Smudged with humidity

Thu, 06/10/2021 - 5:45pm

The farrier came today, to see to the feet of the horses out in the lot. I like the fanciful notion that they were getting their “summer shoes”
for their summer frolicking.

It is summer as we — or I — imagine it to be, regardless of the reality of July and August to the contrary. The fields are still green, the trees in leaf, the ocean a deep blue under a pale blue sky, the breeze mitigating the unpleasant consequence of a horizon smudged with humidity-laden heat.
We have been having June weather and I have not been noticing. Monday I called in a prescription to the pharmacy in Westerly, and realized only that night that it had not arrived. I worry, always, there has been some snafu, and but before I could get deeply involved in fretting I heard a casual remark about no flying all day.
No flying?! Oh, yes, there had been a band of fog hanging over the south end of the island at some point, one of those “oh, that’s an interesting bank” thoughts immediately gone. The sun had been shining, sort of.
The next morning the call from New England Air came, the medication was in and I relaxed and almost forgot about it. Hours later, it was sunny when I finally made it to the airport and heard passengers lining up for the next flight be told they were on a “weather hold.”
Again, what!? Outside the sun was shining, the sky was blue, it was not until I looked over to the east, to that familiar line of horizon, that I saw the haziness of a low fog softening what I expected to be a sharp line.
There is white in the fields, daisies down in the swale of the north pasture, I again noticed, leaning on the gate, talking about the weather and these wild flowers that still find places to bloom.
Before my memory, I have heard stories of island ladies collecting daisies by the armful and working them into chains with which to decorate the First Baptist Church on Chapel Street, the large space with the soaring ceilings and pipe organ, where High School graduation was held before the consolidated school was built on High Street.

When I was in the lower grades we were dispatched to gather greenery for graduation. My mother had one of those 1951 Plymouths that were driven like Land Rovers and she took it through the gap in the north wall of the north pasture, backed it down a slope and opened up the trunk. Classmates and I gathered ferns as tall as we were and filled the empty space, well aware we were on a time-sensitive mission.
At the school we handed them over to older students, perhaps to grownups as well as teachers, who used them to fill chicken-wire strung frames that would stand on the stage behind the graduating seniors that evening. I cannot remember if I am conflating years or if we went off to gather daisies with which to “write” the “Class of xx” in white letters among swamp greens.

We had been on daisy watch, monitoring various fields we knew turned white in the earlier part of June; I didn’t at the time much think of it but they were abandoned meadows not yet gone over to bayberry, or built upon and turned to vast stretches of cut grass.
I think I was in high school when we were still able to go to one of those fields, to gather daisies, for our music teacher, an end-of-year thank you to the lady who lived in the house across from the southeast corner of Sachem Pond.

It was a strange time, hard to explain, today, but Block Island was at its nadir, at the tail end of a depression that reached out on either side of the Great Depression that ravaged the nation, our boom economy of the latter part of the nineteenth century gone to economic
forces beyond us, wars and different modes of transportation, hurricanes and more war, a fishing fleet gone not just to storm but an industry changing.
Yet, in the midst if it, we had a music teacher who opened her home to a wide range of students of varying degrees of talent, and beyond that she and her husband exposed us to Thursday night Chamber Music, where an extraordinary cross section of people gathered for the sheer joy of playing real music on everything from a violin to a cello to a flute to an oboe and so much more.
The mother of one of the students, an artist known to this day, decided we needed to thank our teacher. That was the day I realized just how many wild daisies it took to fill a bucket and set in my memory a great field for harvesting them.
Today, I looked down in the north pasture to a spattering of white flowers, and around at the white and red clovers, at the long grass bending into the curve of the road, but I hadn’t left the house, yet, hadn’t turned back into their field and experienced the wave of late spring sweetness, hadn’t thought about it until a farrier remarked on the sweetness of the wild clovers, the red balls and lower white flowers, mixed with the newly cut grass, all touched by a bit of rain in the night.
The beach roses are in bloom, their fragrance enhanced by the humidity, and cut ever so slightly by the salt of the sea beyond them. We may be surrounded by the ocean but we have here as well traces of the land as it once was, be it dotted with wild daisies or giving us the scent of clover and grass, simple pleasures there for the taking.
Or as the poet reminds us “June may be had by the poorest comer.”