Ice on the grass

Fri, 01/21/2022 - 7:30am

It is January and the weather is reflecting the calendar and mirroring years past, days of intense cold sandwiched between mild, horrid wind exacerbating the cold, giving the weather people their beloved wind-chill factor drama.
They seem, the Channel 10 folk —and I’ve no reason to believe the rest are any better — to have given up reporting the projected temperature as anything more than a fleeting teaser for the real show the —ta-da! — wind-chill factor, which they seem to need, increasingly, to explain as the “feels like” temperature.
I grew up here, in this house, year round and that there would be wind was a given. It could come from the west, that great wind that was the Father of all winds in “Hiawatha,” and the east wind, heavy with the damp of the North Atlantic. The south wind came up over thousands of miles of ocean to hit the bluffs, just one erosion factor, but down here it never seemed as bad, and the north had to make it over Bush Lot Hill to reach us.
Still, there are days it hardly matters the direction from which the wind blows, it seems to form an eddy around the house. My chair, next to a good, well-installed window that should be as protected as possible, facing only south, doesn’t let in the wind out there but cannot stop the sound of the air moving, relentlessly, making me think of moving until I remember I am there for a reason; here are no better places.
I have lost track of the days but I know whatever night was so bad, so full of wind and rain, the blow came from the east, and from that particular range that allows me, some mornings of the year, to lift my head, open my eyes, and see the sun emerging from the ocean. The wind was blowing from the horizon. A tad to the north it would be softened by Clay Head and a bit to the south by my neighbor’s old farmland. But not that night, there was no relief, no protection, not even a lull.

The wind slammed, the window rattled, and when I woke at five after a precious two hours sleep I watched my phone like some crazy weather addict, shifting from one scenario to another, willing the promise of a change at six to materialize.
Astonishingly, it did, almost to the minute. I felt the wind turn just enough into the southeast to alter the whole feeling of the day approaching. There was one final don’t-forget-about-me blast and that was it and I went to sleep at last, grateful I didn’t have to be anywhere until mid-to-late morning.

The forecast is full in January, of wind and freezing, and scattered snow, but I look east and see the pond, its surface rippling in the wind, “Oh you can always tell the direction of the wind by looking at the pond” my mother used to say (I can’t, never could), or “you have to watch pots on the stove when the wind is out of the east,” (which I have proven true a few times) and I would think “where are you really from?!”
The ice on the north pasture in the end-of-day photo isn’t from a frozen pond, it is from the horse troughs, the bigger, whiter chunks broken off after a long, cold night and still intact after a sunny but very cold day. The smaller pieces, camouflaged by the stones on which they lie, are of the day.
It is difficult to capture the color of the grass this year, it may be golden-hour gold or mangy-lion brown or even green, still, the bright enticement that brought the snow geese here for a few shining days last week.
I knew the troughs were frozen the first cold night when Autumn came in late and stood by her bowl in the kitchen, the water she usually eschews in favor of that with a touch of horse she can get a drink of outside. The water bowl is rarely empty but that night is was and I filled
it immediately; she tried the same trick with her supper dish the next night. She almost shrugged her golden shoulders when I said “you’ve been fed.”
The ice reminds me of childhood, of my older brother going down to the pond with an ax to chop clear a hole in the ice so the cows could drink after milking, and letting them out of the barn. “Yes, we butchered” I’d casually say, recalling those early years and it was decades be-
fore I wondered how it was I was so little, standing on a stool because it was the only way I could reach, pushing chunks of meat into a big electric grinder, and pushing them down with a wooden tool crafted for just such a task.
Only a few years later I was in school listening to another mother from the mainland talk of someone bringing “cow” to a picnic and wondering how she thought it much differed from her own store-bought hamburger. Processing, I suppose, although looking back I’m not sure she was so right and we butchering locals were so wrong.
My mother, I keep remembering, has long been gone and some of my references need explanation. She was from the mainland, from a factory town in Massachusetts, but from a time when even a factory worker owned his own house, built with indoor plumbing already in
place. It was set on a tree-lined street, with a little yard between the front porch and the street. My brother did not understand how she could stand living here, but I thought it quite simple, rooted in childhood summers at her grandparents’ farm in Maine. Somewhere I’ve a conch
shell, one of those oddities of Victorian parlors but this one was from the farm, a horn to call in the farm workers. It had to be loud because Uncle John’s cucumber patch was in the distant corner of the far pasture.
Sounds like the Block Island I first knew. Small wonder she embraced this place.