A Sin Against the Nation

Thu, 01/14/2021 - 5:00pm

On most mornings, the light changes when the sun clears the horizon, and the soft, spreading promise of approaching dawn is realized. The difference is often enough for me to open my eyes and look out at the colors of the wakening sky floating over the ocean. I think, fleetingly, of how the sun has moved since October 1.

First light shone in my eyes three months ago, then moved along the old plaster wall, turned a corner and reached a window in the north-facing wall. I do not have the broad views I had before October 1, from the Southeast Lighthouse to the red warning lights on the wind turbine offshore and the land-based phone towers, but I still have dips of ocean and the march of the sun.

The sun is lower in winter, the angle of the light cannot be replicated in summer, nor can its position in the sky be duplicated.

The sky is ours in the winter, accessible to all of us these after-seven sunrises and the balm on these too-early sunsets, although the latter already comes some twenty-three minutes later than they were in early December.

There can be a white icing on these flash-frozen mornings, but the other day it lingered under a sky neither sunny nor bright. It looked like snow, more white out in the far pasture where the under-layer is the winter hue of an old lion, than near the house where the grass is still green, sporting short-stemmed dandelions. It was cold, I was told, but it didn’t seem so that morning, the sun was cloud-filtered but the air was still.

It was frost, but not that fleeting gift that comes with early light and vanishes quickly. It lasted, much later than it normally does. It is January, it was not the frost of a favored song that “hovered in a frozen sky then... gobbled summer down.” It was ethereal, like morning mist or cold vapor on the ocean and then it was gone.

A week ago, now, I turned on the morning weather to hear it was not cold, it was “really cold!” especially with the wind chill factored into the equation. It was 39 and sunny, the wind was slight, on the border between a gentle and moderate breeze on the Beaufort scale.

A week ago, as I write on this Wednesday, the Congress of the United States met to certify the results of last November’s election. It held, I thought, promise of long speeches, trying without success to delay the inevitable, so despite having heard multiple threats of turmoil and having received texts of the violence-inciting rally cry of the President that very morning, I did not turn on the news.

There had been scores of legal challenges amounting to nothing, this was a formality, what could happen? It was all procedure, a lesson in history, perhaps for many, but procedure nonetheless.

It was two in the afternoon when I switched on the television for the sole purpose of catching the opening to an old Bonanza rerun on some obscure station, forgetting I had earlier been watching that annoying weather forecast on a network affiliate.

It was like September 11th when I walked into the Town Hall to hear, from someone who attached the same level of importance to the mail arriving as a terrorist attack, that planes had hit the towers. The old image of an airplane wedged into the Empire State came to mind and then I walk into the Clerk’s office and the smoking Pentagon on a tiny television. It was then for me a rare morning, one with no outside news, the first and last in last in a very long time.

Commentators have asked “who was surprised?” at the assault on the Capitol last Wednesday.

I was surprised, I was stunned to see protesters not protesting, not standing behind the symbolic barriers of rows of bicycle racks waving signs, not satisfied to be on camera chanting for the world to see, not merely waving what, in some inexplicable way, has become the “oh-it’s-not-racist” norm, the Confederate Battle flag, but all of that as they ran up the steps of the Capitol Building in what can only be called a siege. A British newscaster on the scene termed them “intoxicated” by their mock victory and live footage supported his assertion.

I stood in front of the television watching a scene from a movie — or from some developing country floundering, trying to find the route to becoming a democratic republic.

This morning a guest on a local radio show called the whole... spectacle “A Sin Against the Nation.” Having watched it unfold in real time it is hard to argue that assessment.