The Block Island Times

Waiting for rain

By Martha Ball | Oct 19, 2013

When we leave the house I have no intention of continuing beyond the gate but it is warmer and sunnier than I had expected and I decide to keep walking realizing too late I have neither tissues – for me nor treats – for my fast growing puppy, Autumn, in my pocket. It will be a short walk I assure her, just an introduction.

Autumn has been up the road to the Mansion (every few years I realize I must explain myself, it is to the foundation of the Searles Mansion, burned to the ground in 1963, I go; the reference is historical, to the place for which the beach below is named).

She has not been to the beach and when we take the turn onto the pedestrian path used primarily by folks who live and rent on our road, she trots along delighted at a new adventure. Then we come to the sand that begins so much further up the way than it did in that long-ago time, Before Sandy, and she begins to hesitate, more as it deepens and her footing is not so certain. She tries to steer me toward the sandwort and faded goldenrod at the edge of the dunes and I wonder how this is all going to work.

I put my hand on the sand to be sure it is not too heated by the fall sun — feeling very silly, but she is a baby — before urging her along the way, coaxing made only slightly easier by the possibilities offered by new smells wafting on the air.

The shore is wide and empty and we head for the water, all sparkling blue and white in the morning sun. There are the last stones of the storm, never covered, a testament to that unseen season the summer long but, overall, it has healed well. It all ends abruptly, though, at a sheer drop of a good foot and a half, the beach already disappearing to the hungry ocean that gives and takes with the seasons. The tide nips at the base of the ledge, threatening to undercut it more. There is no smooth strand sloping into a gentle sea and I decide, it is only mid-October, there will be more days before it turns too cool for an introduction to the surf.

It is a short first day at the beach.

Half a week later it is Columbus Day, observed, the type of golden October weather it should have been all weekend, but is settling into only on Monday after two days of high seas and raw winds.

People are about, still, many stopping to admire the puppy outside the door, some returned from last weekend, happy that they are “in the know” and can call Autumn by name, others newly discovering this wonderful attraction. She will by next year have grown into a beautiful dog but for now she has that magic that makes grown men stop with “oh my God!” and little boys roll on the sidewalk mindless of nipping puppy teeth.

A woman runs over from across the street; Autumn is enamored of her easy manner and long hair. Another comes by so many times she seems concerned I will think her a puppy stalker — little does she know nor do I tell her she reminds me too much of my cousin Jeanne when she was younger to entertain such a thought. There is also tangible relief among parents when I say she was from a family, not a breeder who will be offering puppies another year.

My little Autumn — and puppies like her everywhere — gives people an excuse to wear their hearts on their sleeves, to sit on the pavement warm with mid-day sun and make silly noises, to be warm and open and nice, to expose their better selves to the world.

She is gone for a few minutes, on a walk and romp with a dad and his children and already people are asking “where did she go?” That was what I had forgotten, the certain strength of the soft golden bridge this dog affords me to the rest of the world. A few minutes turns into an hour and she returns, exhausted, not even stirring as her lunch time comes and goes, rolling over noiselessly as a strange hand strokes her it’s-like-a-rabbit coat; this is the definition of “win-win.”

So many who read this column from afar the winter long have asked each of a now unthinkable four empty summers when I would get another dog. “Soon” I have said this past couple of seasons even as I began to wonder if it would ever happen or if there would always be an excuse - the wrong timing, the multitude of things that should take priority. Then this puppy came to me through someone who truly understands the place a dog can hold in one’s heart and never gave up on this particular mission. There have been a few such people gently nudging for these years, and I am grateful to them all.

Autumn has returned me to an immediate, measurable awareness of the weather. It has yet to rain since she came to me. She goes out into the dawn damp grass, veering off to the north lot she has discovered as her legs have grown longer and horizons have expanded. Running down the road she stirs up dust that clings to her damp legs and belly, and I think there were one or two not so perfect towels among all those collected and carefully stored after the Family Visit last summer.

The sea is calming; the gray mist that filled the air for days, a tangible cloud hovering over the Neck Road from Scotch Beach south, has finally abated. It is unusual to have so much of it and no rain. With none forecast for days — and only a chance of showers at that — I relent and, for the first time in memory, slosh a layer of salt sealed dust from my car windows.

It has to come, the pounding torrential rain that darkens October but feeds the land. I wish only it would come under the cloak of night.

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