Green leaves and wavy glass

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 10:45am

The season has peaked. The lilacs have turned brown and sere, their glory gone for another year, and tall grass hiding one side of the ever-narrowing lane behind my house is bending under the weight of seed. It is worse, even, at the gate, the turn off Mansion onto my road, a near tunnel these days, between high walls of green. 

Leaves on the trees are healthy, thick, and filled with rain. Yesterday, I watched the maples in front of the bank, swaying in the breeze, their motion exaggerated by the wavy old glass of small-paned windows in the Historical Society ell.  

One of those maples lost a limb decades ago when a school child tried to climb into its too young branches. He wrote a letter of confession to the First Warden, who read it with great solemnity at a meeting of the Town Council.

It was small when planted and grew in the lee of what was then the Post Office building; it and its companions haven't the obvious winter storm wear of the trees just a few yards away, the instant landscaping of the grocery where the direction of the salt-laden winds can be read in the misshapen foliage.  

The building on the corner was then a utilitarian structure, one story, cement block, with a flat roof and brick facing only on the sides exposed to the street. It housed the Post Office when it was first built; a few years later the bank, then primarily a summer outpost of the old Industrial National in Providence, not open every day in winter, moved into the space adjoining. And Fred Benson's office must have been there from the start; I think it was where we took our driver's test when he was the DMV on-island rep. 

Now, I wonder if these trees are the same, or if they were replaced when the Post Office moved and the building was remodeled, pushed out on the east and west and a second story added. They are lovely either way. 

Autumn, my golden dog, nosed me from sleep this morning only to stop short at the landing, her nose pressed to the glass of the window set low in the wall, a whimper/whine/growl starting to vibrate in her throat. She often stops, I always look, usually to wonder whatever it is she thinks she sees out there, then she bounds down the stairs, ready to go outside.

Today, there was in clear view a snapper, a large, heavy-shelled, prehistoric-looking snapping turtle, in the grass under the clothesline. Its big head was out but it had stalled, perhaps stopped in its tracks by some primitive instinct of potential danger. 

Autumn clattered down the uncarpeted treads and stood at the door at the foot of the stairs, expecting me to turn the knob and let her out to pursue this alien in our yard. While I was sure the snapper would just retreat into its shell, or stand up and gallop across the grass, and Autumn, sweet girl that she is, would not put herself in danger with aggression, it seemed best not to borrow trouble.

The front door was open — yes, I have already had a towhee and a catbird in the living room but open the door will stay — and the dog could go out and run around the house as she has when deer have been out back but, thankfully, she did not. 

They travel every year, these turtle beasts, up from the pond, across the yard, and off to some other pond. The neighbor will pull on his heavy work gloves, plant a booted foot on the creature's back, pick it up by the tail and toss it out of the road, out of harm's way, but I am not so bold, I just wish it a safe journey.

Today, I looked out every few minutes and eventually saw it turn and head back to the big pond, or at least to the cover of tall grass. Finally, I gave in and let the dog out the north-facing back door and went out onto the steps, in morning in full sunlight for this window around the summer solstice.

Movement caught my eye and I looked over to the gap where the land dips, when the Clay Head Trail spills onto the beach, where a drain once ran from the big pond, then a peat bog, to the sea. The view is clear to the horizon but, at that moment, the morning boats, the traditional from Block Island and the high speed from Galilee, were crossing.

The water was silver, still, and the sun so far to the north that its rays bounced off the slanted cabin windows of these ships passing in the morning. I've seen this dance from the beach, various combinations of these vessels moving at such different speeds, but it never before happened that I stood on this step and felt the early summer sun on my skin and had the season confirmed by evidence of this ultimate arbitrator, an increased ferry schedule. 

Then they were gone, one behind Clay Head, the other hidden by the Loon Lot, the southernmost parcel of the Clay Head Preserve, and I could hear only the rumble of their engines.

All because there was a turtle in the grass. 

The irises are in various stages of bloom, the peonies by the door are budded, ready to explode into great pink flowers, and wild daisies grow along the road. 

In two weeks it will be true summer, in two weeks the days will start to shorten, although I will not truly notice until August. We are now experiencing just over sixteen hours of visible light, an over-abundance even to someone whose winter ends, regardless of the temperature, that day when the sun rises before seven and sets after five and the climb out of the darkness feels real. 

Scattered rain is forecast; the leaves are wind-tossed, showing their undersides, a supposed indicator of an approaching storm, but only some, so perhaps it will by-pass us.