Last night I wondered that it was so dark before realizing it was almost seven o’clock in the evening and remembering it was March, yet. Later, there was a great wind and, again, I was reminded: March.
The sun is moving to the north, spring is real. Easter morning I woke early, even before the dawn bled into the dark sky, and stayed awake, against my wishes. The night before the forecast had been partly cloudy and I though of a long-ago morning waiting for the sunrise, finally acknowledging it had happened out behind a bank of clouds, heavy and high. I needed a guarantee of a better day to go out; later I realized I had not even looked at the temperature, which forecast cold I still associate with Sunrise Services from childhood.
Still, as the world turned into astrological, then nautical, then celestial twilight, and as the sky paled I did crawl out from under the covers long enough to see a low, jagged wall above the horizon, the edges of which would be gilded by the sunrise it could delay but not contain. The sun has moved enough to the north, beyond a particular window in my east wall, and it does not shine in my eyes when it escapes the horizon — or rises above the clouds.
Early on Easter sleep was lost and I crept out once more to see a blinding flash as the sun broke free of the clouds. I retreated, thinking of those boxes created for solar eclipse viewings, as I settled to watch the new sun wash over my golden dog and, in the distance, give a fresh-day glow to the white buildings that line the front street. They are like the headstones set in some of the old cemeteries, placed so the people waiting patiently beneath the ground will be able to rise up and face the dawn on Judgement Day, or so I was once told.
Morning had broken, a new day had dawned, and an Easter too early in the season to feel quite right had already arrived, complete with a little bag left by that sneaky Bunny on my doorknob some time the previous night.
It was an odd winter and it is rolling into an odd spring. Only one of my snowdrops produced a singular white bloom. Daffodils along a south facing wall that needs badly to be cleaned of briars — that perhaps protect the flowers — opened a couple of weeks ago. A few little purple crocuses showed in time to be snowed upon and the forsythia, cut so close to the ground two summers past is barely managing to produce buds and petals. They all need more care than they have been given.
There is a big Easter lily sitting in the Harbor Church that I keep forgetting to bring home. Once, when I was taking serious care of such things, I had them live from year to year, outside. The poor things, forced to bloom for a specific date did harden but never turned wild, never became plants to grow in spite of me.
Still, neglect does not stop most of Nature, I see it, at its worst, along the walls, and where the edges of the yard have crept inland, I notice it when overgrowth mutes the landscape, and hides old walls, where invasives thrive. It is at its best in spring, in the grass of the yard and of fields kept clear, greening in the late afternoon sun. The wide ocean is deeply blue out beyond my neighbor’s bank lot, even a robin shimmers and I realize it is magic hour.
There are terms, I am sure, to better describe the effect that is simply the fact of low light moving at an angle to the land, through more atmosphere, when it is closer to the horizon. It gives more color to the rising and setting sun, and moon as well, and is something I can easily demonstrate with a pencil and paper, but for some reason cannot put into comprehensible words.
Perhaps it is not as easy as I think it should be, perhaps that is why it is called “magic” hour.
The earth is moving on its orbit and we are just past the time when the setting sun pours down the tunnel that is the Mansion Road, making it almost impossible to drive west to Corn Neck for a few minutes in the early evening. We are on this speck of land on this relatively small planet ninety three million miles from the sun and I am on a road that has inclines, not hills, and still find myself driving up into the sunset, impacted by an elevation increasing only a few feet.
One night the sky was extraordinary and, while I knew I would be shooting into the sun, I still stopped and took a few pictures, catching little of a lavender sky inlaid with gold; I have no glare-diminishing filters and, I thought, would have little more than a molten blob.
There were clouds that had been whispers of white during the day but without the sun to brighten them had turned dark smudges against the still pale sky. Smoke and fire I thought absently, flipping the camera on its side to capture the whole. Smoke and fire I called it later when posting on social media, again not really thinking how much it did look like dark smoke rising above a fire blazing yellow on the other side of the Neck.
No, I had to offer assurances, there had been no fire, the smoke was only clouds.
It is almost April, incredibly, and we have gotten through another winter, I without a single great drift of snow at the gate. Now, there is unmistakable gold at the start of these spring days, spreading hope of warmth which may — or may not — be realized, and at their close, the sliding away promising to linger even longer tomorrow.