Green and Gray

Tue, 10/16/2012 - 1:09pm

Tomorrow is forecast to be cooler than today, but I am hopeful it will seem warmer; the little box in which the day sits, waiting to be released, shows a bright sun unencumbered by clouds.

It is welcome, this promise of sun, after two days of raw gray, the October that battles with the crisp golden air I chose to remember and anticipate. Then the rains begin and the darkness that underlies this season swirls around me.

The long process of shutting down that seems to have been going on for over a month continues in town as hours are lessened and restaurants close their doors for the winter in a burst of activity that mirrors April, half a year away.

The maple in my yard is sad, still clinging to a few shriveled brown leaves, even as I am managing to continue to wear my sandals, not in these last days of rain but perhaps tomorrow when the smiling sun returns. It will be like every other year — one day I will realize I have not worn them for weeks and will put them up on the shelf to wait for spring.

The grass is green with little sign of fading to brown, and there are tiny flowers, still, in the long lot behind the barn foundation, I know because I tired of not being able to walk in the field and unwound the wires which bound a heavy gate to old posts. The cow is back, lurking some days, others lurching on through the open barway into the barnyard, wandering about. She startles me sometimes but is not truly a bother, not enough to make me give up the old meadow where I have walked as long as I can remember.

It is always a surprise, in spite of all I know, that the edges have become so overgrown, the old paths have disappeared. There are little ponds down over the hills, places that were clear for decades until one summer when it rained and rained and everything grew. Now, there are paths that trace the travel of the deer, places where the brush is broken and the ground is oddly barren, but overall there is a feeling of land drifting toward the wild but not ready to make that final jump.

It is odd to recall the forgotten path over in that corner, where we walked when I was little, when the brush, I only years later realized, had just begun to take hold.

The visiting little black dog, the reason I was finally motivated to reclaim access to the field, tried to chase deer until she was distracted by a butterfly, and had no idea what to make of the cow. She charged, and barked, and quickly retreated, while the big red and white creature looked on, wondering what was this nuisance and how soon would it be gone.

Another day the cow was on the far hill and the little black dog — little on a big dog scale, not little, little — ignored her completely.

Today was all gray and green, from a spot high on a hill between the New Harbor and the ocean. It is a beautiful spot, where a great white tent sits the better part of the summer, a place of happiness and festivity. The tent has been taken down, the floor taken up, exposing the earth, cleared of grass, raked smooth, and the grand houses stand empty.

A big flag flies over the closest marina, stars and stripes bright in the gray day, and the newest of the old hotels sits on the rise across the water, starkly white on a wide green lawn. There is no activity to inform the season or the year and it is easy to slide back in time and imagine the barn, long ago converted to rooms with its form unaltered, still a barn with wide doors and a vented cupola. The walled garden lot beside it is not visible, but in the easel in my mind I draw it in summer, edged with flowers, filled with the corn and tomatoes and squash that will be ready to harvest in a few weeks.

The harbor is almost empty, it is after Columbus Day. To the east lies one of the inner ponds, protected from the wind, smooth and pewter gray, and spread with the webs of active aquaculture, a newer, to us, kind of farming. The surrounding land is colored with the fall, all green and white high tide bush in full flower, the second of the seasonal bookends that lie on either side of the summer, balancing the inland shad of May.

Out to the east, beyond the beach, the ocean is gray and white, rising up and slamming the end of the granite jetty protecting the harbor where the big boat, the serviceable Block Island, sits at the dock, waiting.

It is windy and rainy and gray up on the empty hill, light years from the festive place it was just a month ago when Block Island Conservancy celebrated its 40th birthday under the big white tent, when music flowed down over the almost empty harbor and some of us remembered when our parents and neighbors and friends were convinced to join the effort of one man. There were no big white tents 40 years ago, live music was a rare thing, not a given of most weekends from late May into early October.

It was a wonderful night when after a summer of strife, people seemed to want more than anything to be happy in a united and successful effort spanning generations. For a few hours the world was that glorious hilltop. Like so many good things, it ended too quickly.

The sun had broken through in time to set today, but the wind is blowing in the dark, surely ripping more leaves from that poor maple, and the east beach has been cut by high surf and biting wind. But that little happy face still shows in the weather box for tomorrow, pushing away the gray, promising one more day of green and gold.