Thanksgiving Day, 2004.
“There’s just the one bus for today,” frets the driver. “Goes around both the routes.”
“Both scenic routes for the same low fare?” I tell her. “What’s not to like!”
Her troubled look brightens right up. “You got it.”
So on the local bus she and I take a nice long quiet ride around the peninsula. Then, I mind the bus for her while she runs in to Sea Foam Cafe (lobster pots; wood shutters; climbing concrete kitten) and buys herself a bag of potato chips for Thanksgiving dinner.
The rain clouds are gone for now, leaving us a clear mild day.
In the center of town I hop out and walk.
Here’s the Street of Family-Owned Funeral Homes. On slack days, the guys provide car owners with auto painting & pinstripe services. Now here’s the Masonic Lodge / Odd Fellows Hall. Forsythia out of season blooms at Pleasant Park. The little fence around a maple tree is heaped with crushed iridescent-blue mussels. Spiked aloe vera is really antlers of driftwood coated with moss. A sapling bears yellow leaves, bright dots of lichen with tiny mouths, and new magenta buds peering right from the trunk. The town square’s war memorial, a statue of soldier with weapon, bears the unexpected slogan “Cuba!”: the war in mind here is the Spanish-American. The houses have real weather vanes, topped with gilt horses or gilt ships.
Near the white gazebo on the village green, masses of starlings tear up from the ground like one solid rending black veil. I settle by the swings for my dinner from home: baked brussels sprouts with mushrooms, baked yam, roasted chestnuts, apple, and Sunspire chocolate drops. At first bite, the bells ring noon. Everyone is indoors at their holiday dinner. On the streets there is not a car in sight. Everything is silent but a jubilant mockingbird, audible for half a mile around.
Down on the Point there are two views. One is dunes and sea. One is the Boston skyline and Logan airport, over sheltered bay with rocking rowboats champing at the bit. The water here is bright flat silver. Black clouds are massing for the next storm; I was soaked by one cloudburst early today leaving home, and might be soaked again soon. The sun is poised on the downswing, ebbing early. It picks out the sand grasses, bleached and salt-dried. It washes over them in tender translucent gold.
At the main beach I hop the seawall and hike out to the water.
Seeing its pale powder green tone, for once I understand what got into Mr. Crayola’s head, calling this Sea Green. The tide is far out. Orange seaweed lies like snake skin. The sand is tinged lavender with crushed mussels in indigoes and cobalts. I pick up a half shell to take home. Its shining curve is drilled through and through by some parasitic creature long gone. The damage at all the gnawed places brings out and burnishes the real nacre inside, white mother of pearl.
On Crystal Cove I step out over the water to hunker down on a concrete block over the storm sewer, completely hidden by tall reeds, wrapped in my khaki slicker. There are quiet sounds to learn here. One is wind, crisped in the waving rushes. One is the sound of duck-skimming: mallards choosing the muckiest puddles to run at, neck outstretched, beak low, nibbling at scum. One is low-flying Canada geese brushing their wings several feet over my head: each beat sounds like creaky leather, wrung fast and hard. A few feet away across the pond, the golf course is overrun with them, honking and flapping; seen through the grass they’re like a pilgrimage of Carmelites.
At last as a rain front settles in, it’s time to walk back to the Blue Line train. The little one-lane highway leaving the center of town is deserted. Under the Logan flight path it’s a long stretch of plain wetland with one little high-stepping white egret gleaming in the rain. The tall gold reeds look dingy today. But a close inspection of the plants shows that they are really just ridden with some sooty mold or scale. Some of the square plant cells are blackened by it, some are not. A checkered past! At close range, that overall dinginess forms a bright symmetrical mosaic.
Out in the open salt wind, all the wildflowers are dried and gone, and the landscape is plain fawn and gray. But the guard rail has caught and collected a layer of land flotsam, flung from cars. The styrofoam trays, hot-drink cups, and disposable plastic lobster bibs were good insulation for keeping out the wind and frost. With that weatherbreak, near the ground, there’s a whole separate habitat with its own palette of tints. Raking aside the debris I crouch down to duck under brambles for a better view. Under here there is still live goldenrod, gold briar leaves with scarlet rosehips, scarlet creeper vine, nightshade berries, bright barberries with reddening leaves, velvety crimson sumac, and yellow button flowers with feathery leaves smelling like bitter carrot.
So here’s Thanksgiving on the shoulder of the highway, squatting knee-deep in rubbish. But there’s such a lot to see and admire down here — somebody’s overlooked autumn, lost fall, recovered Indian summer. Who would have guessed? Under the frost line in phragmites and trash, tender and glowing all over again, a swatch of season that we thought was lost and gone.