Foretaste of Winter

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 7:45pm

We have had so many Labor Day weekends of hurricanes that never materialized in the wings, so many years of late August storm threats, some with floating docks pulled from the New Harbor in precaution, so many times of cars filling the Interstate parking lot in an attempt to get out before their appointed time in fear of being stuck for days when the ocean turned furious.

Sometimes we had storms, more often not, and of late none of the hurricanes that had danced around the Caribbean and struck the lower southeastern United States. The was great caution exercised after 1991, when Bob seemed to suddenly take form and fly up the coast to wreak havoc in the New Harbor, leaving it ringed with pleasure craft broken free of their moorings.

We lost an early day of school, our single “snow day” built into the calendar when I was in elementary school for a hurricane that would otherwise not be remembered, reaction then still to the rounds of devastation of the brutal storms of the 1950's.

This has been a different weather year, this was the summer we remember from childhood, accurately or not, long and sunny, with some rain falling while we slept, some thunder and lightning rolling around darkened night skies, with an occasional east wind leaving a sloped shore sliced perpendicular, allowing the formation of warm wading pools, reminders of high tide waves on the upper beach.

We did have the last, the cut shore, this year, more extreme and longer in place than usual, with reactions to it, like too many these days, exacerbated by “expert” claims on social media. There were rogue waves attacking the beach, people would say, and talk of how they had to move three times to keep from the reach of the tide. I waited to hear “tsunami” but I did not; perhaps reason took hold or people didn't want to say it to the woman who still says the moon closest to the earth is at perigee, it is not a Super Moon and who the heck ever coined that absurd phrase, anyway!?

The last holiday weekend was forecast to be good and Saturday, the last morning of August, was as close to perfect as a summer day’s start can be, warm but not hot, sunny but not blindingly bright, the fields almost springtime verdant, the result of those endless April and May and June rains and summer night showers. Along the road through my front field, just before it dips toward the curve out onto Mansion, there is a spot where there is a view open all the way to the entrance to the Old Harbor.

There is a swale sound follows. At night, when I lean out the window or go to the door to listen,  it brings me the surf and voices of kids busy at partying; years ago, returning from the morning beach with a very wet dog, I often heard the announcement of the first departing ferry played, the words almost audible flowing over the still, open water and up this trough, as I stepped back onto the edge of my yard.

Saturday morning, with the field clear, I could see whatever boat was leaving, its wake a glimmering white just outside the harbor entrance, the front street buildings, set to greet the incoming traffic, rising behind them.

The street makes no sense, it does not take advantage of the prevailing summer breezes and it faces the worse winter winds, but it does present well to visitors, drawing the eye above the working freight landing to the hotels with their mansards and gothic peaks, and the storefronts, all glass-walled afterthoughts.

My childhood memories do not coincide with the everything closed on Labor Day mantra I hear floating around me. There were not, I realize, so many things to close, but I remember going into the Star and Esta's both in the off-season, with whole areas partitioned off and space heaters, tall and cylindrical, probably burning kerosene, which would not be allowed today throwing warmth into the reduced open spaces when trade was still conducted.

There were upper floors of buildings that could not shut down because they sat unused the year round, there were a few buildings which were almost completely vacant, places where “they used to be...” this or that shop or boarding establishment.

But, as I have been saying to people all summer, I grew up in a place where not only were there no round-trip winter boats days, there was no boat on Sunday and we never thought about it.

There was a threat of rain Labor Day afternoon and while a bit fell it seemed to be more a maker of grand skies, the backdrop to the sun, too low too early, shining on the seeded grass on the hill behind my neighbor's old barn, an iconic view that is a part of all but the foggiest of days, and on those I look carefully, hoping to see the outline through the gray.

Then came the night after Labor Day when some establishments were completely dark, outdoor furniture stacked or overturned, steadied against a breeze. Places were not closed for the season, merely taking a break, breathing before going into their fall schedules, but they provided a foretaste of winter. Coming home after a meeting, only a bit after eight, the sun had set more than an hour earlier, all traces of it had drained from the sky.

In winter there is an expectation of emptiness and it barely registers, but at first it is raw, even when tempered by the fact it is temporary.

“Ah, September” they say with a deep sigh, as if welcoming back a trustworthy lover.

Labor Day came early this year but true to tradition there is a first week in September ever-changing hurricane down south, moving north after devastating islands in the Bahamas.

And tomorrow will be two minutes 39 seconds shorter than today.