I still think of fall the way it was when I grew up in the South. The weather grew gradually cooler, the leaves turned red and gold and brown, and slow, heavy rains washed them off the trees. By late November the leaves were gone, the branches “bare ruined choirs” as the poem says, and we settled in for the chill of winter. I don’t recall violent storms or tornados once we were past the summer.
Living closer to the ocean has taught me about hurricanes and tropical storms. I always pictured them as a phenomenon of Florida or the Gulf Coast. Picture Bogie and Bacall in “Key Largo” (a really great movie to watch during hurricane season.) Until recent years I never realized those storms could do damage not only at the shore, but several miles inland. They can even carry their violence and damage for hundreds of miles from the ocean. Who knew? I saw it last year outside my window, watching the Hudson River overflow its banks during Superstorm Sandy.
So now the fall brings with it a shiver of unease. I hadn’t really thought about it until some friends were discussing the date of the village Halloween parade for this year and how it’s been cancelled for the last two years, due to a snowstorm (yes!) and then Sandy last year. Another friend remarked about the storm that roared through yesterday, “Trees are not our friends.”
But today is a placid, blue-sky autumn day. No signs of clouds or winds or witches on broomsticks blown past the window. A perfect day to sky-write, “Surrender, Dorothy.”
One of the main reasons I bought my condo was its view of the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge. I’ve watched the river traffic for years now. Summer evenings mean sailboats gliding from one side to the other. Winter mornings feature the Coast Guard cutter going upriver to look for ice, and on one memorable occasion an ice-cutting ship.
In the fall the view is framed by orange and yellow maple trees. In the spring it’s a vista of green buds which eventually open up to block part of the view. Construction of the new luxury townhouses and condos by the riverbank has taken off the bottom of the view. Last October I watched Superstorm Sandy drive the Hudson over its banks as the water swelled up.
Now my view is changing again, due to construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Barges, tugboats and dredges are moving into position. I understand one of the largest cranes in the world is on its way through the Panama Canal to help with the construction.
This will go on for five years, I’m told. I’m not sure how crowded the river will be before they are done. There has already been a terrible accident when a powerboat hit one of the construction barges at night. Since then the barges are lighted more prominently, and I think I heard that river patrols have been stepped up.
I hope the sailboats and pleasure boats will still be able to cruise above and below the construction. So far the noise has not been bad on my side. There will be a certain fascination in seeing this massive structure rise and the old bridge be taken down. But I already miss the days when sailboats and the occasional barge were the only vessels disturbing the peace of that grey water.