It is July on Block Island.
The rain was supposed to come last night; the forecast promised that perfect Camelot rain, slow and steady throughout the night. The radar showed masses of solid green and yellow stretching far off to the west, all marching east. The air felt ready to turn liquid in the late afternoon but it has for several late afternoons. This time would be different, we told each other in hope, standing on the dusty ground around the horses’ feeding station. Buoyed with optimism I rolled up the windows in my car before going back in the house.
Sometimes in summer it is hard to know when it is raining, the sounds beyond my windows could be leaves rustling in the breeze or moving under the weight of falling drops of water. Filled with anticipation, I went to the door where I found Autumn, standing on the walk, and as much as I would like to believe she was present in the moment, enjoying the gentle shower, I am more inclined to think she was simply oblivious to the weather.
There was a bit of a breeze; I wiped rain off some sills before closing windows in the house, then went back to the door and realized the walk was pale and dry where the knotweed grew tall beside it. Real rain would come after dark, I told myself, even as I watched the “chance of precipitation” percentage numbers fall in a downward spiral.
There were a few bits and starts and then I realized I was hearing not raindrops but crickets. The masses of color on the radar had virtually vanished, drawn back into the clouds, or, as I later learned, fallen on the mainland.
It did not used to seem our weather was so different from that on the mainland. It was a little warmer in winter, a little windier, and a bit cooler in summer. But, forecasts and reports were defined by great sweeping ranges, from “Eastport to Block Island”, and “Block Island to Cape May” — or points ever more to the south — not by zip code.
The track of the weather does seem more often than not to benefit us, sparing us the worst of winter storms (yes, we were the only town in the state to achieve “blizzard” status during one snowy blow but when wind is the deciding factor we will prevail).
More rain would have been good, more slow, gentle rain, the kind my dog stands outside in until she begins to feel the damp when she comes back in waiting for a rub-rub with one of a few old towels I keep draped on a chair by the door solely for that purpose.
Her feet were not as wet, nor as muddy, as they are when she comes in after an early morning romp on the dewy grass, across the dusty barnyard, over to the gate to watch and wonder if the horses are near, before bounding back in to remind me it is time to be up and about getting her breakfast.
Yesterday morning, before the disappointing rain that followed a day surprisingly warm and muggy, Autumn stayed upstairs with me, enjoying the feel of the summer wind that lifted the curtains from the open windows, letting them flutter then billow like filled sails before falling flat again.
The ocean was out there, softly blue on the far side of the green hills that showed themselves when the curtains moved, reminding me those awning windows I want so to replace do not block the air as I think they must those nights when there is, in truth, no breeze to be had.
Yesterday morning, though, before the sun rose and the humidity intensified, the summer wind blew in off the sea and across the open fields. It wasn’t the velvet on the skin of a summer evening breeze, it was pull-up-the-blanket sleeping weather come just a little bit too late, and a little too loudly.
These lacy curtains are a luxury; I grew up with old-house drafty summer and winter curtains. We had them always in the living room downstairs, where we actually lived. In spring the boxes would come out, and the sheer, white, gauzy curtains would be unfolded, five pairs, ten panels. Each one had a tie-back that was stuck in place with a no-one-is-going-to-notice-it thumbtack, flat heads coated with white enamel as long as there were enough on the rectangle of cardboard which held them. If not, we’d scrounge around for colored ones.
Winter curtains, heavier, to keep out the cold, were packed away and the room was flooded with sunlight, again. The windows were open most of the time, and dust just flowed in, from our own road, and funneled up from Mansion and, by fall, when the cool called for the return of the dark drapes, the filmy curtains would have caught enough dust that the wash water would run brown.
It is not so different today, worse probably because I refuse to put screens in my still new-to-me windows, the ones that hold off the winter wind, which would free me of those seasonal changes in curtains if I ever got out and put up the ones so carefully chosen when the windows were really new.
We have had dusty wind as well as earth-drying heat this year. One day I came home to a pile of white on the floor, nearly a whole roll of paper towels, caught by the wind, unfurled. It happens every summer and every summer I fail to think to move them. Of course, I put the upright holder with its rewound toweling back on the corner of the microwave, beside the window, and, yesterday, the whole thing unraveled again.
By the time I went back upstairs last night, the curtains and rods, as expected, had leapt from their little holders into a puddle on the floor, no harm done, and a nice reminder of the morning summer wind.