And then the sun came out
It is mid-December and these days are the shortest of the year. Still, I seem to wake when the first light of summer would be creeping up around the horizon, when it is very dark now and will be for hours, yet. If I am lucky I can retrieve sleep before it slips beyond my grasp and dances around the edges of the room, taunting me with the fading memory of a dream slipped away.
Today, there was an early faint light beyond my windows and I thought “snow” before burrowing back under the winter covers and sliding into the best sleep of all, so deep I am not awakened by a big dog coming upstairs and climbing onto my bed. They have always done it, these golden creatures of mine, seeming to know when I have fallen to the bottom of that well of blessed oblivion; they never wake me with their clattering up the uncarpeted treads or bounding from the floor to nest beside me.
There was no visible sunrise this morning, no molten orb sending before it a chorus of colors, no purples and reds and oranges and golds to brighten the deep blue ocean and seep onto the winter dark land. It is out there, of course, on the wrong side of seven a.m.
Yesterday the air was mild, if miserably wet — last winter was decent then it rained all spring, prelude to a glorious summer, now it feels it has rained all fall. The bare branches outside my window, looking like badly tatted lace, all crooked threads and knots, were not frozen, ready to host snow. This morning, I looked out and saw the dimly white fields, the neighbors' buildings, and those spidery witch's fingers scratching the gray sky. There was nothing bright and blue and glorious, again, none of that after the storm splendor, but neither had it, again, been a terrible, raging storm.
Autumn wanted to go out and run about leaving her footprints on the cover of white on the ground. I thought of her, several months old, confronting her first drifts, a landscape altered with fluffy hills she approached with an expectation of running over them, instead plunging into fresh snow. It was all a grand adventure and she was a still an adolescent, mindless of the cold.
This morning she went out, barked in the general direction of the horses in the field, then trotted about doing her usual morning inspection before settling in the yard. She had found nothing to chase, there was a gray, anemic snow falling, and after a few “alert!” poses she settled, chewing the snow that had collected between her toes still mindless of the cold.
She finally deigned to come back inside, lured by the promise of breakfast. Before deciding she had to go out, again, because snow is fun and guarantees her a towel rub-rub when she comes back inside to snooze until her next outing.
Then the sun came out.
It was not what I think of as a cardinal snow, every twig covered, the world soundless and still. Leafless trees remained tall and bare and untouched; the cover was on the grass, on the fields, and the spreading brush, thicker, with more surfaces, and below the wind.
Most of the roof tops around me were white, only one in my view faces south and feels the first blast of the almost-winter sun. Across the bay that is no more than a slight curve on maps — another confusion of summer direction giving — the south end of the island rises, a patchwork of white and brown, more open fields and spreading brush. There is the undulating land and the planes of buildings and, always, above it all, that survivor of a tree at Payne Farm that may be more visible from more places that even the Beacon Hill tower.
Across my yard and front field, both blanketed with new snow, the latter far more open than it was a few years ago, BTH (Before The Horses), shone in the new sun. There is one tall spruce remaining in that stand an uncle planted more than 70 years ago, and a patch of blue pushing through the clouds. Then I spot the neighbor's big shed, a solid red structure, the image of which would be the first pieces pulled out of a jigsaw puzzle of a farm scene. It is today's cardinal, the single slash of color in this muted world.
There was a red gas pump in the winter farm scene puzzle we received from some well intended but distant relative one Christmas. That was the only segment I remember being put together — by my big brother who honed in on the “easy”pieces — before everyone gave up on the tangle of brown and white tree branches and snow shrouded buildings.
There were more barns here when I was little, most, like ours, sided with old weathered shingles, a few painted; the one that still stands sentry over the Mansion Beach, plain, now, was white with red trim, others, not so long gone, were shingled green. I may or may not have an accurate memory of a one-time gray barn I pass every day.
Many had been damaged by the 1938 hurricane and there were foundations off in fields, strange relics of another time. Some became foundations of new houses, others disappeared, either removed or lost to brush.
But we did not have, in distant memory or in old photographs, the barns in our story books, and in the farm model a cousin received on Christmas, the red gambrel roofed structures that seemed a staple of everywhere but here.
It was a relief to go to the mainland and see it wasn't a universal building missing only from the Block Island landscape.
The neighbor has a shed, not a barn, and its roof is a simple, low-pitched gable, but it is red and, today, surrounded by snow.