Read Old Man Scanlon


22 June 2013

Midsummer’s day comes with chicory-blue skies. Some fuzzy whiteness down at the horizon means a little humidity, but a fine breeze neutralizes it. Cheryl and I walk our gimpy dogs at the neighborhood soccer field: tumor-ridden Bernese mountain dog, arthritic black lab, and the alpha male—a three-legged pug. On such a day we are all pleased to be here, though the humans don’t plow their snouts into the ground, roll on their backs, and thrash their legs. Barn swallows wheel in tight knee-level circuits around us, ravaging the insects we’ve flushed from the grass. A soaring red-tail patrols his territory, daring the lesser birds to mob him.

Later, along the road home, an occasional flash of subdued orange—in a couple days gangs of lanky feral tiger lilies will riot by the roadside. The first yellow flowers begin to populate the spikes of common mullein. In waste areas Queen Anne’s lace, trumpet vine, knapweed; a veery sings from the woods behind my house. Today, with its embarrassment of riches, is an easy day to give thanks for bounty.

It’s also our anniversary. We again choose one of our traditions: a low-key celebration in Westport, at the foot of Buzzard’s Bay. We cross the Taunton River on the Braga Bridge, the sun angled precisely so that it glances off the bridge’s rivet heads, bright dots stark against the navy blue iron athwart the highway. It’s not like a string of pearls, nor like morning dew on an orb web, nor like some vast lacy constellation. It is a pure, man-made, geometric beauty, Fall River’s answer to Stonehenge. I surmise that a cadre of Druid civil engineers, devoted to the old ways, hunched over their logarithm tables and contrived the bridge alignment so that the solstice’s afternoon sun would provide this spectacle to those who know its secret.

At a restaurant overlooking the Audubon sanctuary, we lunch al fresco on ecologically correct local greens and seafood and indulge in a Chardonnay vinted a couple of miles up the road. Cheryl already has found treasure in the restaurant’s quirky collection of used books. She’s engrossed in an old $2.50 volume of stories of gods and goddesses of antiquity. As befits an establishment that caters to summer people, the check is non-trivial, but we ease its sting by walking the sanctuary’s beach path through the fields and salt marsh. Today the ocean relaxes, biding its time after having scrubbed away a good eighth of a mile of beach road during Tropical Storm Irene. Cheryl kicks off her sandals, meanders up the sand in the warm shallows, and scores a toenail shell. I guard her footwear, listen to the baby waves breaking, and gaze out across the bay to the faint Elizabeth Islands. We stop for ice cream on the way home, and devote the evening to friends of ancient standing. On this day of marking time’s passage it feels like we have for the moment stanched its flow.