The Block Island Times

Autumn Olive

By Martha Ball | Apr 02, 2014

Last week I took Autumn to the veterinary hospital on Route 1 for a procedure or, in regular language, to be spayed. There was a moment’s indecision the morning of our trip off, of temptation to try to recreate the Guard Puppy whose picture often graces this column, but reason quickly won out.

On the mainland, Autumn safely in the hands of the staff at the hospital-kennel, I returned to the unaccustomed luxury of a hotel room and, after bemoaning the closing of the wonderful old Larchwood Inn in Wakefield, turned to what was at hand. A movie just across the parking lot had seemed a fine plan but there was nothing I wanted to see at an hour I felt reasonable so I turned to another unaccustomed luxury, watching over my toes a television with a decent sized screen showing stations beyond the variation on ION my convertor box allows. Briefly, for slightly longer than I considered puppies, I thought it would be a nice thing to have such access all the time. Then I fell asleep proving what a waste it would be.

Later, I thought of the same view over my toes at home. It is wider than I think anyone would imagine a house down the Mansion Road but away from the shore could have, a sweep of the south end of the island from the lights of the airport to the Old Harbor, punctuated by the red topped transmission towers and crowned by the flashing beacon of the Southeast Lighthouse.

The green light on the far bluff has been the constant. The red signals have appeared in my memory, changing as the heights of the towers grow. I watch the street lamps of the front street, there the year round, then the lines of hotel porches appearing, telling the coming of spring. Even the number of cars moving about speaking to the seasons. Soon, there will be the orange glow of beach fires at the Mansion Beach.

The lighthouse is steadfast.

Years ago I used to read in bed, turn off the light and look for that green flash, my own “good night moon” ritual. It is, today, dare I say, anemic, a proverbial shadow of its former self. There are nights I have to look for it and wonder if I would find it were its location not so familiar.

It was a brighter light when it was not an electronic flash but a true beam, one light in a green casing refracted through eight bull’s-eye panels, first order Fresnels all of them, floating on a bed of mercury, turning at a preordained paced day and night. Green spokes sliced the sky, a wagon wheel without the completing rim, a hub with eight radii reaching out from it.

The original light was fixed and white, burning wicks visible for miles across the empty water through the marvel of the Fresnel lens. It was electrified in the late 1920’s, changed to flashing green to give it a characteristic setting it apart from its sisters along the coast and I wonder sometimes what people thought when that happened, when the illumination which had been directed out to sea by the design of the crystal palace lens became a part of the night across the land as well.

I am, I acknowledge, selective about these things, seeing as a sign of the deline of civilization the pink glow in the summer sky to the north and west, evidence of consumption of energy along the mainland seacoast; but I love the line of white that is the Newport Bridge.

That summer sky, good or bad, feels more than a season away, there is snow on the ground and the wind is howling. We were, again, lucky; reports from Nantucket are of a “blizzacane” ongoing and there the focus stays with only an off-handed mention of no boat to Block Island. Autumn is sleeping, briefly given up on being able to do much else, not even properly roll in the bit of snow encountered on our short morning walk. She is in post-operative gear, termed on the papers I received when picking her up an “Elizabethan collar.” It is a ring of hard, translucent plastic commonly called the “cone of shame” I presume for the downtrodden look of animals sporting it.

“She is the olive in your martini glass” a friend offered and it was a day before I put it together with my dog, my Autumn Olive. This morning, nosing along the ground, she was, fleetingly, a Snow-Cone.

“Your pet should be leash-walked (short walks only) for the next 7-10 days” the text on those papers from the vet reads, in bold print no less. Autumn is not understanding that at all, especially as the deer flood my yard as though they have a sixth sense knowing the door will not open loosing this annoying golden creature upon them. She only discovered the pond, free of ice, a few weeks ago, invading the realm of the Pond Troll and I am sure he is lurking at the edge of the swamp, sending obnoxious troll taunts her way.

So, she barks, at the deer, at the troll, at what I think is the noise of the wind until I get up and go into the next room to see what is so wrong and find her standing down the vacuumn cleaner.

She turns and bumps into things and I tell her it is rough on me, too, and it is, literally, as she keeps running into me with the edges of that darn cone. We go out into the north lot in the dark and an alien noise startles me, too close and too odd in the split second before I realize it is only my dog trying to sniff the ground, a perfectly normal canine exercise thwarted by the big hard plastic collar.

It is going to be a long however-many-more-days-it-is until the blasted Elizabethan collar can come off and I can let her run circles in the field.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Sharon ONeill | Apr 04, 2014 20:58

I love your connection with wonderful dogs and Block Island.  Thanks.

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Posted by: Martha Ball | Apr 08, 2014 00:56
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