Pink sky at night
The sun climbed up out of the ocean slowly, later than it has since March, and only then was it so late for those few stunning days after the clocks change, before the approaching spring again beats back the night. Prior to that it was the end of January, that singular day of particular parameters when I know with certainty winter’s dark has been beaten, when the dawn tips the seven o‘clock mark.
It was cold this morning, not quite forty in those first minutes after the sun spread its light and following warmth across the wise ocean and crept up the cliffs and beaches to reach the land. It set quickly to its task of warming a cooling world and gave us another beautiful day, feeling much more temperate than the fifty-six the record keepers proclaimed it to be.
In the morning, out where the road runs along the edge of the island, there was mist in the air, the sort of salt cloud that is usually thrown up by a raging sea. The surf was not wild, nor the tide so high it had no place to go; it was one of those times the ocean felt to be nipping at the underside of the pavement, and the angle of the sun was such that it caught the spray, defining it as beams of afternoon light catch, and seem to hold in suspension, dust motes.
It is the time of year every good day is noticed, and there is a thanksgiving in every greeting, so many laced with comments on the glorious weather as though it will be lured into lingering if we express gratitude enough.
There are leaves still, as I report every week, fewer and fewer on the branches, which are nearing their winter skeletal state. Paper-brown leaves lie in the road, pressed flatter and flatter into the earth, slowly decomposing. I remember one fall when I was a child visiting relatives in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and going out at night and walking through great piles of dry, rustling leaves, the same we read about in story books.
I think of visiting my brother in Michigan one fall and of the tree-lined streets in the small city, a single street and light years away from the city it borders.
Fallen leaves were thick on the ground all along the street throughout the neighborhood, and the city sent round a leaf blower collecting everything that had been raked in the gutters. It was years ago, they are probably all blown across the sidewalk into the street today, but there were so many, every day. Here the wind carries away those not becoming one with the earth, and, of course, here there is not another house half a yard away, with as many full trees shedding their summer dress. It was such a novel world where yard waste could be swept into the street and would vanish, as would the garbage bags on certain mornings. The sky, though, even as the trees shed, was not the entity it is here, not the great blue dome reaching to the horizon.
The walls have re-emerged, not so much for having been cut as for there being less and less traffic. All summer visitors remark upon the stone walls, fences they are wont to call them, and as many times as I hear the description it never seems quite right. Fences are wood, or wire — fences are not solid. People remark on the walls and it is a surprise, not that we have them but that they are so unusual, even alien, to so many.
It is colder when the darkness descends, too early. In the morning I see the sun as soon as it comes over the horizon, there is little between me and it, but sunsets are hurried by the land. It sounds like winter, and I am sure I am chilled by the wind out there beyond my windows.
It is not until I check the wind speed and think the reading must be wrong that I go outside, bundled against the chill, and find the air almost still. It is the surf, rolling, cresting, crashing down on the beach, the same surf that filled the morning air with salt mist, that I am hearing, the sound drifting up over the land, enveloping me, so much greater for the lack of noise-covering wind.
Over to the north there is a pink hue coloring the black, black sky behind Clay Head, the proof positive that the mainland is churning away, consuming absurd amounts of electricity, glowing like some monster lurking over the hill. It is South County, Rhode Island, for pity’s sake, not a city. A few hours later the temperature is rising, it is mid way between the morning cool and the midday warm, but the roar of the surf is undiminished, the sound of the wind is not making me cold.
There are fewer and fewer boats sailing in and out of Old Harbor, there are no days when the traditional and high-speed vessels pass each other. Summer calm water written with the wakes of these various ferries is a memory for another year. The schedule is changing almost weekly, diminishing, and further complicated by allowances for holiday.
It is the ultimate arbitrator of the seasons, this schedule, and as I look at it I remember — and I was an adult — when they first started running three boats on select winter days, allowing round-trips off island. It was an experiment, a concession granted after much lobbying, and it is hard to remember, now, that it hasn’t always been so easy, easy being a relative term, but, yes, easy. The little Sprigg, the winter boat of my childhood, the one with the cabin floor that vibrated, carried only a few vehicles on its once-a-day run and there was very little over there in South County, where the bright lights now paint the fall sky.