Red Sky at Night; It Isn't Over Yet #1
By Eva Murray
Created Sep 17 2007 - 8:11pm
September 14, 2007
Things are already quieting down. The passenger boat captain came by for his last cinnamon rolls, speaks of how it drops right off after Labor Day. Electricity use is way down too, says the man who tends the powerhouse. The maple trees over in the cemetery are already showing a hint of color. The Jerusalem artichokes are nearly what they will become, behind the foundation to the hoped-for blacksmith shop. (It'll be too bad if I block my own view of these glories with my own construction, but I am determined not to be sidetracked by too much deference to "view.") The day lilies, leftovers from revered aunties who tended their flower gardens generations ago, have pretty much offered their last blooms. The historic red dahlias are going strong; this year they did so much better than in recent years, because for some reason the earwigs came late and weren't too bad. Here's to small favors.
The vegetable garden is a hopeless wreck, as is typical for me in recent years. It is entirely unrealistic for me to suppose that I'll get out there and weed the beans, with my work schedule. I did manage to rip out several hundred large armloads of pigweed to make room for some better tasting crops, but it hardly looks like a lovingly tended patch. The rosemary can be located if needed. This pleases me, because it was needed, for some rather delicious chicken a while back when Ann got a special recipe from her mother, and for Michael and Richard's pork roast on a foggy night. That is what a garden is good for.
We cannot feed ourselves all winter on my silly garden, but not only because I cannot tend it well, and put up all the goodies in jars, as I used to do. More to the point, we cannot feed ourselves all winter because we do not like squash (nor do we like turnip, or big old boiling carrots, or cabbage in any significant quantity, or beets when mature and sturdy, or winter-hardy kale.) I am sure we would learn to appreciate these reliable north-country sustainers if we had to, but we are spoiled, and want red peppers and string beans all the time instead.
The garlic patch only yielded about half what I'd expected, and much of that pretty scrawny this year. Past years have brought us plentiful and fat bulbs; whether it was variety, lack of watering, or both I am not sure, but at least in the business of growing garlic I resolve next year to do better. I have ordered a serious supply of garlic to plant this fall, and if I do not water regularly next summer, you can write to me and nag.
A mason jar of olive oil and St. Johnswort flowers sits in the kitchen window and slowly turns bright red. The burning bush leaves may soon gain on it. Other plant parts soak out in the vodka; late summer makes this place look a bit like ol' lady Frankenstein's pantry.
The lobstermen get through the last Sunday when they cannot haul. The rules say no lobsters will be caught on Sunday in June, July or August. Other than giving the guys time to go to the boat races, nobody's got a good explanation for this archaic regulation. One of the fishermen's girlfriends goes to the last evening service and prays for their welfare and safety. She speaks what many here would think, but cannot bring ourselves to say out loud.
The teenagers have packed up and moved out, because high school means off-island. They stuffed CDs and glass dragons and dirty socks and bicycle parts into boxes. That copy of The Great Gatsby they supposedly had to read looked like it has been through the ringer. Mostly, they packed what appeared to be wiring. Heaps and piles of components to various electronics make up the bulk of the luggage. They will buy school supplies on the mainland…not so much pencils and notebooks as overpriced energy drinks, macaroni-and-cheese kits, underwear and batteries…and more wiring.
The sky is bluer now than it is in the early summer, and the stars are brighter at night. Some of the sunsets bring to mind the old rhyme…"Red sky at night, sailor's delight." A summer minister once asked a sea captain from this island, unlimited tonnage, any water, about that rhyme. "Does that really work?" "A lot of the time," Captain Ames told him, "it does."
The spiders are everywhere. Every window screen, lilac bush and truck mirror, every gone-by pink mallow stalk, the milkweed abandoned by the now grown-up monarch caterpillars is connected to something else. I do not enjoy bumbling into the webs, and have been ripping them out of doorways with sticks pretty regularly. I did carry a small spider outside, at my daughter's request, to free it the other day, but I get the startlingly large ones from off my hanging oilskins or out of my bathroom sink with the vacuum cleaner. That thing the other morning was practically a tarantula. Sorry, but I wasn't about to play around with that animal at 5:00 a.m. when I wanted to brush my teeth. Gone.
We ate creamy haddock chowder, from our neighbor who makes it so well, before she shut down for the season. We ate hot sticky buns, just once, the last week of the summer bakery. For ten weeks I make them for sale, and we only get the cold dry leftovers. We will hope the departing summer crowd forgets to give us their remaining ketchup and mustard on their way off island this year. We sell out of root beer. We regard the firewood.
One of our good friends has sabbatical this fall, and is not leaving. We plan on fun after the most of them have left, and the bakery is closed, and the kids are in school, and the passenger boat only goes on weekends. Besides, summer's not over yet…I just saw a hummingbird outside the kitchen window.