Winter Sun

Fri, 12/23/2016 - 10:15am

It is, technically, the last day of fall, sunnier and calmer than forecast.

On the other side of the year we have an abundance, nay, an embarrassment, of light, come so early and staying so late I wonder how anyone can function more to the north than we. Now, the length of day in Anchorage is three hours and 45 minutes less than here and I have the same thought.

We go off to the north lot, Autumn dragging one of her increasingly tattered toys. My dog has no attention span, and when her tangle of a rope gets caught on a long briar stem she easily forsakes it to dash off into the grass, running in the same circles she has since she was a puppy. These are larger and fewer, a wind-up to launch her race down across the swale and up, over the crest of a hill. She is out of sight when I realize I, too, have been ensnared by an over-reaching, throned vine.

Or have stepped on the shoelace that refuses to stay tied...

The ground is soft, still, I realize when I tumble onto it, an easy slow motion fall that does not leave me paralyzed with fear over some or another sharp pain. As I pull myself back to my feet I call Autumn. She reappears, and bolts back, running past me to the yard. Ungrateful child, she does not even acknowledge that I am rescuing her ratty toy if not quite from a briar patch from the hold of a single tentacle. 

We wandered about a bit more in the not-as-cold-as-I-had-expected afternoon, down the road, rocky under the soles of my ill-chosen shoes, and back, about the overgrown edges of the yard. The weather has turned crazily this week. Saturday I woke to a softly white world, the first, faint light of dawn heightened by a new cover of fresh snow. It was drear an hour after sunrise; by mid-morning the precipitation had turned over to rain, giving the still-green grass in the yard the look of having been brushed by a springtime flurry. 

Sunday it was the sound of the wind that first caught my sleep-clouded attention, a raging that made me think what rarely crosses my mind: the boat would likely not run, a memory fading by day’s end.

The weather from mid-month to the close of December has often been erratic. There were years of multiple days without a boat, back when everyone sent Christmas cards and parcels arrived almost exclusively through the postal service; it was over the vacation that the roof blew off the then flat-roofed old Post Office on Bridge Gate Square. Other years are memorable for trips almost missed due to bad weather, boats or flights cancelled, and the same sort of last minute scrambling that I have been witnessing from afar this past week.

This afternoon, after days of forecast — if not always materializing — bitter cold and hard wind and pelting rain and measurable snow, it was beautiful. Only the sight of remnants of milky ice broken into shards in the puddles in the road, not the feel of the air, reminded me the temperature had fallen below freezing last night.  

Now, Autumn is lying in the late sun in front of the house, beside the stepladder over which an old blanket I had tossed out, thinking to take it to the dump, is draped. It fell into a cycle, rained upon, flattened by the weight of the water, hung over the ladder, dried, lightened, fallen, taking the light aluminum frame with it. Then the rain returned and it all began, again. 

During the dry on-the-ground part of these recurring cycles Autumn has claimed it as her own and I let it be until the next rain. Tomorrow is another dump day but already I am wavering, thinking I will leave it on the ground, again.

It will be winter when the sun rises tomorrow morning. The moment of the solstice, when we not only stop this six-month long journey away from the light but reverse it, comes more than an hour before the dawn. At last, it is winter by every measure, the boat schedule, the dump/landfill/transfer station hours, the meteorologists and, last of all of them to turn, the calendar. 

It has been a long, dark fall. I pick up my phone and am surprised that I have deleted only one side of the hostile post-election texts I received, one from the right, the other, in its own way more unsettling for being so unexpected, from the left, a reminder, if ever there was one, of the lack of civility that was so disheartening in its pervasiveness over this past year. 

The fall will be gone in a few hours. This is the countdown others save for the New Year; this is my new year. There is little mystical about it for me, it is the return of the sun, an exchange for which I will abide the cold.


And now it is winter, come in on a soft wind more from the west than the north, a winter wind but not one as ominous as a gale out of the east. I had not intended to be awake but I was, wondering if I should try to sleep or just give up, load the car and be at the gate of the transfer station when it opened. Instead, I watched the boats out on the ocean, a series of white spots on the dark water and, as the night began to fade, calmed the anxious dog back from the window where she stood barking at deer, or the hope of deer.

The late sunrise was heralded by bands of bright color out over the water, an intense orange under a bank of smokey dark blue clouds far to the southeast, as far away from the wind as it can be on this first morning of winter.