It is almost May Fourth and it is my duty to remind all that this date is Rhode Island Independence Day. The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the smallest state with the longest name, also was the first of the colonies to declare independence from the crown as well as the last to ratify the new Constitution.
July is fine for a summer holiday but I have always been partial to May. It is, I tell people who expect to hear the more commonly offered September, my favorite month. The grass is new and green, the days are long, the evenings golden, the air — at least in my mind — warming. The nights are filled with the sounds of the spring surf and peepers, the mornings with birds rousing long before sunrise.
Except for days like today, edging toward cool gray with fog hanging at the edges and rain skulking about, running in to throw a few drops on the windows before retreating, undecided, waiting, threatening, then drifting off to the east, out to sea.
I do not go to the weather sites so often once the threat of real weather, the blasting cold than can easily steal the day, is less and the light is not so precious by the simple virtue of its plentitude. The sun rises well before six and sets closer to eight than seven; at January’s end, when we begin truly to climb out of winter’s depths, the sun drags itself over the eastern horizon just before seven, never quite owns the sky, and scuttles off to the west just after five. And then, those short days feel blessedly long after the pit that is year’s end and beginning.
Neither do I pay much attention to the forecasts when it is sunny and warm, when the sky is clear and the air fresh. It takes very few good days for me to forget it is ever anything but wonderful. The pattering sound of the rain on the windows was an early distraction that came as a complete surprise, the downpour that followed made me look at the radar, the beautifully accessible map of yellow and green and blue.
We do need the rain. I protest that it rained the weekend previous, remembering I had heard the forecast and chose not to believe it, leaving my coat in the car when I went to church. It was easy umbrella rain, at first, but by mid-afternoon the wind had come up, the purple flag was flying; Monday there were no boats.
The sun came out, the next weekend was all green and gold and warm sunshine. The idea of cold rain slipped away until I heard it on the windows. It was pouring when I went out, curtains of gray hanging across the sky, running in rivers down the road, feeding the new grass and fledgling vines.
It didn’t last as long as they said it would, the “they” who always predict the worst, and by early afternoon it was reduced to light rain. There are places along the Neck Road — along all roads, I am sure, these are the ones I know so well — that we do not notice most of the time, the slightest depressions in places where there is no runoff, that turn to great wide puddles. There is one, always, out by the little cottage on the pond, the same place the gulls drop quahogs on the road, as if there is a special spot harder than all the rest where the shells will easily crack.
It is on the east, the going home puddle to be avoided if it is possible. Another, down by Andy’s Way, hasn’t been so bad of late, perhaps running better into the shoulder. This time of year traffic moves around these places that are not so much visible as they are known. We do need the rain, by late afternoon the pavement was dry, with only the slightest damp at the edges.
Spring came too soon this year, sunny warmth and just enough rain caused the shad to start blooming on Patriots’ Day, observed a few days before the Battle of Lexington and Concord, earlier, even than two years ago when it came as the same surprise, something white in bloom over there.
A snapper waited at the edge of the road the other evening, and I waited for him to decide what to do, not wanting to move ahead when he had decided to lope across the road — I saw one do exactly that, out where there used to be a turtle crossing sign. He (who was probably then as well as now a she) lifted himself up on legs that were longer than I’d even imagined a slow moving turtle might have and marched across the road, his belly shell an inch or two above the pavement.
This fellow was not so large, nor so inclined to movement and I decided it was safe to drive past. He was gone when I next went out, off across the field to another pond, probably laying eggs. The white egret has flown up from the pond, and I am waiting to see muskrats although the ponds are still low, not as inviting.
Spring came too soon, April ended in golden sunshine. and as we move into May the shad is nearly gone, the great waves of white lessened to a diluted wash over the green landscape. It is raw, cold even, as though we have used our quota of warmth.
Even the surf is dour, dark red under the foam reaching up to the beach by the road; the ocean is filled with seaweed. It feels like early spring, it feels like March. It will wash up on the beach or out to sea and the ocean will be blue again. Spring will return and the next round of flowers will bloom.
March will be gone.