It has not felt like winter. There has been no January thaw because there has been no January freeze. There are moments it does look like winter -- early morning before the sun has risen, the land brushed with the night’s chill, the trash in the beach roses exposed as the leaves fall, the fishing boats at night.
They have been close to shore, vessels brightly lighted that look from my kitchen to be in my neighbor’s barnyard. The alignment is precise; I see the glimmering white between the big barn and the old sheds. I go upstairs for a better look, not sure what I think I am going to see, and they have moved, slightly, and are partly hidden.
They are there in the daytime, too, lying off the east beach, and I see them but only truly notice if the sun hits them in a certain way. They do not have in daylight the presence they do in the dark of night.
Neither are there the distractions at night that there are in the day, the breakwater disappearing under mountains of sand and now, with the work on the east dock, soil as well. There is the beach, long and sandy, meeting the tide; beyond, the banks of earth that have been deposited along the road, waiting for a blast from the east to unsettle them.
The fishing boats are not as large as they are some years. What intrigue they have comes with the night.
The last of day’s light fades from the sky a bit after five. The sun is setting a whole twenty-two minutes after it did at its more dire point a month ago. The sunset, though, has been stalled since the twenty-eighth of December. By the times rounded to the closest minute on the weather site I frequent, it will budge tomorrow, finally, slipping back a minute closer to seven.
These late sunrises seem later every year. To be up and about when the sun comes over the horizon and yet not be up especially early seems increasingly bizarre. One morning I started out early, before the sun was up. The road was damp, as it would be a moment after the new light had touched the skim of ice on the hard oiled surface. The day came as I turned around and started back down the Mansion Road. The rosy gold light that fills the morning and evening of summer is fleeting this time of year, but the gray leafless branches greedily absorb it in a way they don’t when they are green and rich with life.
Part way down the road, that great glowing globe was just clearing the hill, still shedding the bright orange in which it was bathed when it escaped the ocean. It was way too many minutes past seven for first sun.
According to the forecast, tomorrow’s morning sky will be draped with rain, silencing the joyful song of the sunrise. Still, it is supposed to be warm for January, as warm as some long ago day when a Rhode Island radio celebrity, Salty Brine, announced it was fifty-two and exclaimed in that ever cheerful voice of his that it was “WARM!” It didn’t seem that way at all to me, but it has remained a point of reference.
I listen, still, to that same station, with call letters familiar to anyone who grew up in Rhode Island when it was the radio that sat in the kitchen, relating morning news, and everyone heard the same words at the same time, waiting to learn what would be closed because of the snow that had fallen in the night. And it did fall in the night; by morning the sky was bright blue, scrubbed clean, or so my memory tells me.
“No school Foster-Glocester” became a tag-line, still repeated by Rhode Islanders of a certain age. It is not a top-forty station, there is no music at all, and there is not so much a dearth of cheerful personalities as a few nasty ones with decibel levels that mute everyone else. There is news early, and that block of cancellations, still, before the chunk of vitriol begins to air.
It was ten degrees cooler today than forecast for tomorrow, but the sun shone and the wind was light. Hat and gloves left behind, jacket open, I wondered, had I been set down into this day, what month I would guess it to be. It was near to midday and the sun, while winter low, was nowhere near the horizon, where the seasons are easily read. It could have been April, before the leaves are out; or October, when gentle fall is still fighting the gray of November. It was an exercise in futility, of course, when one already is certain of the date.
We have been floating along above the normal high for the month, although not so much higher than I would have thought. It was last year that was so dreadful, slamming us with winter at the start of December and not really relenting until summer, and perhaps it is human nature to remember the worst.
It did freeze the other night, enough to leave a skim of ice on what remains of the tiny pond by the gate. It is shallow and I expected it to be frozen when I lobbed a stone the few yards from the road to its surface. It was supposed to bounce.
But the stone fell right though the paper-thin sheet of ice, ice that was gone by the time I returned, melted by the touch of the morning sun.
The moon is just past full, waning gibbous, ninety-two percent illuminated, or so my almanac tells me. The sky is thick with clouds, the air filled with the sound of the wind that has come up since the sun set. Rain is on the way.