Edged Anticipation


Sticklers for detail remind us that true winter does not arrive for three more weeks, but for most people in this area, winter begins with December as surely as March begins spring.  Although there has been cold, snow, and ice, it has all felt temporary, and is often followed by pleasant days in the fifties.  Suddenly, we are ready for the real stuff _ weeks of freeze, never-melting slush, dangerous storms always on the horizon.  And, of course, the almost unconscious awareness of less and less sunlight day by day.

Yet by the same token, the worst tends to take its time.  We expect deep blizzards, horrible wind chills, all the nastiness that Christmas cards try to sentimentalize.  Like the holiday itself, they often take time materializing, and we are left in edgy anticipation.   I try to shake off this lassitude and enjoy the experience of each day as fully as I do in midsummer _ one of the hardest tricks, I admit, that I normally attempt.

The white humps above the dock are boats wrapped in plastic.  I suspect future generations will view such profligate waste of unrenewable oil with horror, but who knows?  Anyway, I think it is kind of stupid _ I wouldn’t mind if they could somehow save the stuff, but this is all a kind of one-use shrink wrap that they mold to the boats with hair dryers on steroids.  In the spring it all heads to the landfill.

Part of the human landscape of this century.  Not the worst of what the civilization does, by far, but indicative of the excesses we all entertain.  Anyway, at least, for the moment, the breeze seems fresh, the sky is lovely, and the trees hold their own against the upcreep of the mean tide level.  The sand more clearly represents the destiny of everything.

Season of subtle brown has arrived.  Many of the weeds and reeds and grasses are simply drained of other colors, although the trees reveal branches now that only a few leaves remain.  The storms have not yet battered anything upright, the winds have not yet torn the ever more fragile remnants of summer foliage, snows have not flattened the fields.  Very lovely, if I concentrate and relax and ignore the raw chill.

Some might claim I could leach out all the color, turn this into a black and white shot, then print in sepia and it would be the same.  Those same would say this is, within limits, an accurate picture of being there.  But neither statement is true.  A photograph is not an experience _ like any art it is most successful if it recalls an experience, and possibly challenges our memory of that moment.

Beginning a period of dreary rain with occasional cold breaks of brilliant sun.  Everyone just happily chortles “lucky it’s not all snow.”  In some ways, scenes like this can be taken as grim, depressing and extended to terrible melancholy about fate and life.  On the other hand, the mellow merged tones are kind of soothing and non threatening, we can relax and just let the world go on its way. 

The hardest part of December is adjustment.  Once I have accepted the deeper cold and dressed well for the biting wind, it is invigorating.  But until my body and soul have accepted the switch as the “new normal” I find I can resent it as much as the next guy.  That insolence in the face of reality is also part of being fully human.

Other surrounding waters _ such as these at Cold Spring Harbor _ have also emptied of craft, leaving the increasingly jagged waves to flocks of ducks ready to overwinter.  Perhaps because of the lack of other color, the blues of sky and sea seem more vibrant this month, the few notes of color such as the boat more memorable.  I suppose the tones are much influenced, also, by how low in the southern sky the sun remains even at midday.

Inevitably, but swiftly, nature rushes into cold and snow.  This week is easy, relatively warm, free of ice, only a bit removed from lovely outside weather.  Yet it seems part of what is coming, when even standing here on this dock _ even getting to this dock _ will be an exercise in will and fortitude (well, what I call will and fortitude in these tranquil and easy times.)  Today, I luxuriate in the feeling of time with no regrets at its passage.

Strong raw East wind off the ocean, twenty miles away.  Darkness in the morning only slightly lifting through the overcast some days, in any case dusk falling by four in the afternoon.  Holiday lights everywhere, of course, as we seek to make the solstice transition a festival. 

Winter solstice was only a big deal to people in the northern temperate land masses, but those cultures have come to dominate the planet.  I think these days most of the synchronized lights and fireworks and holidays at year end are there simply because an accepted universal global year end exists.  Only a few stubborn people or cultures _ who which to ignore and be ignored by all the others _ cling to other equally arbitrary calendars.  For everyone, the passage of a year is meaningful, a time for both regret and celebration, memories and plans, and it is fun to share the experience.

Full calm before a rainstorm.  These ducks will be unperturbed no matter what.  I try to cultivate the same attitude, but often fail. 

Fitting way to end a week of thoughts on slow changes and intermediate weather.  Too many people seem to be focused a few weeks away, and ignoring the moment except to get through it as quickly as possible, sucking its possibilities dry in a vampirish need to “get things done” before the end of year holidays completely arrive.  I try to keep out of their way and avoid being angry if they intrude on my calm _ as, I suppose, these waterfowl treat us humans.







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