The Block Island Times

Fragile as Frost

By Martha Ball | Apr 10, 2013

Easter came early this year. It the most mobile of the holy days of the Christian calendar, following a centuries-old formula that has to it a pagan ring, dependent upon full moons and the changing of seasons. Next year, it will fall three weeks later than this, but three years hence it will come four days earlier; this most moveable of feasts upon which so many others hang.

We attach a wide spectrum of measures to mark winter’s end, the fact of the vernal equinox but so many others, from the passing of Washington’s Birthday to the first sound of the peepers in the night to the changing of the Bock Island boat schedule. The start of spring is more elusive, it is marked by many of the same mileposts but always with the hesitant “is it really here yet?” qualifier.

We never want to declare spring is upon us for fear it will run and hide, this most glorious of seasons turned shy by attention. We’ve all been watching the slow progress of the crocuses and daffodils, the tentative budding of trees, the leaves that popped in the warm a month ago only to shiver on the vine. Easter in my mind is spring, April sunshine, new warmth and masses of yellow flowers.

This year it came too early — at the end of a month that came in like a lamb. The saw would have had it roaring out like a lion, but the lion was huddling in a den somewhere, not wanting to brave the cold.

Still, an Easter come early translates to a late sunrise service, late especially after rechecking the charts and realizing the first time published was wrong, off by a whole hour. Another year the mistake was in the other direction by only a few moments but enough to make for a last minute scramble.

This year it was cold as it often is but there was no wind and as people congregated on the seaward side of the Pavilion on the hill east of Harbor Church there wasn’t the remembered foot stomping hurry-up-we’re-freezing feel among gathering. This was not a year of the sun rising surreptitiously behind a bank of opaque gray slowly turning lighter but never glowing with morning. This year a molten ball of orange slipped though the seam that binds the sea to the sky, shedding the ocean as it climbed into a blue heaven.

It was a morning gilds the sky sunrise, a perfect beginning of an Easter Sunday. Even the birds sounded at peace as ambient light turned to solid gold rolling across the ocean, brightening east facing windows and illuminating the stretches of new wood, snow fencing installed along the ravaged dunes of the long arm of Crescent Beach the previous day.

Days earlier, leafing through little diaries kept by my mother, recording snowstorms, political upheavals and events at her church, I was reminded of these Sunrise Services when attendance was more than a handful of stalwarts and breakfast was cooked and people talked, not – as we too often say – burdened with having to be in too many places in too little time.

This year we fell back in time, I realized, after the sun had risen from the calm sea, after the songs had been sung and the scripture read, after dawn, cold but windless, had brought Easter to our shores, the perfect peace did not flee, fragile as frost. People returned to the church, to the old hotel dining room, and sat and talked and drank coffee waiting without impatience for breakfast to be served.

Easter, I think, is easier here in New England, where it comes with the new season filled with life and hope, it is not the challenge it must be in the southern hemisphere where the year is winding down. We all see the world though our own particular lens, but on mornings such as these I am reminded not so much that we live on the edge of the world but that so many people do not, a thought reinforced a few days later.

Dump Day it is, part of another season-defining schedule. In winter it is only Wednesday during the week, when traffic is heavier down the Neck and odd bits of escaped trash, a lemon wedge, the broken temple arm of sunglasses, a bit of cardboard litter the roadside, reminders of the day.

There is no traffic on West Beach Road, an oddity any time of year, and the view straight ahead is unbroken by vehicles or by needing to pay attention to them. At the terminus of the road, flanked by tall brush, there is nothing and everything, an expanse of blue ocean covered with dancing whitecaps.

It is not a moment of resurrection confirmed, but it is another reminder of the gift of this place we call home. There are, I am sure, other places where the dump began in some remote area about which no one cared only to become a prized locale as development devoured open spaces. I wonder, though, if there is any that has had the confluence of public art, flower planting campaigns, and the extraordinary result of a pit filled and covered and filled and covered until an elevation with a stunning view was created.

Despite the chill, we all know soon enough it will be summer, sunrises we will have but these days of a near empty dump and open vistas to the sea will be curtailed. There will be sunsets also, I am reminded, here on this west side of the island.

We always have them both, sunrise and sunset, filling skies not crowded by buildings or trees, and we have them in a splendid abundance often from the porch of a church or the lawn of a pavilion above the sea, but from unexpected places as well, a dump/landfill/transfer station. We are blessed.

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