The end of winter
It is winter, still, by the calendar. The vernal equinox comes early, in late morning on the twentieth of March, a whole week after we have “sprung ahead” I feel obligated to note.
The world makes less and less sense.
It is the end of winter, the last of the days we can see what will be hidden by vegetation until into the next calendar year. This is the time the combination of new wood, be it construction or rehab, shows so clearly through the sparsely-leafed brush, the last chance to look around and see changes that will vanish in a month. Whole houses disappear, open views are swallowed,
The land looks winter dull, my dog and the grass and the geese and the brush all melding together, from the same dull palette on even a beautiful, sunny day. There is, though, a blush of new life in the vines along the road away from the water’s edge, where the land dips down and harsh winds do not reach. The sun is moving toward the north and rising higher in the sky, a welcome change from the low light of the past few months.
We’re had a few blackbird snow storms, but that trinity of red-wings, a flurry, and crocuses is still missing its third piece at my house, where the snowdrops have only just come into flower. They seem late; two years ago the next round of flowers, my early daffodils were impatient, yellow petals opening to the sun too early, before their host stems had grown tall, looking like some special variation.
The same stems are only that, spears of green hugging the wall, but a little daffodil stroll seemed in order. Autumn has been spending too much time outside barking at the neighbors moving around, or barking because nothing is moving. She seems never to have accustomed herself to the horse jumps in the front field, still taking exception to them on full moon nights and sunlit days.
It is calm and I can hear voices from over the wall, the real test of spring. It is a way off, I hear voices, not words, but still they are clear, not a distorted jumble of sound. The geese are honking and over that came a call of something winged and harsh and . . . large but out of sight down by the pond.
It is a change from the past weekend, when the nuisance of “losing” an hour was compounded by yet another round of blasting wind and sporadically running boats. It depends upon where we live, which wind is worse, and in which our best/worse windows face. This one was northwest, swinging to hard west, not so bad for me.
Then I went out to church.
The back part of the Harbor Church, the Adrian House, dates to the late 1880’s but engineers and contractors who have looked at the structure have told me “it’s not going anywhere” and it hasn’t, despite its location on a hill fully exposed to most winds. The cornerstone of the church proper reads 1952, not old I think until I do the math and am horrified.
We’ve gotten used to it, that church that seemed an awkward addition, that was once painted white and I thought the expression White Elephant was my parents’ and unique to that building with a big swollen trunk pointed toward Rebecca. I remember my mother saying they didn’t have the money to paint the building, only the trim, and after that was accomplished the conversation turning to “why didn’t we do this sooner?”
The place is solid, if a constant care and task for an always-busy Board of Trustees. Now, as porches and stair systems have been improved and a facade update is underway, and even as we know serious work on our stained glass windows is upcoming, all seems on track.
Sunday I was assigned the task of speaking on someone, a woman, who had played an important role in our church. The list is long, but Lucretia Mott Ball - not a blood relative and not the nationally known Lucretia Mott - seemed an obvious choice. She left the building, her father’s hotel, to the Trustees. It was to be run seasonally, for worthy persons of impaired health. A lovely thought but a burden from the onset. Then the church on Chapel Street, with its pipe organ and rose window and bell tower, burned to the ground, and the Adrian became temporary quarters. Then the parsonage on Old Town Road was sold, the church addition built to the chagrin of those who didn’t want the monster-of-a-building in a place with a dwindling population and little hope for the future. Gradually, over time, the interior spaces gained new life, all under a clause in Lucretia’s will, of a different use of the building under “changed conditions.”
Lucretia gave a hotel to a church and ended up giving a building — two buildings, the Spring Street Gallery is part of the property — to a community.
Sunday morning the wind seemed to relent early, then rose up again, that great West Wind, the father of all winds, in Hiawatha. And this role of Church Historian, which I gained by default, had me at the pulpit in the Harbor Church. It is a traditional setting, a stand incorporated in a sort of exceedingly low wall-rail at the front of the stage - there must be better terms but I do not know them - and I had my notebook on the worn velvet covering, akin to an old writing desktop, my forearms on the wood when I stopped in mid-sentence,
The pulpit was vibrating. I lifted my arms and looked around and blurted out some words about the building shaking when it really was not at all but “the pulpit is vibrating”?! No one else felt it so I stumbled back into the Gospel of Mark, whatever had happened calmed.
It did not happen again a few minutes later while I was speaking about Lucretia. Afterwards, talking to a Trustee we decided a gust had caught the scaffolding on the front of the church and somehow sent a wave through the framing of the building and out that wall.