From October until mid-December on Long Island is a confused, almost schizophrenic series of contradictory weather patterns. It may be very warm for a few days, then extremely cold, then chill down for rain or flurries. Week to week trends somewhat colder, but nothing really definitive seems to say “ok, now it’s time to stop fooling around ….”
Every year, right around now, there is a big change. The tiny waves have the color of the North Atlantic, the clouds get ominous, the temperature stays low, and every weather prediction is for maybe snow, maybe sleet, maybe rain. The dark days heading to solstice feed the gloom. Time for the winter overcoats and hats and everything else, and finally to forget about the autumn and look forward to spring.
Low tide is beginning to have that bleak off-season look where the exposed sand bottom just kind of grades into the water, sky, and brown tress on the shore. Even the houses have lost their vibrancy, as all the flowers are gone and the festive outdoor detritus _ flags, barbeque sets, toys, whatever _ have been safely stowed away.
Winter is the most unchanging season of all. Oh, there are a few dramatic events like a heavy snowfall or deep frozen ice but for the most part each day resembles the last and the next far more than in the dramas of the other times of year. What I most dislike about the current consumer culture is that we have so willingly put ourselves into exactly this kind of gloomy timeless purgatory for work shopping and entertainment all year round _ one day after another, endlessly, all the same.
Not a heavy snowfall, but enough to make a difference. The opposite shore is obscured by a heavy band of flakes, as the dock takes on a new coat of white.
A couple more of these, a week or so of desperate cold, and I am ready for spring. Ah, that’s when you know winter is really arriving. The thing about this area is that _ although not nearly as bad as say upstate New York _ the winter drags on long after you have experienced the thrill of seasonal change.
I try not to use zoom too much, with a preferred aesthetic of art remaining within certain bounds for certain tasks. When something gets too fine-tuned it gets somewhat artificial. On the other hand, I know anything I decide to shoot is simply a fragmented selection of the real world, and as completely fake as can be. That is always one of the issues of art _ not that these photographs have much to do with art, I suppose.
At this moment the snow fell heavily, but that in itself is a misdirection, because before and after there was hardly any snowfall at all _ this was one of those long storms with bands of activity and other times of complete quiet. Nevertheless, at this particular moment, it was much like a blizzard, cold, driving, relentless and blotting out the horizon. I was happy to head back up the hill to our house.
At this time of year it takes more than a few days of twenty degree weather to affect the relatively warm salt water in the harbor. Even here at the head of harbor, where inflowing fresh water floats on top for a while, there is no ice skim yet. The ducks, of course, never seem to notice anything.
All those boats will stay out there all winter, protected _ at least in theory _ from even the thickest ice by a system blowing bubbles all around the docks. I guess it works, but the air pumps can make an awful racket, polluting even the calmest crisp clear days.
Some snow evades the warm vapors for a while. Even where it melts rapidly, the damage has been done. Stalks are already starting to break and fray, by the summer most of this will form thick mats washed up along the shore. Well, to be fair, maybe most of it will get waterlogged quickly and lie rotting on the bottom. For now, there are lots of pleasant tonal contrasts.
Up the shore away, in a sheltered indentation, there are thousands of geese on the waterline. Surprisingly, although there seem to be quite a few birds of all kinds around, they are almost silent. Maybe they know something about what is coming that I don’t.
Doesn’t look like much. Snowflakes barely screen the far harbor shoreline. But the strong winds and twenty five degree temperatures wake you up pretty quickly. The white coating is all new.
Only seven days until winter solstice _ at least my winter solstice, since I simplify it and always declare the sun at its lowest and shortest on December 21, regardless of what the newscasters tell us now. That doesn’t matter much, really, the nights come early enough for weeks wrapping around the actual turning point.