Low Sunshine

Thu, 11/18/2021 - 9:00pm

A few nights ago a text came through while I was talking on the phone.
“A car pole accident on Mansion Road tonight?”
The reply to my “No idea” was: “On the BIBB from Jeff Wright”
So I got up and walked around and there were flashing yellow lights up the road. I made out the form of the big white truck, its bucket raised, work already underway, still with no idea what had happened or how much repair was needed.

It took a while for me to find the notice on the Block Island Bulletin Board — I hadn’t cleared my email in a few hours — and there seems always to be a loading delay but, finally, there it was, the usual cautious note with a possibility of the power being out for a spell while the pole was replaced.
My lights hadn’t dipped, and never did go out — thank you BIPCo — but old ways die hard and I checked on my requisite six gallons of water always in a double line on the kitchen floor and the charge on my phone which I rarely let go much below 60 percent because old ways die very hard from the time the company was tiny and the power supply could be problematic. Decades ago.
The moonlight was so bright the world did not present its usual monochromatic face. It fell sharply through one window in particular, lighting the softly colored rug on the dining room floor. The camera in my little phone does not have the ability to capture what I think I see, or I don’t know the settings, or a combination of both.

It had been a day of extraordinary clouds, great banks of them moving across the sky, turning the afternoon cool but sunny to November chill and back again.
I didn’t really need a light to walk around my house, the moon was spilling from window to window, waiting for the power to fade to black. It was odd, I hadn’t heard anything unusual; even in November I expect traffic noise on Mansion Road, and there was a wind blowing those clouds about the sky.
Later, in daylight, I am surprised I saw the repair work at all, struck by the size of the trees in my yard, only two, both leafless, but substantial and blocking what I think is a clear view. I’ve always lived here and know the rises and falls of the land and the road passing through it, but at night a single light in a house usually dark can throw my perspective.
The pole, I saw the next day, was not an old one and while it had been hit and fractured it had not snapped and fallen, there was none of the domino effect that caused several old poles to topple in an ice storm. In the windy night the old one had not been removed when the new was set beside it but it lacks the new-old con-
trast to which I am accustomed.

Leaning poles must have been on my mind when I took the back way out of the BI Grocery. It is a time of year when the sun seems always to be low, behind people who speak to me with disembodied voices coming from dark spaces, which had just happened outside the market. I knew the voice, I was sure, but after this spell of masks to no masks and back again, sort of, I feel as though I know no one.
It was not so removed from those clouds with the sun behind them, dark with fluffy white edges lined with the gold of the hiding sun.
The poles along the Neck Road, out by the beach, do not lean the way they used to, the wind cannot be read in them. So, this one, bright almost to white, grabbed my attention, startled me with its impossible angle, until I realized it was the brace behind the pole, a most solid guy wire. The sky was a different blue, softer, the clouds high wisps, not the layers that had draped the moon.
It is, when the wind abates and the sun shines, still a beautiful time of year, the red berries bright at the edge of the pond, the grasses layers of green, the pond a
mirror. One of the best things about these days is that each good one is a gift, a surprise despite our knowing the same date has produced the same result year after

But it is November, this month of ever-darkening days that lies on the edge of winter. The sun will set only around ten minutes earlier than today and in three weeks will stop its insidious march into afternoon. It is the time of year the lack of balance in the calendar is least annoying.

This is the worst time of the day, after the sun has dropped below the treeline, after it has slipped below the horizon beyond the other side of the island. There is a moon, white and approaching full, in the fading blue sky to the east and the west is layered, not flaming, just the soft colors of an early sunset. It is all lovely, but it is just 4:35.
There are people who love November with its sunny chill — although I think they find redemption in every month. But this is November, the month of perhaps the first collective national memory of people my age, the assassination of a President, not in some foreign country but in one of our own cities, where such things were not supposed to happen. It was a long time ago, there were no alternative channels, and we watched the black and white coverage and learned about Arlington Cemetery and the mansion on the hill overlooking it. They were like sportscasters, the commentators, filling space with facts they may have only learned a day or two previous. But I still remember.