag iris popping up from the pond bed, and grass heavy with seed and running before the wind in the pasture beside the Neck Road.
Everywhere the air is filled with the scent of newly cut grass, still pliant and dewy at noon, and the beach roses have opened, white and pink, blanketing the dunes along the Neck Road. Even while the sun hides behind the clouds the light comes early and lingers long.
There is yet another distraction, a cock pheasant makes his way carefully across the lower part of my back yard. Later in the season he will stop and ruffle his feathers creating such a noise it will startle me, but today he proceeds with seeming caution. I lean a bit to the left so I can see over the wall where two big Canada Geese are devouring new grass with the voraciousness of … Canada Geese.
They are alone, the pair of Canadas. Their goslings suddenly grown, it seemed overnight, to the size of ducks, no longer shadow them.
I know if I do not put down the screens there is a good chance before the day is out there will be swallows in the house. The ell is narrow and has windows on either side, birds lured in by the light, oblivious to the fact of the room between opening on the east and the west. They panic and turn, heading for wherever the sun is brightest.
I should put down the screens but it is May and the fog has lifted, the horizon is a sharp line, the sun is shining
We are in the most glorious time of year but, being a New Englander, a part of me feels we do not quite deserve it after the mild winter we experienced.
It is almost Memorial Day. The holiday has snuck up on us yet again, this weekend that [usually] brings the summer in a cascade of sun and energy. It was the day we went in the ocean when we were children, a ritual trip to the eel-grass-filled Sachem (yeech!) before moving onto Scotch where we ran into and out of the colder ocean. There are kids on the beach today, and I wonder if they are bolder or if the weather really is different.
We went back to school, those of us with fair skin, burned red, even then envious of our classmates whose skin was turning an even golden tan.
It was in the afternoon we had these adventures, only after we had all attended the Memorial Day services at the Legion Park. We had prepared for weeks, rehearsing songs and learning the poems we copied in careful, new-to-us cursive writing in little blue notebooks.
There was no building yet on the site; they brought a podium from the school and sometimes a piano. They transported such things back then with less pomp and ceremony than is attached to a few chairs today. It was expected, it was Memorial Day, not yet the first weekend of summer but, somehow, so much more.