Yellow Time of Year

Fri, 04/16/2021 - 11:30am

These days I don’t first awaken when morning gilds the sky, or even when the first flush of color spreads up from the ocean; it is earlier, when the east-facing window I see when I open my eyes, takes on definition of its own, a rectangle of pale gray distinguishing itself from the dark wall around it. I reach for my phone and touch the dark screen to find the time and the light from it is enough to add more definition to the room. It was a shade after five and I think I was asleep, again, even before the phone dimmed.
Already, it is markedly earlier than it was on Easter, which came early this year. It was a week-and-a-half ago that I came home in the dark, from a very beautiful Tenebrae Service at the Harbor Church. It was a Good Friday program, begun in light concluding in darkness, that by a combination of planning and happenstance of the calendar worked in a way such services do not always; as the artificial illumination inside was diminished, fixture by fixture, the world outside the long windows slid from dusk to night.
It has been an unusual thing, in this long year of gradually abating isolation, to come home in total darkness, but I did that Friday night and looked up to see the lights of a lone house up on Clay Head that I do remember being built but back when each new construction site was an event.
Jeremiah backed his truck up to our door and collected the skim milk left when the cream had been separated from it. He leaned against his vehicle one afternoon and nodded up at the new wood shining on the hill and said quite simply that he’d never build up there: “haunted.”
I’d always heard of a haunted lot somewhere up on Clay Head, but in my house such tales were dismissed, ally with some semi-scientific, totally unproven, reasoning, this one that there was an electromagnetic field that spooked the oxen. Magnets were fun, they could
pull iron from the black sand, and electricity was something mysterious left to the grown-ups, or to my father with my mother muttering “he is going to blow the house up” so electromagnetic was an easy sell.
Of course I also grew up ascribing pretty much any creak, noise, sudden inexplicable shifting not to ghosts but to the catchall “it’s an old house.”
It does not seem to be an issue, anymore, the haunting of those old legends. Granted, there are no oxen plowing the Hayes lands, but I’d rather think the spirits, if there were any, have been appeased by the care the whole area has been given, perhaps even to the uncovering and standing upright of a great boulder, the Blue Stone, and setting it fully exposed to the sun and the moon and all the elements.
The spring was late this year, Easter was early, the daffodils were not in bloom that first weekend when the family was visiting. We have all been beneficiaries of the generosity of them, generations of the Lapham family, if only by seeing the extraordinary untouched vistas of Clay Head from the boat, and I hope people remember there are different parts of the big conservation easements, some with, some without public access and that the house and the land around it remain privately held.
It is a yellow time of year, daffodils and forsythia are coming into full flowers, little dandelions sing along the roadsides, the weeping willows are teetering between off yellow and pale green, even the tubes that cover the guide wires out on an angle from so many poles are the color of a smiling sun in a child’s book.
Neighbors here are widely spread, even next-door is less literal in this sort of old landscape. I think of Elise who lived in the house up on the hill, saying she saw my headlights when I came home after dark in the fall when she was here banding birds, and it was a lovely
connection, not a complaint or admonishment.

My old house forsythia is in rangy bloom, never having quite recovered from its last to-the-ground “trimming” and I am reminded of another older lady, Jane, who lived to the west of me, a lifelong gardener who had spent childhood summers at the old Hayes place out of sight, now, up on Bush Lot Hill.

Jane called one year to tell me how she liked seeing the cloud of yellow that was my forsythia in bloom, and further, explaining when I should trim it when I
bemoaned its size. The last cutting was of necessity, when a window was replaced, and it was outside that prescribed time frame; the window was badly needed and
I thought how much difference could one out-of-time leveling make?
Jane ran a nursery. I’m glad, were she still alive, the brush has grown up so much that the wide open view of almost thirty years ago is gone and she could not easily see my less than grand forsythia.
That is the wonderful thing about this first round of layered yellows, the daffodils and the forsythia are so welcome it hardly matters to anyone but the most dedicated gardener. They are stalwart survivors, remaining when all else has come and gone, more sunshine on the cloudiest day.