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Volume 40 Issue 9 • July 1-7, 2010
now in our 40th season

Into the Gloaming

by Robert P.Barsanti

It has been a warm June.  Memorial Day had a sun burn, graduation was drenched in sweat, and Father’s Day had his Bermuda shorts on.  The persistent and semi-permanent fog banks have gone truant while the mid-August southwesterly has blown July and August up onto the island.  The corn is growing fast, tomatoes are filling and reddening, and the first petal fall of roses has passed.  The bottom drawer in the dresser has reaccepted the wool and polarfleece of the winter: The top drawer has recollected all of the socks and ties.  For the first time in my lifetime, summer arrived before the bell and has settled itself in.

On such an evening, I drove the boys out to Cisco for the first ocean swim of the year.  Summer had risen in them like a fever.  A days worth of baseball, playgrounds, and Frisbee had yet to sap the summer from them, so I took them out to the south shore for the first dip in a cold Atlantic.  They waded into the broken waves knee high and splashed, then one thing led to another, one boy pushed into the other, and they were head deep in summer.  Their father manfully followed.

Early July has many pleasures, not the least of which include the graceful and civilized end to the day.  At six in the evening, the sun remained high in the sky.  The heat of the day, and the work of the day, had blown off around five o’clock.  The summer folk who fill the beach during the high tide of the afternoon slip away with the lifeguards.  The sand is left for the gulls and the terns, the low tide belongs to the surfers. 

It was the Children’s Hour.  We stayed until the little boy had been beaten out of them and spilled onto the sand.  A low mist rolled up the beach, no higher than a foot or so off the sand.  The air tasted of salt, sun, and gin.  Constellations of terns skimmed the surface of the waves, diving and emerging back into the air.  The sun eventually sank to redness.  Then, tired, red, and chilled, we drove to sleep. 

We all find ourselves staring at these extra hours of sunlight as if they are extra bills in our wallet.  It’s the cocktail hour, when that last bar of cheddar gets trotted out with the least soggy water crackers and a set of sweating glasses and floating limes.  It’s the hour when you put the kayak back in the water and paddle, slowly back up the creeks and the marshes.  It’s the hour of the Red Sox, of NPR, of the soft mutter of the radio out in the garden.  It’s the time of the barbecue, the ice cube, the horse shoe, the ice cream cone, the jigsaw puzzle, the paperback, and the warped and modified Clue game.

These extra hours of sunlight suspend the clock and the calendar.  The evening rests in the lawn chair as if it will never leave.  It dawdles with the children over the croquet set, sips the rum and tonic, and returns to the porch like a tired and  indulgent uncle; “Let’s see how the Sox are doing these days.”  Time slowly restarts with the rise of Venus and the spin of the stars, but until the last of the light drains in the west, the clock rests in the gloaming.

For me, I love to walk the course in those extra hours.  And, while I would prefer to play the Nantucket Golf Club or Sankaty, my wallet and my age send me back to Skinners off of the Milestone Road.   The course is quiet at that hour, you are more likely to surprise a rabbit or a frog than to beset by a hard charging foursome behind you.  Everything about the game at Skinners has a more relaxed air about it.  I wear jeans, an old shirt, golf shoes that have sat in my car.  The air is cooler, the shadows longer, and the likelihood of lost golf balls staying lost gets much higher. 

In fact, I lose golf balls in the same bushes that I lost them in earlier this spring, last year, the year before, and probably twenty years ago.  I may have lost a few yards from my drive, but my Frisbee slice and my duck hook remain as sharp and as crisp as they ever were.  The ball, the air, the line of trees is the same as it has been; I am on the only one who has changed.  And in the timeless moment of a July evening, even that is in question.  

The barn remains the only calendar.  The years have not been kind to it.  Siding has slipped, shingles have fallen and an unmistakable, fatal tilt has come to the north side of the structure.  There is something in us that goes out to things, be they barns or golf balls.  We soak them with our best wishes and mourn them when they fall victim to time.  Thank God that doesn’t happen to us. 
At the ninth hole, middle-aged me holds the Big Bertha and aims, once more, for the green.  Just at the edge of my youthful power and control, the green beckons.  I have landed on it and, even once, over it many times.  Far more often than those successes, I have sliced a ball into the woods protecting the Milestone Road and topped a worm burner into the low irrigation ditch.  But in the golden light of evening, as the clock stops, I draw back as a young man, with the green in my eye, then let loose a long rising shot that climbs into the gloaming.


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