Groundhog Retreat

Thu, 05/19/2011 - 5:00am

The sun is shining.

It poured last night, it rained this morning, there is more rain forecast for later today and for tomorrow and the day following as well.

The ground was dry, the roads were dusty, the little vernal ponds almost summer dry. We needed the rain, we tell each other. All these days of gray clouds and cool raw have yielded little in the way of precipitation. Last months we listened to reports of flood watches on the mainland and watched the dust rise from our roads.

May, I think, comes in a golden flash, long sunlight on green fields, the smells of newly cut grass and lilacs filling the air. This year, more than most, spring cannot get a foothold. There is a day or two of sunny warmth, then we backslide to this raw chill, a season of fits and starts

The sun was shining. The fog rolled in, muting the shadows.

And the seasons they go round and round… a year ago I wrote:

“It is May and it feels more like March. A harsh wind blew through the weekend, confusing, with the days of lengthening sunlight and with the land so lush and filled with the promise that belongs to this time of year. This day has been cold, and with nightfall my feet are cold, in socks and slippers.”

Every year I think it so unusual that it is cold in May. I have an image, a recollection, not an imagining, of a warm May Day, and of several events I know took place in that same time frame, I know it can be warm, shirtsleeve weather. The memories of anything else I banish, as easily as the fog erases shadows, and am betrayed by my own words.

When the sun shines I notice that the trees are in bloom, fruits to be and budding oaks and maples, red and green. The flowering crab in my yard, grown wider than I ever I thought it could, is a cloud of earthbound moonlight, fragile and strong, pushing out the old, feeble lilac that survived so many storms and so many indignities and now barely manages a bloom.

The knotweed I ignored last year as it turned dry and gray, then was felled by a winter wind. Going to fetch something from my car at eight-thirty, the edge of civil twilight but after a nearly full moon had risen, a night without clouds or fog, it was light enough to see and I realized I could stand it no more and began pulling out the deadwood, raking it into the road.

It looked surprisingly sparse the next day, as though it had been attacked without reason or plan.

There is more knotweed north of the house, the result of my own thoughtlessness. Another year, several ago, when I cut back that stand by the door, the one that is the backdrop of childhood photos, instead of throwing the stalks in the road I bent and broke them and pushed them into the cavities in the ground when there dog had dug holes.

It seemed a good idea at the time.

Perhaps it was the year before I hurt my knee in May and all yard work ceased. Last week I walked around a mainland nursery remembering when plants forgotten lined the walls, lavenders and heathers and astilibe and cosmos so many more. So far, I have half trimmed the knotweed and have two geraniums in the cemetery.

There is a family plot that is oddly without grass. I have noticed it before but now have taken to fanciful thinking; perhaps it is cursed, that bit of ground that holds only children from an unnamed “infant” to brother who lived eight months, not well enough protected by one of those wildly biblical names that could only come from the nineteenth century. They lie beside an eleven year old sister and a brother who made it all the way to thirteen.

For kicks I google one of them, Philemon Galusha, and find a cyclical reference back to the gravestone on Block Island, part of a reprint of a publication created by my great-great grandfather, contributed to the site by one of my first cousins who is listed as the great-great granddaughter of our mutual great grandfather.

But it’s on the internet, it must be true . . .

There was rain forecast for days but it did not fall until last night’s deluge. I went back to the cemetery today to check on the transplanted flowers and found them happily wet, the petals of the first blooms nearly all beaten away, the buds for which I so carefully chose them still closed to the chill.

There is still no grass in the plot. The ground looks like my yard did a few years ago when I had two patches of death. Japanese beetles, I was told, or their grubs were the cause, or, more completely, the crows that attacked the earth seeking food. It was the end of the yard as I knew it, it sounded. A mainland nursery quoted what seemed an absurd price for what seemed a small amount of grub-be-gone and I decided to take my chances.

The grass was back the next year.

The sun, though, did not return, not this afternoon. The fog gray gave way to foggy black and rain continues to fall sporadically, rat-a-tatting against the window panes, a chiding of anyone who has forgotten about it, or hoped it had moved away to the south as the radar images indicated it might. The animation shows an annoying track, southeast, backwards, moving up off the ocean when I want it to be moving out to sea.

It is not enough that it is raw and chill and wet, the storm in moving in the wrong direction. It could make a groundhog want to go back into his snug underground home and stay there another six weeks!