The glorious weather of summer has extended into the fall. The other night I heard raindrops on the south-facing windows about the width of a sleeping golden retriever away from the foot of my bed. It was the mild splatter of showers, not the battering of a deluge, but it still came as a surprise in this seemingly endless spell of good weather. I've fallen from watching the weather absent some storm threat.
It was a memory triggered the next day when someone mentioned the rain they had not even heard fall,
We are still in a season of yellow, fields of the endless goldenrods that paint the fields in fall, some gone by but many of the varieties overlapping, some tall, some short, some flat, some not, and the usual ragweed versus goldenrod pollen allergies conversation continues.
This time of year we see stands of yellow Jerusalem artichoke, marked by a sunflower-like bloom. This time of year I think of digging them up but never have.
A friend of my dad's harvested and pickled the tubers, artichokes quite unlike the more commonly-known green multi-layered orbs. We had a glass jar of them, one of those gallon-size containers everyone seemed to have, before plastic became more popular and prevalent, lighter and less prone to breakage. They were salvaged from summer restaurant kitchens to which they had arrived filled with What Cheer brand mayonnaise and surely other things which did not make so great an impression. Although as I write I am now thinking pickles for the Roll Call Dinner at Harbor Church (Save the Date: Oct. 22) may still come in glass. The Jerusalem artichokes were pale tubers supported by some sort of brine.
Those jars had metal lids which did eventually rust.
I remember eating the artichokes, the crunchy texture more than the taste, and of that I've no idea what was the taste of the root and what the brine was in which it had been cured. They must not have grown on my mother's grandparent's farm in Maine, or they were the province of one of her great uncles, a line of stern looking men in blurry and rare old photographs because my mother who dealt with all manner of things wild, and even with every detail of butchering, had no interest in gathering and/or cooking those artichokes.
Now, I see the flowers and they evoke a childhood memory. Probably, while I wasn't paying attention, they went mainstream, like the fiddleheads that were once the secret of foragers but now, I am told, appear in the produce section of Stop & Shop. Artichokes and fiddleheads are both in the only Euell Gibbons book I own, and that only because the then young man, Gordon Tucker, who was chosen to complete the unfinished manuscript was from South County, Rhode Island. One of his mentors was the late Dr. Irene Stuckey who used to come to the island to conduct plant walks for the Historical Society.
It is late September, it is fall. Last night, coming home as night was settling, I was struck by the emptiness of the town, the shops that were lighted and busy at seven during the summer were dark for the night, as were the restaurants that startled me with their early in the season closings, but most striking was the complete lack of people.
But during the day the sun shines, the goldenrod and artichokes glow, and the sky belongs to late September. Clouds billow, high and white, like after-the-storm surf, illuminated, catching the light, gleaming against the blue sky.
I do not know if it is the time of day I happen to be traveling or the fact that the Neck Road stretches out almost level until it starts a gradual incline, unlike the south end of the island which rises to touch the sky, but it is to the north that I see these clouds in late September.
The distance is something I have always known, from the gate to The Sullivan House, bright white, now, as it was long ago, to the Bayside, the one-time boarding house across from one of the Mitchell Farm meadows, is roughly one mile; the Breakers, another of those places run by Swedish cooks, north of Scotch Beach, half way between.
We had these milestones on the way to the Harbor, a half mile from our house to Mansion Road, a whole mile to the Bayside, another mile to Sullivans' Gate, and another mile to some point between Bridge Gate and Fountain Squares, that last leg seeming to depend upon my mother's car.
Now, there are granite posts flanking the entrance to the white gate of The Sullivan House, befitting the stature of an elegant event venue, from which there is a view any time of day, of boats coming and departing Old Harbor, of pleasure craft in the New Harbor, of sun and moon rises from the Atlantic and sunsets mirrored in the Great Salt Pond.
The place had a difference kind of elegance in my earliest memories, when Miss Sullivan still came in the summer, and Mrs. MacGregor lived in the house across the hill.
The hillside had a sort of purple tinge to it, seeded Kentucky blue grass my parents said, which made no sense to my logical way of thinking; it was supposed to be, well, blue! There was a barn/shed at the foot of the hill, a fleeting memory, painted the same dark green as the main house far above it, a structure taken down when I was little.
Only now as I write, does it cross my mind it might have been damaged by the hurricanes of the early 1950s, or taken down before another hurricane hit.
But for today, there are just suncatching clouds, holding no hint of storm. The temperatures forecast are cooler but not unseasonably so and there is no rain showing for a week, just a row of smiling suns.