Weather Station Window

Sat, 01/09/2016 - 7:30am

The glass panel in the west-facing entry door was covered with the uneven lace of frozen moisture when I first let the dog out this morning. The hole she has been digging or, more, the clay on the grass, the fruit of her excavations, was a different hue, more yellow than tan the under the low, slanting winter sun, unfamiliar and perhaps in its newness seeming a better indication of serious cold than the frosted panel.

It was sunny and dry, a winter morning, and I came inside thinking the season had arrived these few days into the New Year. My sock-less feet and bare ankles became colder when I started listening to the chatter of ferocious wind on crazy Providence radio.   

My “weather station” is my window and I looked out to see what was moving, my best gauge of the wind, the scruff poplars and olives which were not swaying and, closer, the dried stalks of goldenrod and ragweed and some unidentifiable thing that grew tall in summer, all of which were following the breeze.

That the grass down the lane was so green didn’t register until I took an out-of-my-window photo.

The dog came back inside, looking for breakfast, energized by the air, her heavy golden coat cool to the touch. It was 14 by the time I bothered to check and saw that by some calculations the wind chill, the dreaded “feels like” of winter, was below zero, much colder than I would have guessed even in my summer shoes.

Golden Retrievers, which my sunny Autumn is by her appearance, love the cold and she is also, despite her look, one quarter Bernese mountain dog. She went out, again, to roll on the grass and run circles in the yard and look to the windows wondering why I was not out there playing with her, or sharing her vocal interest in the scant traffic on the road this time of year. Deer, I expect, but when her noise is insistent she makes me curious and I look, this morning to see the looming white oil truck next door, a reminder I really must order heating fuel. 

The radio weatherman tells of the cold breaking and of rain next weekend and I am sure I can put it all off a bit longer then I hear the rumble of the furnace and get up and make the call.

It was so warm the end of the year I found not only buds but the start of lilacs, those first miniature flowers that announce the coming of great fragrant blooms, in the foundation ruins of the Searles Mansion. They are somewhat protected within the walls set partly below ground but it was Jan. 1. The wide puddles that this morning were covered with a skim of ice were still pools, all the better for wading and drinking. The sky was gray and there was wind, reminders of the fact of the calendar. 

Yesterday, I had to go to the mainland for a routine but long delayed medical appointment in Westerly, a town not so far away contrary to the compounded hours of travel time. Strangely, I met the flurries they had been talking about up around Providence, in usual Rhode Island weather-panic-speak and as the day went on the temperature dropped and dropped and then dropped. There was some snow, a dusting, still more than expected, along Route 1 moving from Charlestown to Narragansett on my return trip.  

It sent my own Rhode Islander weather over-reaction into overdrive, I realized, when I saw tall drifts, mounds of white, pure new snow, just off the highway where there should not have been any more than a boatyard filled with vessels hauled for the winter and protected with... white shrink-wrap. 

Everything already felt out of order, more so than other years, perhaps the result of holidays falling on Fridays, which should not make things any more confusing but somehow did. Then I had to go to the mainland,  which truly does not bother me, I am not one of those people driving 25 mph on Pt. Judith Road, it is simply the finite nature of the boat schedule and the parameters it imposes.

Nonetheless, it has been a confusing couple of weeks and I realize I have failed to include the thanks I like to in an end-of-year column. The weekly Block Island Times seemed a long-established institution when I first submitted vignettes in late 1991, a collection, the geese on the ice of the pond behind my house, a summer tractor ride, the hidden colors of winter there for the looking, sketches typewritten, literally cut and pasted, or, more accurately, cut and taped. It was years before I realized that incarnation of the paper, then run by Peter and Shirley Wood out of their basement off Old Mill Road, was in its infancy; it had gone year-round only in January of 1989.

People were supportive beyond anything I ever imagined, except for the guy in Connecticut who took exception to my recalling submarines sailing from the base in Groton often visible off the west side of the island when I was a child. They were still there, I surmised, under the surface of the sea. It was not that the postcard scribbler from Branford, held any bias against the military, he was, to me inexplicably, angry because I failed to mentioned the military planes flying overhead, the ones I saw no more than the submerged subs. 

I kept the card on my bulletin board for years.

Then there is the man, Gardner Phillips, who graduated from high school before I started first grade, someone I knew only as so-and-so’s older brother who now sends me his own recollections, often sparked by a line I have written, my own vague child’s memory that is no more than Kodachrome too often handled and left too long in the sun. Thank you, Gardner, for your words and your boundless kindnesses.  

Thank you all.