The Block Island Times


By Martha Ball | Aug 24, 2013

The sun has moved, I look up when a familiar car pauses at the stop sign at the elbow of Water Street and am temporarily blinded by the reflection on the glass and chrome. It has moved, I can tell by the evening shadows on the City Drug — known by various names by various generations — the ornate white building fronting on Fountain Square.

The sun has moved, I know at home when it falls through the west facing window of my dining room, slipping over my shoulder to reflect on the computer screen before me. I pull closed the curtain but the fabric is not heavy, it only diffuses the glare but it is not so much that I cannot ignore it.

There is always that day just past the middle of August when night air comes earlier, and we realize it is dark, truly dark, and has been for awhile at eight-thirty. We have come and gone past that day, and I remind myself how much more light we have now than in December, that winter is far, far away. Clothesline days do not, I am remembering, always translate to clothesline nights. Cool air settles as the sun lowers, especially when the house is between the setting sun and the backyard where my laundry is hung.

It is in shadow, but I can see the dab of duct tape on the clothesline, legacy of my visiting brother — my only brother, the same one who went to wrap old water pipes with duct tape and rags assuring me he knew what he was doing, saying he “had a hydraulic system on the [nuclear] submarine.” At last, he has moved outside with the big roll of all-purpose silver fabric, backed with adhesive, that lives in a kitchen drawer.

He had thought he would secure the board I had used to lift the clothes-laden line —following the neighbor’s dictum that there is always something around. I searched and I found the length I needed, part of a fallen-apart storm door stowed under the back entry instead of thrown away as it should have been. It is all about tension, my brother would know if he thought about it, and, of course, the board fell, mindless of the tape, as soon as the line was emptied and made light.

In his defense, he lives in the suburbs and grew up in this house where, somehow, such things were never needed when we were kids, the lines were kept taut. It was only when I worked at the boarding house up the road, long since turned to a private home, that I learned about notched sticks used to lift up lines strung with sheets and sheets and sheets. Sometimes I pass by that house and wonder how it ever fit, all that linen, like the laundry billowing in the wind in pictures of the side yard of the Blue Dory on Dodge Street that now seems too small to hold all the flowers that want to bloom there.

It is a nuisance, the tape smack in the middle of the line, but it reminds me my brother was here if only for so short a time his family didn’t break much of anything, just create piles of laundry and leave me with a house feeling emptier than it did before they came. No one, as happened other years, picked a day too soon the carefully tended tomatoes ripening on the vine, or broke things that left me baffled that anyone could find much less break them.

The Rose of Sharon is in bloom down the lane, across from the clothesline. It is a survivor, a shoot grown up unexpectedly on the backside of the wall from where another had fallen and died. A second shoot transplanted at the edge of the backyard I thought was an early casualty of the deer, until I looked out and saw my golden retriever, my sweet dog, reclining next to it, like some Roman emperor, gnawing. That one did not live.

The pink flowers that always whisper that summer is passing adorn a tree grown higher than the blackberries surrounding it. This winter, I keep promising myself, those vines will be cut back to the wall, back to where they used to hang and produce sweet plump fruit.

The other morning when leaves still wet with morning moisture were gleaming in the sun I noticed a grouping of out of season blackberry blossoms surprisingly close to the spot where I had begun to cut, threatening the vines with annihilation for their lack of production.

The sun has set when I go out to look for the moon, full tonight. It is just peeking over the hill, dark orange still, warm and full of fire. The sky is fading in the west, the softest pinks and blues melding into each other and the air is filled with the sounds of summer, crickets in the tall grasses and whatever insect it is that makes an almost tinny hum. I am reminded of those days in spring when the wild lilies poke through the ground and the green is of an intensity that can only be short-lived. The earth explodes and those first days of utter heartbreak over the fragility of the season are forgotten.

It is just too beautiful to come back inside and I wander about in the half-light, wondering how it happened that the tiny tree grew so tall, higher than the eaves of the house. I can see the sky through its leafy branches, a canopy of black lace.

It is a surprise when I come back in that it is dark in the house, past time to turn on a light. When I look again the moon is pale gold, fading to the cold white it will when it owns the night sky.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.