Sweet November

Sun, 11/08/2015 - 7:30pm

“She needs a tennis ball,” an old friend comments on a photo of Autumn’s collection of toys. My response is “it’s in the yard!” thinking also of a net bag nearly full of the bouncy yellow spheres hanging in the kitchen. My dog has, at last, decided they are fun, although her dedication is not at the level of near obsession as was that of my other goldens.

They would bark at the hopeful sight of the fallen osage oranges by Negus Park on Ocean Avenue, and stand sentry by the desk drawer where I kept their toys. One whimpered and whined then snatched a peach only to drop it with a “thbbft” when he realized he had fruit in his mouth. He only surrendered a Beanie Baby stolen from a child vacationing down the road when tempted with a worn, disgusting tennis ball. 

Autumn is far from that. I go out in the yard to play with her and after a couple of tosses, after compliant sitting and dropping, the sound of Guys at Work on the house on the corner is too enticing and she is off, trotting down the road. The ultimate disobedient child, she pauses, looking back at me for an instant, to ignore me and stay her course.

The sun is bright, but low, the sun that will be setting too soon, and she does look positively angelic, glowing in the pure light. I think she will come back but I follow her and pick up a piece of her old tattered rug, a braid flattened as it has lain in the gravel of the road, a makeshift leash in case I need it when I eventually catch up to her.

There is nothing much going on beyond the work on the corner and when I reach the turn from my front lot to the Mansion Road and there she is, waiting, on the grassy shoulder. Funny girl, she does not go up across the lawn rather trots to the first driveway, the curb cut if you will, then zig-zags back to the work site. 

The men working know her, they have since she was a fluffy puppy. The contractor laughs at me and my “leash” but he is used to dogs and is good-natured and I think he must share the sweet memory of Autumn as a puppy, sleeping in a sun-washed living room, exhausted after playing with the two big dogs of the household.

It is lovely today, sweet November, although the sun is already throwing shadows too long for not quite even mid-afternoon. I happen to look at the right moment to the ocean, bright and blue, and see a yellow deck, for one of the wind turbines being constructed off the southeast shore, catching the light. It is on a low barge and needs only a red tug to be a perfect study in primary colors. 

The tug is white. I go upstairs to sit for a moment on the landing, next to an east-facing window. They, it and the barge, look far away, out toward the horizon, but I have watched ships from this vantage point my whole life, back when tankers passed so close it was easy to see if they were full or empty by the width of the band of red above the water line. There were cargo carriers, before the world shifted to containers, which seemed, at first, so odd. The same vessel could look so close, the hull looming above the meadows, and from the Neck Road just a few miles south appear a safe distance away.

It looks calm out there, but there is a good breeze and I look for some confirmation it is as calm as I think, surprised to be rewarded so quickly with a small fishing boat moving slowly and evenly over the water. 

Then the big boat goes by, passing on this side of the green buoy, lurching slightly, but not so much that I would notice were I not looking. It is very different than it was last week, when I was part of a group going off for an event we had known about since early summer, when late October was more distant than that yellow platform.

We left on the last boat that was not cancelled and came back the next day on the first one after the schedule resumed, which sounds much more dramatic when omitted is the fact the last boat off would not have allowed for much precious mainland time and the first one back left the mainland an hour before our event. 

The trips were not that bad, after the initial runs from the haven of the harbors into the sea, especially rough leaving here on a northeast wind. The captain took us far out to the east, creating an illusion of not being beyond the end of the island for a very long time, that same misperception of distance I learned so long ago watching the big vessels pass by the island.

The sunlight is fading already, the last of the sun bright on the red berries at the end of the back yard, a counterpoint to the soft pink floating above the horizon in the east. I go out to be in the last of the day and to check on Autumn who is, again, missing. A plane goes over, loudly, lights blinking, then a golden flash of dog hits my peripheral vision. She sees me and drops whatever she has in her mouth, thinking I will lose interest if she walks away from it, something big and brown and precious.

Horrified at the thought of whatever creature she has found, I approach tentatively and find a dirt covered log which I quickly recognize to be one of her missing marrow bones. It was, as I long suspected, buried, curing, waiting. When I give it back to her she does not go far; she is out in the yard, mindless of the falling darkness, gnawing on the earth-coated treasure.

It must be very tasty.