Gold and Blue

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 7:15pm

The afternoon is 26 minutes longer than it was in mid-December, when sunset came the earliest it does the whole year. I keep reminding myself it is only mid-January, there is much cold weather to come before we again hear peepers.

Then I come home just before four, after a dull morning and an afternoon of cloudy gray, to feel the sky breaking in the southwest, the sun, after being blanketed by cotton wool, bursting free and glowing gold. It shone as though releasing a day's worth of pent-up energy.

It is all a matter of where one is in relationship to the sun and that afternoon I happened to be in the right place at the right moment. It does not last, I know, from other days watching a spot of glowing light vanish in the seconds it takes to pull over on the road shoulder and fumble for my phone camera — or realizing I have walked outside without it.

The upper part of the Mansion Road is a bit of a tunnel, the land rising on either side, old trees and brush and vines still devouring the north, the higher, side behind remnants of old fencing. Then the incline ends and the land opens, and the telephone poles — I know, they are utility poles but old ways die hard — stand tall and solitary. Heading west this same time of day and year the wires can gleam a rose-gold, like that wire my jewelry factory worker grandfather “drew” every day from a finite quantity of precious metal weighed out and back in on either end of his shift.

He came to America, bought a little piece of land in a small town on the rail line between Boston and Providence, managed to build a house and stay employed through the Great Depression. There is, apparently, always a market for items crafted of gold, some for industrial use but in his job, primarily for jewelry.

On this recent day of an exploding day star I was headed east, and the wires were just black lines against a dark sky, connecting wooden poles nearly aglow. They were pale in that direct sun that illuminates regular white house trim to something luminous and makes even winter bare and gray brush turn some unidentifiable, magical, hue.

It is easy to tell the time of year by shadows, still falling from far to the south of west, letting a row of privet turn the road dark, as the sun skating over it brightens the neighbor's roof.

And, of course, it is January, there was no one behind me frantic to reach the Mansion Beach and snag that one last parking spot that is going to vanish into the ether in the seconds they are held up, no one honking a horn — do people not realize that provides NO motivation to move?!

The sky to the east was deep blue, the light was molten, and fleeting. I did not expect it to still be flowing when I turned into my own field and felt myself at the end of the rainbow, my neighbor’s hills just visible over the newly shorn front lot, all running together in a sea of amber with a dark line of a stone wall disappearing over the far crest. At the edge of the vista stood the old barn, one of those that, for all its exposure to the raging wind, did survive the 1938 Hurricane and stands yet, giving definition to the space and providing historical reference. Yes, it says, this is farmland.

One winter I had a library book for months; no one else wanted it and I kept renewing it and renewing it, slowing working my way through the dense prose which wove a mystical tale in a very real — most of the time — setting, a rumbling, growing, turning from the nineteenth century, New York City. It was the first I'd learned of the Five Points, an historic area which became more widely known with the release of The Gangs of New York. The head villain in the tome was one Pearly Soames, an odd character, small and evil and fast, almost a hostage to his fascination, longing, even fetish for gold.

All the time he was looking to steal it from rich city dwellers to line an underground room all he needed only go north, to the then not so distant pasture lands of northern Manhattan at the right time of day and year. Although a horrid member of a gang called the Short Tails was not on my mind when I saw the shining land before me.

The sun stayed intense for several minutes that afternoon, on the poles and wires, and on the hillsides. The sky just a few degrees more to the east was a softer blue, the hill beyond a softer yellow. The light turned the fluffy topped phragmites on the far side of the pond into a floating pool of golden light, a coda to a day-is-done display.

The day of the extraordinary sun marked forty-nine years since my father died. I was in college and easily reachable but my brother was on “Polaris Patrol” submerged in the North Atlantic. He said he received “a short, but very moving letter. . . over the Lincoln’s floating wire (very low frequency -VLF) radio receiver.”

I remembered when I read his words that the Abraham Lincoln, like all submarines, had alternating crews, designated Gold and Blue, the colors of the land and sky all these years later. We knew these fields when we were children, our father taught us to drive the tractor out there — or taught my brother, I was way too little and far more interested in what I could see from the new-found height of the vehicle seat than paying attention to where I was heading. He did teach me to drive a car, many years later.

There is always a thread.