Fractured sunlight

Tue, 10/02/2012 - 5:42am

It is Wednesday, the weekday the landfill/transfer station, aka dump, is always open (as Thursday is one of the days it is always closed, my certainty in the world of shifting schedules to which our little seasonal town is subject). It can be confusing, I am so accustomed to turning left at the head of the Mansion Road that I was — not for the first time — almost a mile south before I realized where I was supposed to be going. It’s like all the years I spent going to meetings at the school — it was a good year before I did not have to make a conscious effort to override the autopilot turn onto High Street.

The roads are empty, without the attention-demanding mopeds and bicycles and walkers, and I am looking at the trees, leaves falling, the cuts made to keep the wires clear more evident than they are in summer. (Why not just take the trees down? They are behind the wall but on the street side of the highway boundary markers set after the 1964 reconstruction; yes, the highway land does not end at the edge of the pavement.) I put on my blinker and only at the last instant remember I am not headed home, back down the Mansion Road, but to the dump/landfill/transfer station.

The porch on Uncle Ansel’s house is being re-done, John’s porch I’ve called it for years, an ornate row of carefully cut pieces that were far more than balustrades, crazily ornate, the maintenance of them a full time job. It will be beautiful, I am sure, it is a beautiful house, on the way to the dump.

It’s fall, time to start clearing out the paper accumulated over the summer, part of the reason I was going to the dump, to dispose of all the scraps with phone numbers (whose? no idea) and emails (some containing clues). And snippets of summer’s little exchanges I wanted to remember, notes that went nowhere today, among them:

“A little girl with dark hair and eyes tells me “I’ve never seen a rainbow in my life!” She is tethered to safety, her small hand in the secure keeping of her father, who does what dads do best — he smiles at the proclamation and affirms my assurance that she’ll see plenty of them, she has lots of living to do.”

I remember, now, that day, and later thinking the same thing when first confronted by a picture in a story book, a boy leaning against a red barn under an arc of color. My mother painstakingly explained the splitting of the light, and told me the colors were always the same, red to blue. I am surprised I even heard, perhaps I remember only because it was so annoying — like that little girl, I wanted to see a rainbow, not hear about what it was.

The rainbows I saw for years were those scraps, which was fine, the one in the book, as I remembered it, had only been an end, a piece reaching up into a blue sky.

It was not until the 1970s that I witnessed the glory of a full rainbow, rising from Clay Head reaching across the summer sky, to the Littlefield Farm, always I think of it that way, left to right, like colored text drawn across the sky. It was more, it was full and it was double and I knew there was no need to write down the date, I would always remember.

July in the latter part of the 1970s is the best I can do, but in my defense, there were many more to follow, these double arcs out over the ocean, away from land and trees and buildings that can block one’s view of them. We do not have more rainbows, I tell those who ask often over the course of a summer, if is simply that we are better able to see them. They are even in the surf, where the sun hits the cresting waves and is fractured by the spray.

There were no rainbows today, there was no rain, contrary to the morning forecast, spoken while the sun was shining and while there was no hint of anything but a tiny shower on the radar. The only tropical storm — up to the “N”s we are — is Nadine, out fluttering around the Atlantic, posing no serious threat.

It was supposed to be cloudy, then stormy, but the closest we came was a bit of gray and now, after dark, the moon is bright on the land. I walk outside and despite the change in the seasons, the ever shrinking daylight, the feel of fall especially in the late afternoon, the sound of the night is still of summer, crickets and surf and no wind.

It is almost October, the part of the front field not given over to jungle is layered with varieties of goldenrod, faded to brown and white, some still brightly yellow in the sunshine. It hasn’t been that many years since the land edging the road was mowed but it has been time enough for bayberry to grow feet high, shiny green in the autumn, mixed with the weeds of gold.

It used to be bayberry that devoured the abandoned meadows, growing up when fields had been cleared centuries ago for grazing and growing. A multitude of factors, many not unique to Block Island, pushed out small farms well before development on any scale began.

The bayberry and the shad and all the wild roses and for year the vines that had some restraint, the Virginia Creeper, October red, and bowers of honeysuckle, their sweet scent filling the damp night, even the grapes that grew up into old trees, using the branches as an arbor, were not this crazy green vine that grows into everything and shoots out the top, turning apples to willows, making me wonder what will come along to surpass it.