Fifty-seven and foggy

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 8:00am

The Sunday morning after Christmas it was 57 and foggy when I left my house in the morning. There was little wind and the fog held us in its embrace of mystical magical mild made warm by the fact of it being in late December. Three hours later the temperature had dropped only two degrees but the wind had returned and while I did not go so far as to put my coat on I was glad to have it with me.

The holiday had been warm, record-breaking, a lovely day to take the dog to the beach and marvel at the sand already returning to the north end of Mansion, covering completely rocks that a very weeks ago were fully exposed to the weather. The grass of the long contiguous yards of the houses on the way was almost verdant, thicker and brighter than the tweedy green it had been in the early cool of fall.

I wore a jacket only for the pockets, for my phone and camera — yes, for me, still two different things — the supply of Kleenex I always carry, the dog's leash... realizing too late I could have just put on my summer gear, the “clown” pants I will not wear out of the Neck. 

My golden dog, Autumn, is always happy to be off on an adventure, if only to the beach and back. She has never become accustomed to the ocean and only dances at its edge, tempting the waves. On Christmas she was taken by a mound of foam moving on that skim of water on the smooth apron of a not yet quite low tide shore.

The beach was empty as far as the eye could see. We were later than the morning walkers and too early and too far north for the near throng that would be at the shore after noon, children climbing into pyramid formation for the joy of it — and their parents' cameras — some of all ages in the water probably to be able to say they went swimming on Christmas Day.  

The Summer I Went to the Beach there were two days, both in August, when I did not think the water insufferably cold.

This year there were forsythia petals on the shrub in my yard but I remember my mother taking a photo of many more on a long ago December 28. This year people comfortably wore shorts and lightweight shirts but nagging at me all day was the fact that we also broke a record last year. 

Then came a winter of white, be it an unusually complete snow cover or the the edges of the ocean frozen opaque. 

This week is an odd one, the last of the year, lying between two holidays with an unwelcome forecast of snow an mainland Rhode Island. Here, the forecast of a few hours chance of snow has been replace by winter rain, cold and gray and I notice the return of the blue line on the temperature graph, the point at which water will freeze. The days do not get longer without a price.

The end of the year I find in my electronic files bits and pieces I never used. Some I discard, some I move to 2016, one I decide to use today:

My desk has turned into a charging station. My computer, phone, camera battery, all of them need near-constant charging, then there are the attendant cables; then there are the cables connecting the computer to the printer, and the camera to the computer, and in the midst of it, a lamp that asks only to be plugged into a socket.

There are layers of technologies, then a paper monthly/weekly planner for 2015 which I bought in January and in spite of seeing every day has remained unused. There is a DVD of "Amazing Grace," a film based on Wilbur Wilberforce's struggles, first to decide to serve God or man (why can't you do both, his friend William Pitt asks, already planning his own ascent to be the youngest Prime Minister of the nation and needing Wilberforce by his side), then against the Parliament powers to end the slave trade. It was a crusade that sapped Wilberforce's strength and soul but one he eventually did win, with help from his friends and the counsel of the great John Newton, who wrote the lyrics giving title to the movie.

There are paper bills waiting to be paid, urging me to “go wireless,” a stack of blank Rolodex cards — why throw them away when they make perfectly good scrap paper? A cup full of pens and pencils, the harvest of my periodic desk cleanings, and bits of my life, BIConservancy magnets, an Historical Society report, paper flames from a long gone Pentecost Sunday and a misplaced pharmacy label. There is a copy of a Smithsonian article about two Senators' efforts to direct TEA-21 funding to public art; the late John Chafee was one and our own WCTU fountain “known as Rebecca at the well” for which we received substantial federal funding. It is a print out from the internet lacking the photo run in the original print article in their “Save Outdoor Sculpture” publication.

So, atop the mess I put "Moby Dick," the great American novel written before there were any of these devices to cutter up a desk. The prose is magnificent, rich and dense, but I have about given up ever reading the whole novel. I know the story down to the closing line, the narrator being rescued by the Rachel, a ship with another obsessed captain, searching not for a great white whale but for her missing children, finding only another orphan.

Rachel, whose voice was heard in Ramah, weeping for her lost children, was the niece of the Biblical Rebekah and here there are all these centuries later, both on my desk.