Red Moon for New England

Sat, 06/18/2011 - 5:01am
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The moon is a great silver disc — showing just a bit of a face — hanging in the eastern sky. I think it looks slightly misshapen but I think it is less a very sharp eye and more the knowledge that it was technically full a few hours ago, during the daylight of early afternoon, that makes it so.

Elsewhere there has been an eclipse, a full lunar eclipse with those particular characteristics that turn the darkened moon red. I thought of it today, listening to area radio and chatter of a hockey game in Boston tonight. It is apparently the last and deciding game of a series.

The moon will not be red over Boston as it was over St Louis almost seven years ago when the simple toss of a ball ended an 86-year losing streak, when the Red Sox won the World Series. I knew it would be sweet for a long time but I never imagined all this time — and another championship — later that this blood eclipse would have me pulling out the DVD and reading a prolific New England author’s account of the morning after.

I do not care about hockey, it was only today I realized there were playoffs being played, but now I am sneaking peeks at the Globe site. They should not be playing hockey in June, there is no ice, and this is the season of long, warm evenings that belong to baseball.

Ohmygosh, Boston won!! Hockey still baffles me; there is no symmetry in a game that has three periods. The game was in Vancouver, I finally realize. The moon was not red there either but it does not matter; the moon was red, somewhere, and Boston won.

The world has not shaken on its axis, it is not 2004 and I doubt people will be waiting for newspapers tomorrow morning, savoring the headlines they thought they would never see. Still, it is nice news, a good omen, dare we think of omens, for the fall.

The radio is recounting the championships over the past years in Boston and I think of a young man I met last summer.  He was on a family vacation and, by their respective accents, I guessed him to be the first generation born in the country — and soon realized I was profiling when he said he was at school in California and I expected Cal Tech before he confirmed it. He did not think he would stay in the year-round sun, this bright young engineer confided: “they don’t care about sports out there, I grew up in New York, I can't live like that!”

He sort of caught my heart, this polite young man with his earnest and somewhat old-fashioned pronouncement.

Tonight I learned it has been almost 40 years since Boston won the hockey championship. I had no idea — maybe people will be waiting for those papers in the morning. Still, it seems an odd way to start the summer.

The weather is perfect. Last week it suddenly turned brutally hot, the heat of high summer come too soon. There was an explosion of pollen that bothered even those of us who usually notice it only if it catches the sun as it wafts on the breeze. The grass began to burn and the air was thick, heavy, leaden before the first storm arrived, crashing and flashing, returning the night to day.

As the heavens opened and the rain fell, the air was scoured, the pollen was pounded back to the ground and I could feel the difference in a few minutes' time. I thought of my mother, a new teacher getting a note that a boy was out of school because he had had an asthma attack and his father had taken him to work with him out on the water, fishing, away from falling seeds and blowing pollen. It was a remedy not available in her landlocked home town in Massachusetts.

Fishing boats sailed from Block Island then. Year-round a passenger boat landed at the town dock in the Old Harbor, from Providence in summer, from Point Judith in winter.

It is difficult to imagine how everything fit. There was no big parking lot, no wharf extending from it, no slips for the stern loaders, but several commercial boats were moored year-round in the outer basin, within the protection of the granite jetties. In summer there were lobster cars — great wooden crates, anchored, pens to keep live catch, and there were more fishing vessels within the red sandstone breakwaters as well as summer visitors.

There is a new dock in the Old Harbor, high and wide, diminishing that red sandstone that was a walkway on a summer evening. The old buildings were still there, the one we called the tavern that never was in my lifetime, and sheds half on land, half in the water, and a market with (in my memory) a great tank of live lobsters, always moving. Somewhere, in one of the blocks of stone along the west side of the harbor, there was a benchmark, the first I’d ever seen. My father explained to me what it was — a metal disc set there to allow the rock to be leveled, a device for allowing us to be grounded.

It wasn’t so long ago that the relocation of one of these loci I’d thought long replaced by advancing technologies caused some confusion when a tower was being installed. It was easily remedied, and I was happy to know they still mattered. I looked for this Old Harbor marker a few years ago and wondered then if it was already covered by the ever encroaching earth that threatens to completely erase the old breakwater.

The new dock is too big, too wide, too far out over the water, everything about it is wrong but, somehow, it all works. Perhaps it is the light of June on the new wood that is so forgiving, or the softening of the so-long-in-arriving gentle warmth in the air, or the soft scent of beach roses or the salt breeze.

Maybe it could use a few flowers, I think, even as a parallel thought screams “Nantucket!” Still, they might be nice.