The Block Island Times

Summer World

By Martha Ball | Jul 27, 2013

Day is ending and the temperature is finally dropping; perhaps the weather will take its long-promised turn. Last week was what this week — and a second in the earlier part of August — should be. The world is a different place, it is unthinkable that all our excesses would not make it so, but I find myself relying less upon the science of climate change and simply asking people if they ever saw the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” (when the East Coast froze and New York Harbor shattered).

The arrival of the family is looming, and my thoughts turn to water. It is not the catastrophe it once was, when the well was a shallow hole in the ground with stone walls and the septic system made for what was once considered reasonable use. It was easy enough to say the family uses as much water in a day as I do in a week, then I realized each one of them did that; factoring in the number of them they used as much water in a day as I did in a month.

It isn’t only them, I know that. I lived through the dark days of the town water works, those summers when Sands Pond was a source running so close to dry we’d pipe water from Fresh Pond, or haul it in big National Guard trucks and wait for the day when the level began to rise. The Town Hall would get lists of water conservation measures and I’d read through the points, asking with each one “but who does that?!”

One of those years the drought was regional and visitors from Connecticut, who had run their own well at home dry, exclaimed at the luxury of being able to take multiple showers every day. There was a period, between being young and . . . now when I could be more politic and did not ask outright, “Why do you think your well went dry?!”

It wasn’t so long ago that we limped through the summers with neither good nor plentiful water coming out of the system that runs so smoothly and we take so for granted today, not so removed from my suburb-spoiled brother and his family and those folks from Connecticut.

Day is fading, the air is calm, the land is quiet. Deer wander into the backyard in the still and I do not know if this happens every day. I am rarely here in summertime. There are two of them, a playful fawn, and its wary mother, come to graze where the grass is short, creatures wild and cautious startling at the sound of a pheasant flying low. They turn their heads in unison, following the ruffle of wings.

The baby is spotted still but tall with legs so long it has to stretch its neck to reach the ground. The doe is attentive, licking her baby’s fur as mother animals do and I realize how infrequently I see them like this. While she grooms her heedless child she is careful, alert and I am surprised the sound of the radio through the open window has not spooked her. The phone, my replacement phone, rings, an unaccustomed sound, and I startle and hurry to grab it before it sends a second signal out into the yard.

A telemarketer I do not hesitate to tell I am busy with an animal. It cannot be any odder than excuses they routinely hear.

The deer appear to be realizing something is amiss, and they move down to the more protected space I expect them to be.

Something beyond them catches my eye, the big white boat gliding through the calm water. I saw another, not so long ago, also heading to the harbor, catching the sun, but it is later, the sun is lower, now the broad white metal gleams and the wide windows fleetingly reflect a golden light.

We do not meet the boats the way we once did, but I still love watching them pass by, not for anything they represent — flow of commerce, movement of people — but just for the way they look, like the big planes that fly so high over us, silver in the sky.

Earlier, as afternoon melded into evening, when in winter it would have been long dark, I walked down to the beach, the wide sandy almost returned beach that everyday at least someone asks, with a presumption of trucks and barges, how it was accomplished, this rebuilding. Everything moves north, perhaps some of the dredge spoils dumped where the road was rebuilt, have been caught as they attempted to migrate but basically, it happened, sooner than I expected in late May and early June, when the tale of the winter was still written on the battered shore.

I am moving against the steady flow of cars, the next to the last wave of beachgoers on their way home. It has been dry, the blackberries look to be waiting for a drenching rain to plump out darkly and hedges along the road are covered with the dust that fills the air with the passage of each vehicle. I turn down the less travelled foot path to the beach and all is quiet.

It is still off, there is too much sand, too much beach, too far up the road, and the vegetation, not the fencing but the line of green behind it, still feels too close, too narrow, the opposite of what it should be after a storm that raged so far up the shore. The beach, still populated, continues to astonish, come as far as it has since the winter.

I do not stay long and head back up the path, disappointed that it is so warm, until I round the curve feel the breeze coming straight from the west. There are more warm vehicles, then I turn back into my field, and my glorious summer world.

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