Red Sky in Morning

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 8:15am
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The sky at sunrise held that warmth of promise, a deep golden rose that truth be told is quite orange but “orange,” the color of school crayons and morning juice, hardly does it justice.

In late spring and early summer first light comes slowly, a gradually lifting of night that begins hours before the fleeting dawns of late fall and early winter. Too easily lost in the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments when the sun sets so early, it feels like midnight at 6 p.m., is the return of the morning.

It was a very different sunrise horizon this past Sunday, when the strip of ocean’s edge, reaching out on either side of the point at which the sun would emerge, was the color of pain, an inflammation around an infection.

We live on an island, the weather is not polite conversation, it is our daily life. The weather determines whether or not the boats run and the planes fly, it keeps us mindful of the fact we are isolated, dependent upon ourselves.

We are mindful of the forecast and we had been hearing a bad one for Sunday and Monday but we have had of late many alerts and watches and warnings that have come to naught. I knew that by the law of averages one of those reports would have to prove true, but that morning sky screaming “storm” was unsettling.

Contrary to all projections on the weather sites and mappings on the radar, rain spattered in midmorning, a disappointment given the scheduled mid-day dedication of the Reflection Garden at the Harbor Church. The wind was from the southeast, the newly walled and graded and planted area is below the porch, tucked into a protected corner of the old building, so it would be fine, I convinced myself as I realized the shower had already passed.

The weather held, the celebration of a newly minted Eagle Scout and his modest project turned into a significant — truly inspiring — community effort, closed a week of annual gratitude and tradition at the little church on the hill above the harbor.

That morning slash of red was not erased, just pushed aside for a bit. The forecast, that normally would be gearing down, was holding fast. Red sky in morning, sailors’ warning. . .

The Perfect Storm, a declassified hurricane run into weather storms systems, hanging over us endlessly, hit at the end of October; 21 years later Sandy, another spent hurricane turned into something less and more, arrived at the same time; now, only five years late, we were going to have yet another fierce blow.

Caution and vigilance scare away the storms, we try to believe while knowing there is no force to match that of Nature — echoing a song popular when I was a child, “what will be will be.” The rain came, and the wind, then the sun set and we settled in for a long night, keeping everything that could be charged at full capacity, fearful of downed power lines and/or precautionary outages.

It is a great time for social media, provided the electricity holds, with varied reports bouncing from the corners of the island, likening the growing wind to that freight train we hear only in movies, and comparing speeds recorded at personal weather stations. The blow was solidly from the southeast and I left the west facing front door open, allowing Autumn to  come and go as she pleased. It was harsh outside and her ventures were short-lived; she came back damp but never truly golden dog wet.

The wind seemed to reach its crescendo a bit before forecast, raged for a few dark hours, then shifted and lessened, albeit slightly, also a shade before the posted end date. I wandered about, went upstairs and decided it was just too loud; even Autumn picked up a marrow bone she gnaws at night, and carried it downstairs, put off by the sheer volume of the wind and weight of the water whirling around the upper floor of my old and very narrow house ell. Later, I read a mainland friend’s comment that the big trees swaying around her house made her feel herself in a carwash.

stayed up late enough to see the reports of power restored on the south end of the island, where the long wind blows hard off thousands of miles of open water, then it settled into just another bad storm and I went back upstairs and slept.

The wind was blowing when the next day began, the morning sky pale, the ocean wildly high, walls of created green and white water rising off the beach, clouds of spray tossed back by the wind come round to south-west. There were small branches in the yard, and the random old piece of wooden shingle, but overall, there was evidence only of a storm, not of the ferocity we experienced during the night.

That there would be no boat was a given; it would be  a day to go out and simply look upon the majesty of the ocean around us and wonder what damage would show to have been done to the beach once the surf lessened. There were leftover puffs of dried flowers on the pavement, the sand and rocks that pour out of side roads in any heavy rain, a mini-lake in a corner of a yard where there should have been no water, but most of all, there was the surf, tall and white, reaching far out from Clay Head, marking the underwater sandbar at the end of the island, battering the curve of the east beach. Beyond it all, a lone fishing boat, a working vessel sat, oddly serene on the gray-blue water.

Late Wednesday, the storm is long gone, but the mainland news of power outages, downed lines and trees, still dominates the airwaves. They had Block Island wind; but not our storm-hardened trees.