Rolling Wind

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 3:28pm

Usually, I trust the numbers on the weather sites but I do not believe it was only 83.7 degrees today, with humidity 10 points lower. Why trust the water company numbers when the thermometer on my car, sitting, baking, in the sun, was close to 90?

It was one of those days when it was warm in town and I wished I could fly over the boulders into the water where the road runs so close to the ocean. The draw of the ocean faded as I approached the beach and all the cars parked on both sides of the pavement, the overflow of the ever-shrinking parking lot that was at least twice as large when the facility was built nearly 60 years ago. Well prepared for the future it was, until renovations inexplicability narrowed the space with the planting of a bizarre buffer between it and the highway, and it was further squeezed by the steady westward march of the dunes.

I live down the Neck, I see it every day, it is right up there with church coffee pots on the long, long list of things that make me crazy.

North of the heaviest layers of unmoving automobiles, the land to the west opens, and the summer breeze from the Salt Pond is another lure of the sea. Past it, the road becomes suddenly landbound on either side — all houses and grass cut too short, browning in a single hot day — and it just feels too warm, without shade or breeze.

There are so few trees along the road, those at the old farm (where visitors still stop hoping for a glimpse of cows long gone) offer a bit of shade, a sudden and fleeting cool shadow on a hot road.

Beyond it, especially beginning at the curve of Andy’s Way, all this greenery that has stolen the open fields and submerged the stone walls is forgiven on a day like today, when it seems to absorb some of the sun’s harsh warmth. The Mansion Road is flanked by trees and brush, and lined with tall, tall grasses grabbing the dust that rises with the passing of every tire and foot. Sometimes when I come home at mid-day, I go up around the Mansion parking lot, no longer interested in the water but curious about the number of cars shoe-horned in, the many big, expensive SUVs precariously perched on the available bits of land.

Not today.

As usual, once back to my yard, cool under wildly grown trees — a pin-oak carted from Michigan, a maple from up the road, olives planted before they were so clearly the menace they became, a flowering crab reaching for the heavens — any thought of going to the beach in the heat of midday is forgotten.

At midafternoon, the commentator on the radio station to which I was only partly listening, the usual rantings from Providence not being especially interesting, suddenly said something that caught my attention. They were in a downpour, he said, and I wondered if I had been listening so carelessly that I hadn’t realized it was a rerun.

So I paused, and realized it was no repeat, no “best of…”, and that it was pouring rain in the capital city. Traffic was slowed to 22 miles per hour, according to their real-time road sensors, while it was clear and beautiful on Block Island. There was no threat on the weather site, the blurbs of color were where the storm warnings were being issued, well away from us. And the chance of precipitation for the evening was only 30 percent, normally of no concern.

The leaves were flipped, and there were great clouds far beyond Clay Head, and the breeze was picking up, rolling around the sky, fluttering the curtains away from the west-facing windows. Slowly the temperature was dropping, and it felt much cooler than it had at midday, turning to a comfortable summer afternoon. The sky was losing its clarity and I decided to close the car windows I had left open to the soft breeze.

The sound of paper flipping caught my attention and made me realize the breeze had turned to wind, pushing the curtains out into the room. I began lowering the house windows I’d opened to let the air circulate, a joy of summer. The back door blew open, letting in a rush of cool air.

The day darkened before the sunset, the sun that can linger so long this time of year vanishing in the clouds. When the rain came I had been listening for it, for the sound on the leaves outside the windows, for the early spattering on the glass, for the cooling sound of a summer shower.

It arrived in the long, long evening, darkening from day to night. Thunder rumbled around the edges of the sky, crashed nearby a few times, moved away again. It poured, spattering on the windowpanes, spilling through the cracks I left for air. It came in waves, easy to imagine in the greens and yellows and specks of red on the radar maps, and even the crack I left open rumbled and then the rain came.