In very neat lettering on the shoreline sands, somebody has printed “Summer 2014” and, farther along from the Towers to the Dunes Club, castles of sand are ready to crumble when the tide comes in. Robert Frost wrote, “Ah, when to the heart of man was it ever less than a treason, to yield and accept with grace the end of a love or a season?” Quietly I recite the poem to myself as I stroll and ponder on the brink of autumn. June, July, August and most of September are like the hourglass that used to sit on our old-fashioned stove with the fine grains like salt or sugar flowing downward until the egg was ready for breakfast.
The sandpipers skip along the line of waves in quest of tidbits to eat: an elegant, almost magical, sight. I smile in admiration of their delicate but determined beauty. I stoop to pick up a few shells or stones shaped by the steady rhythm of the moon-high surf or the mild and gentle ebbing. Even the quahog shells have purple, wampum-wealthy decorations, perhaps enhanced after the creatures within the carapaces have been consumed by the gulls. The sea is a fancy artist! The gulls look so fine here but not so fine in the dump where they line the roofs of the sheds for the recycling of our waste packaging.
I stare at the mixture near the Canonchet portion of the town sandbar, of markings, footprints in the sands of time, made by the claws of the flocks of abundant seagulls and also by the treads of the tires of the machinery for cleaning up the human mess we vacationers leave behind us. That’s why I love the end of summer castle designs. They seem almost philosophical and poetic because the builders know their work is fragile and temporary and enjoy it for that very reason.
Lots of human prints also follow my own pathway, the little feet of the small-fry and the bigger toes and soles of the grown-ups. An anonymous artist has left a sandy mermaid made of seaweed and mud. My little granddaughter wants me to turn her into just such a mermaid. Her mom, my daughter, proclaims, “Dad, you look like the Sandman... the Grim Reaper!” And it earns a round of laughter. In a few hours everything will vanish, and the cellphones will be silent under the moonlight, while the music of the spheres – the ordinary waves, I mean – reassure me that there is a glorious futility and absurdity at the heart of the world and the universe.
Sept. 21 will mark the end of a love and a season, the love of most of us in Rhode Island for the passing paradise of summer 2014 and the season that leaves us with a prayer of hope at our Rosh Hashanah for yet another lovely summer come 2015.