The Last Week of Summer

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 7:45pm

There stands a stone tower on Mansion Road. It was built with the Searles Mansion, for reasons that have varied with the teller, a sort of folly according to my aunt who was really some sort of cousin, or an entrance to the Poplar Cottage, as a favor or a payment for some right-of-way, or some combination thereof.

It is crumbling now, and has been, markedly, for a few years, although its deterioration long pre-dated me. I remember first seeing an old photo of it, and an adjoining gate with a high post topped by a conical “roof.” I might have wondered if it were the same did I not live on the road, and were it not one of a set of images of the Mansion and its surrounds.

I was stunned not so much by the missing pieces, such as the white fencing no longer in place, but by the height of the tower, crested with the up and down pattern of a castle parapet.

Probably I'd not paid much attention to the top, but knew it was unadorned; there were, intact in my childhood memories, two faux windows, one still quite apparent, infilled with small white stones, the other gone today but for its ledge, infilled with equally small stones but of the same tans and grays as the rest of the structure.

Now, I am surprised at how much more has vanished, fallen, such is the power — the persistence — of memory.It feels like fall, it is fall by all back-to-school standards, by the definition on the calendar of our modern-day wizards, the meteorologists, by thoughts of the sweaters that had been on a shelf all summer.

It is fall in the cooler nights and later mornings and earlier sunsets, in the crisp air and the leaves scattered from all those trees we still tell ourselves don't grow on Block Island.

The flowers of summer are waning, the Joe-Pye weed in the lot, taller than I realized now that all the scrub around it has been cut, tall purple clusters, looking like oddly large milkweed but in fact of the daisy family, is browning. Every day coming home I notice more and more sky showing through the maple at the corner of the yard and every night the sun sets earlier, alarmingly so, now before seven.

But at three it is glorious, sunny and warm, the most golden of all the rounds of goldenrod in bloom, hosting monarch butterflies, and I try not to think how little daylight remains. So many firsts have come and gone, the first night I go out to a meeting forgetting to leave the hall light on, failing to remember it will be dark when I come home, the first day the rising sun falls through a different window, the first afternoon it shines both from a new position and through scant leaves of a tree that was full in early summer.

Summer will end, officially, by the final, last-gasp, definition, the Equinox, but not until the twenty-third, as late as it can be, an afterthought any year, especially one with a Labor Day come so early.

This week I am again reminded this year the days fall as they did six years ago, the best and the worst of them the same. It was on this coming Sunday, the twenty-second, a friend drove me to the northern border of Massachusetts to gather a bundle of golden fur, already named Autumn, because that longest boat day, the only one allowing such a trip, fell on the Equinox.

Her birthday is in July, memorialized in a password to something I've long forgotten, one created when I was on a spree of cyber-awareness that waned as sure and fast as these long summer days.

We might have gotten back to Galilee in daylight, and gotten on the next to the last boat but for getting lost, twice, in the same place, and stopping in Narragansett with my sudden “I have a puppy! I need puppy stuff!” panic.

Every now and then I come across something, a tiny harness — used perhaps once — or a little red collar she did wear until it no longer fit, the latter I think one of several gifts, unexpected kindnesses that made me both happy and profoundly sad for reasons I have never wanted to explore.

It was late, and dark, and the boat was almost empty when I came home with her that night.

She came to town with me the next day, my little golden dog, and sat outside the gallery in the late September sun, on a shirt I thought was beyond saving, which I am chagrined to admit I still wear on cold mornings.

My fluffy guard puppy of Fountain Square drew strangers, including a group of men, here for a wedding, snapping photos, all but one who dismissed such foolishness. His error, I thought, an opinion confirmed when one of the others returned a day or two later to show an apreciative woman the puppy she'd seen on his phone screen.

The screen of my laptop displays Autumn on the carpet of the office at The Block Island Times, a photo taken by a young reporter who, like several other women we visited that day, did not hesitate to get down on the floor to greet the newcomer.

My silly golden dog has learned, in six years, that she is not going to catch a deer. She still goes out and barks, and runs a bit, and they move a bit, then they all stop. One day she stood on one side of that Joe-Pye weed stand and barked at deer on the other side. She barks at cars on the road, and at boats at sea and planes in the air, she barks at anything the moon illuminates.

She barks at the moon, then she lies down with a big dog thump and she snores, my golden Autumn.