The Block Island Times

Porches and other places

By Martha Ball | Jul 04, 2013

As I look out my open window I cannot get much past lines from Prelude in James Russell Lowell’s  The Vision of Sir Launfal, or what we tend to know better as the “what is so rare a day in June”  poem which I too often think of as the “what is so fine as a day in June...”

The work is old, over a 150 years, when the Holy Grail was the subject of Arthurian poems, not Indiana Jones action and Knights Templar conspiracy theory movies, but the Prelude is timeless.


Now is the high-tide of the year,

And whatever of life hath ebbed away

Comes flooding back, with a ripply cheer,

Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;

Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,

We are happy now because God so wills it;

No matter how barren the past may have been,

‘T is enough for us now that the leaves are green;

We sit in the warm shade and feel right well

How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;

We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing

That skies are clear and grass is growing;

The breeze comes whispering in our ear,

That dandelions are blossoming near,


It is how I feel this time of year looking out to grass and trees and blue water, feeling the gentle breeze that carries on it the scent of tall grass newly cut, fallen to hay waiting to be raked and baled. The birds are ... annoying, their mid-day song borne on the wind reminding me of their pre-dawn cacophony that awakens me when the sun is still far below the horizon.

In winter I hear them outside the kitchen window in the maple that just grew while no one was watching. Then they are so loud through the glass I think my clock has gone berserk. There are far fewer birds and they seem inclined to song only when the sun has risen.

These past few days between the moon that has given a snowless land the look of mid-day and these absurdly loud and cheerful early birds — I will not have shades on my windows or close them when the air is so sweet — there is about a four-hour block of time when sleep comes without effort.

But it is in so many ways the high-tide of the year. I heard the neighbor out cutting but I’ve not caught him or any other drivers with their sickle (shouldn’t that world have a “y” like the wonderfully old-fashioned scythe?) bars down, only the evidence of their passing, all these fields flattened. I did see him through an open door, riding his big tractor through an intersection in town, a hay rake in tow, and offered a fundraising concept to a meeting in progress: a pool of bets of where and which piece of farm equipment would break down when.

The day is fading, not to dark but to threatening rain and I think of other places to sit on these summer days, where we can slip into another life and for a few minutes pretend we are on vacation.

Earlier today, following my meeting, it was the porch of the Historical Society, overlooking the four-way intersection of Bridgegate Square, the intersection only slightly more square than it used to be before the realignment those of us then in government were told was foolishness was accomplished.

Now we do not notice the improvements unless we look: the sidewalk wrapping around the corner of Dodge Street and Corn Neck Road, which to anyone driving at night in the summer knew was a disaster wanting to happen; the mini-Park that makes the World War I monument accessible rather than a “what-was-that?” drive-by comment; the handful of parking spaces we negotiated in front of the Historical building, one of the few places such a gain has been made; and all around the four-way the safe and even sidewalks we all took for granted a year or so after they were completed.

In winter the reflective street signs scream “mainland” but now that the days are so long they are not so noticeable and experience tells me people cannot follow directions absent street names which require signs:

“Down to the end of the street, turn left, it’s the only way you can go —”

“What’s the name of the street?”

“Dodge, but it’s your only choice, straight you’re on the hotel porch, right you’re in the ocean —”


“Yes, Dodge,”  as I wonder for the umpteenth time if there is a sign.

It is a great spot, the Historical Society porch, and we sat there this afternoon recalling another summer day when a moped run amuck somehow found the opening in the hedge in front of the yellow house across the street, threaded its way in and – bam — ran into the porch.

No one was hurt but it was very bizarre.

What looks like equipment related to asphalting a road passes by, followed by a truckload of . . . asphalt, and a crazily red and yellow alarm-system truck. People were returning from the beach as the sky turned cloudy, and there was the usual stream of cars and taxis and bicycles and trucks. Then appeared the neighbor, he of the tractor and hay rake, the one who has though some magic made the new north side of the Historical building appear true.

“Baler broke,” he announces knowing it is hardly news.

Wish someone had taken me up on that betting pool.

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