Flashing Green

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 7:15am

The trees at the west end of Chapel Street are burnished, as is the great horse chestnut at the old Town Center. Yet it came as a surprise that the maple at the corner of my yard was not full and lush; only in a photo did I notice sky showing through its branches. Perhaps I do not notice it when coming home these days, as I am often watching a deer in the road, or a deer and a pheasant, or a golden dog who never seems to be quite coming or going. There are days she, my Autumn, and a deer are at a standoff, just watching each other.  

There was, they tell me, a great showing of comets last week, but I saw only a few, one screaming red another a mere whisper of white and a few in-between. There were planes upon planes, layers of them high in the sky and I did not stay out long.

Who needs lawn furniture I have long thought, but I think those days of lying on the grass and bounding up easily are behind me. We did it, I silently protest to myself, when I was a child and my father talked of the Milky Way and the moon we had yet to reach. We waited to see the great beam of the late-Friday New London boat, the old Block Island, cut the sky when it turned into the New Harbor. It was amazing then that it was so bright now I wonder if I could even see it for all the vegetative growth and ambient light.

Then I know, in the way of grown children looking back through the lens of decades, that despite my thinking my parents ancient, my dad was then many, many years younger than I am today.

Now it is simply hot in a way it rarely is, the horizon is hazy, the curtains are hanging flat even in a room with windows on the east and west. There is no wind from the sea today, not even the occasional warm sigh. It is supposed to be the last day of a real heat wave in Providence, a term which apparently applies only to three consecutive scorchers.

I had thought to go to the lighthouse today. The great brick structure, only one of two of its kind ever built, the sole survivor and a National Landmark. I cannot go up there and look out at the towers being built in the water, the foundations of the wind turbines to come, and not think of this grand building we so cherish.

It would never be built today. It wouldn't be built for all the obvious reasons, government funding does not allow for grand buildings anymore, the artistry of ironwork that was ornamental — that covered fronts of city buildings — is no longer part of the public landscape.

No, it would not be built because it would stand in someone's view, it would not be built because birds would hit the lens and be killed (look at the tags in the bird collection at the school!), the foghorn would disturb the neighborhood and the light... one can only imagine today's reaction to the original fixed white light and later the flashing green that distinguished it from other beacons along the coast. Would there be layers of controversy over sleep disturbance or full enjoyment of one's property? 

We certainly would not have an airport, but that is a while 'nother story.

Later, the breeze from the southwest is surprisingly cool when I go out with the dog. It is oddly dark, winter dark, and the sound of the ocean is not the gentle muted murmur of a summer night. It is not wildly crashing, rather waves hitting the beach, distinguishable one from the other. 

The temperature is higher than I would have guessed, the heat of August that comes even as the hours of daylight start to diminish. A 7:42 sunset will be a summertime dream in December but it is almost 40 minutes earlier than it was two months ago and the long rays of evening have moved from one of my west facing living room windows to another. It is one of the delightful quirks of an old house without great expanses of glass, the annual reminder of the travel of the sun.

But while there is the surf and the occasional voice drifting up from the beach, the soundtrack of the night is dominated by cicadas, their tinny chorus echoing across the fields. They are usually background noise, just another summer sound but tonight they are louder than the inevitable loud car that will roar to the beach in an hour or two. They are unlike the spring peepers I have heard go silent when another dog bounded down to the pond; they pay no mind to Autumn's periodic running out to bark at whatever she thinks is there. 

More wild flowers of late summer have bloomed, a great stand has staked claim to a spot of ground next to the old shed. The Joe Pye weed in the field is high and purple, and the Roses-of-Sharon are in full flower.  

There is one still, down the lane, growing up amidst the blackberry vines, a miracle of a tree, grown from a shoot of another fallen on the ground below, on the other side of the vanished wall. My fall project it is, now, the clearing of that wall. Or winter, when the vegetation is brittle and the sun is low in the south, when in normal winters the snow is not a permanent mantle.

On moonlit nights it haunts me, my diminishing lane, but this night is dark. I look toward town and wonder if the power has gone out, unsure how that could happen when things are fine here, then I think to walk upstairs and see over the summer thick brush the lighted town and the green flash of that beacon on the bluff.