Miles to go

Fri, 07/01/2016 - 11:45am

There are many more miles to go before anyone involved in the Deepwater Wind project sleeps, but major milestones have been reached. 

A week ago I was watching the progress of Big Max, the cable laying barge, creeping offshore, from the gap south of Clay Head to disappear behind the low bank and re-emerge wherever the ocean is visible from my house. It moved slowly, beyond the fields of softly waving grass, unwinding a great spool of cable stretching all the way back to the mainland. 

Telephone service was originally via a submarine cable, before the advent of the microwave towers here and first in Narragansett, where a small brick building still stood last I looked, just south of Stop & Shop. It was originally more visible for there being so much less around it than the current twin to our own, up on Tower Hill off Route One. 

It was a long time ago, the first cable that predated the microwave and they probably just threw it overboard and hoped for the best. Undersea cables are out of my sight, out of my mind; the mapping of them on nautical charts always comes as a surprise even as I know better.

The big vessel settled just off Town Beach where it shone brightly at night, more lights I could see over my toes, and reappeared, a strange beast rising out of morning fog. Now, the National Grid cable has been brought ashore, and within the last few days the cofferdam, set into the sand the very end of winter to quickly become a fixture in the long view from the beach road, has been removed. 

I have been fortunate this spring, living down the Neck, seeing the progress at the beach, watching the trenching of the road, the installation of equipment, the backfilling and return of the guardrails, all in the past few months. The delays in traffic were insignificant, I found it totally halted only one day, which, unfortunately, happened to be a dump day. 

There was never the backup of vehicles, a quarter mile in both directions, caused by an already forgotten accident on the Neck Road a little more than a week ago.

Now, CLB Big Max is gone from the big bay in the arm of Crescent Beach, the cofferdam has been pulled from the sand, the north parking lot is being emptied and reordered, and fields of grass between my house and the ocean have been cut.

Years ago I walked into the kitchen to put something in the sink below the south-facing windows and saw the start of the fire from the plane hitting the gas station, a pyre of bright flame surrounded by a plume of black smoke. It is the chance of timing and a few days ago I heard the sound of The Neighbor's tractor and more and looked up to see him cruising, pulling a tedder that was leaving behind a quickly settling wake of tossed hay. 

It has been so dry I wondered if there was even a necessity of fluffing the fallen grass, but it was mesmerizing to watch. 

The land is too dry for it yet to be July. Here, where grass is cut as infrequently as possible, where the parts of the yard that are not always damp are in shade come summer, it is fine but elsewhere I do not even want to step on it. It is the color and texture of late July, August I say to make myself feel better, when I cannot help but imagine it screaming at every footfall.

The iris and the peonies have turned to brown paper, the great banks of wild white roses are a memory. Honeysuckle, fragrant vines with little trumpet flowers and the pink pasture roses, paler than their vibrant foreign cousin on the dunes, are in their season. Milkweed is in flower in the pastures and daylillies are in orange bloom. 

Blackberries are in blossom and I notice a single vine has grown across my lane, my poor overgrown lane that mocks me every time I pass an east facing window or look out to the horizon.

There is a new wall along Corn Neck Road, free of any vegetation. It was built a month or so ago, the rocks still a slightly different hue if one knows where to look. It filled a gap, one of very few between Scotch Beach and Mansion Road, where the narrowed pavement was not bound by a hedge or a wall of stone balanced on itself or mortared into a retaining wall or a fence, or a remnant of one.  

One day there were a few piles of rock, over the next week they took shape, set in a narrow swath of cleared earth, not deeply anchored like the oldest but neither sitting atop the land and totally susceptible to the frost heaves. The wall was finished in a very short time, with modern equipment, making it all look easy which I know it is not. There is a gap in it, defined by two large boulders and I wonder what people will notice, the new wall or the “new” break in an old one, if they notice anything at all.

The colors of the rocks are slightly different, but it is a difference that is more there for the looking than one that jumps out at the passer-by. I think for no reason of a house down the road, close to 60 years old now, built when new structures were not the expectation of summer arrivals. 

It was carefully designed, a true Cape Cod without dormers or large paned windows, and I remember my parents talking of someone saying they had not previously noticed that newly shingled house. The comment delighted my father, who was one of the crew of local builders who had worked on it. 

Perhaps people will think the new wall old, merely cleared, uncovered, brought back into view while they were away.