Green Light

Thu, 01/05/2012 - 4:42am

Even in New England the Pats cannot lose this game. It is what I think but I stay glued to the radio. They have a big lead, a huge lead, and there is little time left on the clock. It is not like that Super Bowl a few years ago when they made what should have been the winning play. Then the time left was announced and I switched it off.

I pay little attention to football but I grew up with the Red Sox. I turned the Super Bowl off, certain there would be some disaster, as there was, and that the to-date perfect season would not end perfectly for New England.

It is not that I planned to spend hours of an exceptionally beautiful day listening to football. Sitting down on the first afternoon of this new year, intending to check-mail and do a quick search for that elusive pair of shoes I know come in my size because I had a pair in a mainland store on my feet and foolishly didn’t grab them — and they were priced very well — I automatically reached over and flipped on the radio, a game the last thing on my mind.

But it was Sunday afternoon and a team was making a second touchdown. There was little background noise, somehow I knew they were at Gillette, and little noise was not a good indication. There was no joy in Foxboro.

That other team — I don’t even know what team it was — managed a third touchdown, the score stood at twenty-one to nothing. The sportscasters were talking of the worse game they’d ever experienced, recounting the number of yards lost, meaningless to me but for it being some kind of record (not sure if that’s true, know they are saying “someone tweeted...”). It was all over, but for more quarters of carnage.

They did not lose the game, amazingly, after that nadir everything turned, from nothing to a lead that continued to grow. It may be New England but on this very fine New Year’s Day the Patriots could not lose the game. They won, climbing out of a crater of a deficit and continuing on to score forty-nine unanswered points.

The sun shone, earlier, and a veritable mob gathered on the shore in front of the beach pavilion, some waiting to rush into the water, others there to watch and — I presume — cheer. It could have been summer by the number of cars lining the road.

We remember the years of terrible cold, of storm, until we begin to mine memories and realize there have been plenty of mild Christmases and New Year’s Days.

This year, last year already, closed on a bittersweet note, with the funeral of a true island daughter. One hesitates to employ the usual clichés but it was uplifting, filled with remembrances laced with humor and love, and the humbling acknowledgement that it is never too late for reconciliation.

These are the times people come together and a simple dinner turns into a pilgrimage, this one to the great lighthouse on the bluff. I have become accustomed to the place in the daytime, in the spring and fall particularly, easily talking of the families who lived there and tended the beacon for over a hundred years. A pause on the first landing, and easy chatter flows, all of the keepers being able to access the tower from the second floor of the twin residence that is far too grand to be a duplex.

During the day, when the sun flows in the tall windows, even at night in the summer, when the air is balmy and the lights in the nearby houses dispel any sense of isolation, it is easy to spin romantic tales of light keepers. At night, in the winter, surrounded by darkness, even on a mild night, it is only the sturdiness of the structure and the possibilities of the still-in-place fireplaces that keep the ghosts at bay.

My shoes are wrong for this venture — climbing the spiral stair to the room at the top of the world was not in my plans when I left my house. But for the funeral I might have stayed home all day, giving more power than it was due to a waning head cold. When I went out later it was for an early meal to make up for a tradition missed in the fall for reasons I do not now recall. My shoes are wrong but not so wrong as they could be.

It is different inside those thick brick walls at night, with molten illumination spilling down from the beacon, barely lighting the stairway. It is always magical but in the winter dark the emerald light fills the tower with a radiance that is otherworldly. The moon, half a moon, was slipping down the western sky, and the landscape, approaching midnight at year’s end, gave up little evidence of all the houses built over the past decades.

It was a night when the great green light truly commanded the bluff, putting to shame the cloud-chased moon that struggled to make silver the surf on the beach far below. The lens is always a marvel, a beehive of glass bands refracting the small flash of a very small bulb encased in green, the beating heart of the lighthouse.

We have two of them, these lighthouses. Who else has such treasures?

Three days after that sojourn the temperature plummeted.

Winter came in the night, falling below twenty by midnight, never reaching single digits but cold enough in the earliest and darkest hours of morning for the first sun to send the layer of vapor that rides on the surface of the sea spiraling into the sky in billowing smoke.

It was gone early, the air cleared, and the day rebounded from the hard cold, almost up to freezing with a promise to be much warmer tomorrow. Later, after I turn off the lamp, I will look south, to the green flash on the bluff and know, if only for that instant, all is right with the world.