It has been a year since Superstorm Sandy wrecked her havoc along the eastern seaboard. This day could not be more different from that one.
Yes, I spent the summer telling visitors who asked if those pictures of devastation were really Block Island. We were hit, and while we lost the edge of Spring Street, a whole stretch of the Neck Road seaward of the yellow line, some of the North End parking lot, the whole of the lot at the end of West Beach Road, but we were, overall, lucky. The places that needed to be rebuilt and repaved were finished before Christmas.
Even then I would find myself feeling the need to make excuses for the fact our roads were fixed apace. It was a relatively small job, there was no commuter traffic to bollix it up, it was a time of year when a lane of the Neck Road could be used for staging. At some point I realized it was just another variety of the particular darkness we allow to reside among us.
Yes, the breakwater was beaten and the green light left poised to fall into the sea and there is always some damage in any storm but only a very few houses closest to the ocean met significant harm. The bait dock was blown across the harbor, the new East Dock lifted, the ocean poured out the front door of Ballard’s but, in the context of the region, we were extraordinarily fortunate.
Oh, and the east beach, from Jerry’s Point south was more battered than I have ever seen in my lifetime, every single shore access was ravaged by the high water... and we lost land on the south and west shores.
It was not that bad I say even as I know the loss of the Neck Road was unprecedented, the power flickered but never went out most places.
We need the summer for many, many reasons not least among them this influx of people with no vested interest in pointing out what is wrong at the risk of ignoring all that is right. It was a blessing being on the corner of Water and High Streets that first summer after all the work on the latter was done and hearing people steeled for the trek up the hill to one of the hotels or B & Bs, suitcases in tow, exclaim “sidewalks!” How quickly we had forgotten the decades-long struggle to secure the funding, how fast was the slide from an upbeat we-need-more chorus to the easier, darker we-don’t-have-any litany. We need these different eyes, last year to remind us we had been though a brutal storm and had picked up the pieces — with a mighty assist from Nature.
Sunday afternoon, after a trip to the dump, which helped anchor the day, I sat on a neighbor’s deck, a place I think of belonging to summer, and felt the joy of warmth that comes when the fall sun shines into a windless day. Still, it was October and one minute a sun dog was flirting with the wispy clouds high in the southern sky, the next the air was chill, the sun grazing the tops of the leafless trees as it raced toward the horizon.
Today the sun again shone warm, shirtsleeve weather at mid-day, changing by three in places where the long shadows fell a horrifying hour later than they will next week when the sun sets at the unthinkable 4:36 p.m., the price of a dawn pushed back before seven. The wind did not blow and the pond was a mirror, rimmed by burnished willow, reflected, doubled in height.
She is growing, my golden Autumn, half again as big as she was when I brought her home and I forget that while she is larger than many dogs will ever be she is still far from her eventual size.
Yesterday, we went into scruffy goldenrod and weeds, following a path trod by deer the way we used to follow the narrow track of cows across the middle of the clear pasture. It is a different way and she stayed so close I could not see her when I turned until I looked down at my heels.
We did not go far but I was lost in thought, remembering how open these fields used to be, how clear and intact the walls that divided them, and did not realize Autumn was no longer with me, nor out on the clear land before me.
It was not that I worried that she would not return, she is still a baby and far more good than bad, but she is curious and might wander beyond my voice, never strong but lessened by an unending cold that seems to be settling over the population like a gray October cloud. “So-and-so had that for two weeks” is supposed to be reassuring. Autumn was close and came, quickly, her head just clearing the tall scrub, the bounding golden dog from every television commercial.
Today, exhausted from a jaunt to town and a long overdue playtime with a little boy, Autumn wanders the back yard, staying on the grass, not even tempted by whatever is out there in the great back field. She trots back up the hill when I call and I remember my other dogs returning after venturing down to the pond and its glorious muck, their legs black like foxes.
There is a gap, now; I can see the pond, again, its silver water edged by dark red. A year ago today somewhere on its seaward side, where the land dips between the low bank and the clay cliff, the ocean raged, carrying flotsam and jetsam carried on an angry, hungry tide. There is a month, yet, to the defined hurricane season, but it does not seem too soon to say there were no summer-ending, boat-pulling scares, no real watch-and-wait tropical storms gaining strength only to fall apart.
Dire weather possibilities were not even lying under our conversations as they are so many years as though last year drained us of any collective storm-wonder we might have harbored. Now, every morning I walk out and wonder how much longer we will be gifted with these mild days then remind myself it is often sunny and warm into November.