Sunday, 6:03 p.m.
Sunday, 6:03 p.m. The time of the photo, taken on February 20.
Sunsets have their own glory on the east side of the island and in middling-toward-late February it is the aftermath, the light lingering so much after the sky would have been dark in December that is such a balm to the soul.
We are approaching free-fall to the equinox, when every day seems impossibly longer than the one before it. I have an east-facing window that needs to be replaced, a rattling, drafty old house terror in storms from the east when the wind blows off the open ocean from beyond the horizon, and tunnels into Riley’s Harbor, where the Clay Head Trail spills onto the beach and once upon a time an active drain from the nameless pond behind my house ran to the sea. It does, still, more meandering, sometimes submerging the trail, but cutting an edge on the sand, another remnant of what once was.
It is somewhat disorienting, or was last time I was there and I’ve no reason to think it has changed, the still open pool overtaken by the phragmites. There has
always been drift, flotsam and jetsam washed in from the sea lanes that course down our east beach, as close as the annoying little buzz-buzz boats of summer, to the vessels of the ferry service, to the great container ships we see out toward the horizon, sometimes only the highest points visible.
We used to see big cargo ships and tankers when they came closer, close enough to tell if they were full or empty, and a pilot would be taken out from Old Harbor on the Lispaso to climb up the side to guide the behemoth into port. I am sure many of us have fielded questions about the names on the monument at the crest of Pilot Hill, honest questions from visitors who neither grew up nor live near a navigable water way.
The wind that blows in from the North Atlantic, bouncing over a pond and a couple of fields, slamming my house, follows the same path as the morning sun
for windows of time on either side of the year. First light, before the actual sunrise, is already earlier and softer and it is only February.
There is another storm watch for another Friday and we’ve had real snow as late as April 1 (who can forget an April Fool’s snow?) but the sun is back.
Any assignment of time is a construct of man, the measurement of it, the slow fine-tuning of the calendars, the slower adoption of changes across the globe do
no more than underscore that fact.
A quick search shows George Washington to have been born on February 22, 1732. Or February 11, 1731, depending upon which calendar one uses, the Julian,
in place in the colonies at the time of his birth, or the Gregorian, which we use today, the one Pope Gregory put forth in 1582.
Even with the force of the Vatican, his edicts carried only so much weight beyond his own realm. Great Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar
It reminds me of one of those images of the earth turning toward the morning, but without the symmetry, without the natural beauty although, without modern
communications, what did it matter that different parts of the world, of Europe, of countries, operated on different systems, if they paid them much mind at all?
And still, for all the careful calculations, all the minute adjustments, nothing quite aligns, there are leap years that almost make it work, but not quite, perhaps a gentle reminder that try as we might, time and tide truly wait for no one.
It is said to be Presidents’ Day, to honor all presidents, but find a list of national holidays and it’s still Washington’s birthday. I remember the intent to merge
the February holidays of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, always and every way, February 12, and George Washington.
I do not remember it going awry but apparently the wrong sort of resolution was passed and the name never changed even as it got swept into the Uniform
Holiday Act (Monday holidays). It seems no more than a mistake, an easy fix — I can’t understand why more people don’t question the disparity — but perhaps that was the case when the lunatic fringe was just the fringe, not the fabric, and Presidents’ Day would spark a debate with scholars wanting, John Jay included, and the fringe insisting that Jefferson Davis was legitimate and Texas, for no reason other than it is Texas, would go full-fabric and demand Sam Houston and we West Wingers would be on board for Josiah Bartlet and that’s why it’s still Washington’s Birthday.
So, the day of genuine celebration, the day that traditionally held the promise of an end to winter, got lost in the game of irrelevant numbers in all the yammering
about 2/22/22 I did not see or hear the traditional call of that day, of Washington’s Birthday, when the back of winter is broken. It seemed so yesterday with
official Rhode Island stations recording record-breaking high temperatures but tonight the wind is howling, again, and snow is in the forecast.
It was Sunday that I happened to see the color in the western sky, those remains of the day, a half an hour after the sun had set and longer since it slipped
below the tree line. Night does not drop like a hammer in February, even when the warm turns to cold and the breezy to windy, there is a soft quality to the light
that stays as the dark creeps over from the east.
Today, the warm was slipping away but the geese were in full chorus, two groups, flocks, gaggles, of them, honking in chorus from one hill to another in the
late afternoon. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe they were being cheerful over the sun.