Cloudy and humid ovenight
Last night the moon shone brightly, illuminating the land with its colorless light. Tonight the fog has blurred the landscape, leaving silver ponds between the darkened hills all beneath a paler sky. The forecast leads with cloudy and humid overnight, not so bad for early October.
The fog has been caught on the hardy leaves remaining in the trees, condensate so dense it is water, sliding from one level to another, creating an auditory illusion of rain falling in the dark. It happens, I know it happens, but still I stop wondering if this time it is real, if there was a cloudburst in the moment it has taken me to walk across the yard. I continue out, from beneath the lacy canopy, hand outstretched, palm up, waiting to catch the rain that is not coming from the sky, only the tree.
It is an odd fog, at first the completely enveloping soup that can disorient travelers and send boats up on the rocks, but then I see lights, first on the north peak of my neighbor’s house, then bright yellow pinpoints far beyond, the brightest of those in the harbor shining through. The moon, waning gibbous but still eighty-five percent illuminated, a good moon on a clear night, is still in hiding but has turned the whole sky opaque, pale behind the trees.
The mysterious moon has been pulling the tides to extremes, as is its wont this time of year. The sea has risen high, more swell than chop, either satin fluttering in the breeze or something less frothy, heavier, viscous, with an almost sinister quality to it. The wind has come from the east and the beach is banked; the ocean that rises up and reaches over the lip of sand actually is slimy with seaweed, slippery in places. It is not a beach that makes me want to discard my shoes and leave my footprints on the sand.
There are fewer, now, of any sort, and fewer still that are real human footprints, the rest are impressions of shoes, and the imprints of angry tires. The beach is empty in the way it often is off-season, even so close to summer in mid-week, with figures visible moving far, far down the strand. There are a handful of gulls flying about but it is early for seals and I see none in the distance.
It is fall, the rocks that rested under a thick blanket of sand all summer are beginning to emerge, the hard bones of the beach that are a part of the winter landscape and tell the turning of the seasons as surely as the position of the sun. They are always there, a reminder that summer in New England is an interlude, dour and dark is our natural state.
Every week from the middle of August the ground has been strewn with leaves, lately layers of them, weighed down by the occasional rain and pressing fog. My feet are damp through my old shoes when I go out in the quiet, damp night, and I remember they were the same in the morning when I took the little black dog out in the field, under a struggling sun.
There are flowers, still, tiny white fall asters, and blue chicory and red clover and yellow hawkweed amidst the green grass. There are roses, few and far in between but there are roses always in the fall, stalwart soldiers, wild along the beach road, tame on the side of a barn or falling over a wall. Even the multiflora, which will not dare bloom again, has grown out over the walk, demanding to be cut for the second time this year. It is the goldenrod, the masses of varieties that start flowering in August, that claim immediate attention but there are other little wild things strewn across the old meadows and roadsides.
The views are returning as the leaves fall, the pond behind my house, the New Harbor from the Neck Road, the sky. There is a spot on the Mansion Road, just before the turn to the beach, from which I can see the ocean, and I wonder if that will be the case after another year’s cycle of growth.
It is October, a month I always approach with dread, a litany of Octobers past running on an unstoppable loop in my head, broken when I finally find myself remembering all the good days that normally run well into November.
It was the first day of October, I realized only after I’d pulled on the jeans unworn since the end of the spring, and laced up the shoes I’d put on over socks. It was done before I realized what was happening, like the Sunday a few weeks ago when unthinkingly I strapped on my sandals before leaving the house rather than running into church with them in my hand.
It has always been a mark of the seasons, footwear. When we were children we got new sneakers every spring with the hope they would last until the fall. They were simple, canvas lace-up shoes that came in various colors, a big decision which color to order from Sears, tan or red or black. When we were a little older it was the white our summer waitress jobs demanded, the ones we washed and left in the sun hoping they’d be dry by dinnertime.
They are still manufactured, these simplest of shoes, and they look like poor orphans amid the sturdier, more all-season merchandise on the store shelves. They make me wonder what people will be wearing years from now, making today’s footwear look anemic.
The sandals have not been put away, I will be wearing them still, but from now on it will be a decision, not taken for granted and donned without thought. My feet simply are not ready for winter and I have hope for tomorrow — cloudy and humid overnight are not cold weather words.